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Sangita Bhattacharyya of 50+ Voyagers went from a corporate life, to channeling her passion for travel towards organizing tours for the elderly.
The elders of most families are confined to either taking care of grand children or are expected to spend their time in devotional activities. This should mostly be their choice, however, and they do need a break from the routine.
Often many forget that there is life beyond that for them and age is just a number. That is where Sangita’s venture comes into picture, who believes that travel is a part of life and it includes the senior citizens as well.
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Sangita Bhattacharyya is the founder of a Bangalore based travel company called, 50+ Voyagers Travel and Adventure Club. Here is a sneak peek into her exciting world!
Sangita on her background before her business started: “I have worked for 14 years across domain consulting, strategy and client management for Fortune 500 companies during my tenure in corporate world. My job allowed me to visit offbeat destinations across continents and experience local culture, food and people at a slow pace. My parents also had an inclination towards active travel and experiencing the local flavors.”
But was that only reason that prompted her to start 50+ voyagers? Let’s find out!
This question occurred to Sangita when she moved to the USA for her corporate responsibilities, and tried to arrange a tour for her elderly parents in India.
She says, “While planning a tour which would consist of some trekking coupled with a heritage tour, I discovered that the Indian Tourism Industry lacked focus on 50+ age group segment. All there was on offer were pilgrimage tours or leisure cookie cutter holidays in a group of 30+ people to domestic and international destinations. There were none offering a holiday experience with activities and adventures suitable for 50+ aged and senior citizens.”
Talking about her setup, Sangita says, “50+ Voyagers is a membership based travel club for like-minded ‘SEENAGERS’. We promote travel for healthy aging and repelling loneliness, among elders who are either single or couples staying away from their children. 50+ Voyagers is a platform for senior citizens to socialize and connect with like-minded peers while traveling. They come as strangers to join a tour, travel together like a family and then strike up lasting friendships.”
There are trials and tribulations in any kind of business and Sangita says that they have not come across any unpleasant situations so far despite the challenging age group. This is because her team takes care of the itinerary, keeping in mind catering for any special needs.
She says, “Our tour manager ensures that special assistance if required by the elderly traveler, is provided. For e.g., arranging for a wheelchair at airport, supporting traveler while walking on uneven path or slippery surface, interpreting tour guide’s English into Hindi. We do have exclusive Special Assistance tours for travelers with mobility restrictions.”
Also, traveling becomes easy with enough precautions taken. She says, “We do not travel to destinations or sightseeing places which are too difficult for elders or need hours of walk on uneven surface. We do not stay in places which are too far from medical facilities. We ensure each dietary need is taken care of. We inform on difficulty level, accessibility of different facilities and medical fitness requirements to all interested travelers, so that they can take an informed decision to join our tours.”
The wellness programmes designed by Sangita show her belief in promoting healthy aging and helping senior citizens to be fit to travel.
She adds, “Over years, we have organized numerous social events/meet ups, wellness workshop, hobby competitions for 50+ age group as part of a Senior Activity Center based out of Bangalore. We plan wellness workshops to keep them motivated to do physical exercise to be travel ready.”
In addition to this they do take medical precautions first aid box, emergency contacts, oxygen cylinders while traveling to higher altitudes etc to make the group travel with confidence.
Sangita says, “Many single/widowed seniors, couples away from children, discovered a new way of celebrating life through our social interaction platform. We promote travel for repelling depression and loneliness which in turn reduces the risk of chronic diseases in old age. When I see people who never knew each other before, became close friends after returning from a tour with 50+ Voyagers, I feel happy.”
She shares some memories – one of her biggest joys came about when they could arrange all necessary comfort for a member with artificial hip and knee, to make it a memorable holiday for her. Another instance was when a senior citizen couple celebrated their retirement in one of their tours. She joyfully describes, “They were like a kid back to school in Universal Studio and Sentosa – the happiness and excitement which they lost long time back!”
Sangita believes in experience based travel rather than photo stop trips. This would provide the group an opportunity to explore a more convenient holiday without compromising on in-depth, active travel experience.
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Talking about how she decides on a destination, she says, “Instead of focusing on bulk tourism destinations, we organize special interest tours based on various themes like Nagaland Hornbill Festival, Rann Utsav, Photography Tour to Gir National park, Tribal Tours to Orissa, to name a few.”
Planning goes a long way for any entrepreneur and Sangita shares, “We spend our morning hours on operational stuff like client communication, and status check on ongoing tour programs and planning for the upcoming one. The afternoon hour is spend more on marketing, sales and product planning.”
She says, “Our aim is to be recognized as the foremost brand for organized group travel and activity center in the 50+ age segment. We would like to grow 10 times, and grow into other cities.”
Being an entrepreneur is not a cake walk and has its own risks. Does it stop her from doing what she loves to do? Sangita concludes, “A lot of ‘if-else’ analysis is not healthy sometimes. One needs to take some risk – at the end of the day it will always result in a new learning at the minimum.”
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