I’ve been in the travel industry for 18 years, and although I’m an economics graduate I was bitten by the travel bug and have led tour groups in many different parts of the world, from many different nationalities.
I’ve led tours across India and many different parts of the subcontinent, and in doing so have learned so much about India as a country and a destination. It also taught me a huge amount about how other nationalities feel about other countries, and all of this together has helped me in my current role in curating experiences that are truly memorable.
What inspired you to work in the travel industry?
My family used to take us on big vacations, exploring new areas almost every month and this is what really got me bitten by the bug.
When seeing India you realise the diversity in culture, in cuisine and in people is just so huge, and the people are still very emotive and really value human emotions and human connections. It is this sense we endeavour to get across in our tours.
If you had to choose one, what would be your favourite place in India?
Of all the places I have been to if I had to choose a favourite place it would be Uttarakhand. A hill state in the Himalayas, there aren’t too many tourists and it has such a well-preserved culture, it is a piece of real India. Of course in the Himalayas, there are so many hikes and the scenery is so beautiful.
What makes HI Tours different?
Our tours are made different by the very fact that we have a real emphasis on experiencing a destination, rather than just seeing it, to the extent that we actually have a separate experience division.
We are very keen on sustainability and all our experiences have a focus on the right practices and social sustainability. Our ticket sizes aren’t huge, we’re more about bringing value to customers and communities rather than just about making money.
All our experiences are more about people rather than places, as this helps customers really connect and understand the place they’re visiting.
All this is reflected in Hi Tours as a company. We are medium-sized and family-run, and we focus on giving our business to smaller places, which not only gives our customers more authentic experiences but helps to give back to communities.
What do you love most about Delhi?
Delhi is a place with an amazing history, it’s the only city that has been established and raised to the ground seven times, so the version of Delhi you see today is actually in its 8th state! It is the gateway to all cultures in India, Hinduism, Islam, and this results in amazing vibrancy and amazing stories.
In many ways, it is a ‘mini-India’. It keeps evolving, it keeps bouncing back, it’s chaotic, but makes it through everything and just seems to work.
What are the ‘must-sees’? Where would you take a first-time visitor?
You have to see the obvious places, the Taj Mahal, Parliament Street, but the best ways to introduce a newcomer to India is by taking them on an experience where they really learn about the people and the culture of Delhi.
Having someone that can connect what you are seeing to the history of Delhi and how it has come about is so important. Seeing the other side to what normal tourists see really helps you get an idea of what a place its really like.
When you cycle round the back of the Taj, you see the people who live there and what they experience day-to-day. The inside view is so important to really experience a place.
What makes sustainable travel important to you?
It’s high time we make travel more sustainable. If people are going to travel, it has to be as sustainable as possible now. The idea of sustainable travel is not only for ecology but for communities also. Money can seep down to the lowest level, it’s a cycle and tourism can be used as a great tool for getting benefits to the poorest communities.
It’s also an opportunity for us as a business. We have been working with our partners for more than two decades now, so there is an understanding of mutual trust between us and the communities. People recognise the efforts we make to give back to the community, and that has helped us carve out a niche in Delhi of really authentic experiences.