After being diagnosed with muscular dystrophy, 28-year-old Angus Drummond quit his investment banking job to travel through South America, India and southern Asia. After experiencing first-hand, the many challenges travellers with disabilities face, he has become the co-founder and CEO of Limitless Travel. This pioneering travel start-up provides disabled-friendly holiday packages and tours and is helping to tackle a stigma towards disability along the way.
But how did he make it happen? We sat down with him to find out a little more.
When did you first get the idea for your start-up company?
Angus: It was in 2014. I’d been diagnosed with muscular dystrophy - a muscle weakening disease - in the previous year and I’d decided to quit my job and travel the world with my partner, Lucy.
We’d done trips all over the world but this was the first time my disability had affected me. Many hotels weren’t very accessible and I found it difficult to use public transport. It was nerve-wracking not knowing how I’d cope at each stage of our trip and I realised something had to change.
What was the change you wanted to see in the world?
I was so surprised at the lack of information available on accessible holidays and tours so I firstly wanted to provide an online resource.
Secondly, I wanted to provide a service that helped put people with disability at ease and assured them that they’d be looked after properly when they travelled. Travel is such a wonderful thing but the lack of accessibility can hold people back.
How did you transform your idea into a business?
Initially, I created a basic WordPress site and blogged about the subject. Then in August 2015, I launched a review style website where travel companies could subscribe and get advice on how to make themselves more appealing to travellers with disabilities. The concept didn’t quite work, so in October 2016 we became a service for disabled-friendly package holidays and it’s now turning into a profitable business.
How does the business work?
We work with businesses to increase their understanding and make their premises more disabled-friendly. If they pass our test, we add them to our destinations and begin to send holiday goers there as we know their needs will be met.
How did you persuade the travel industry to get on board with your ideas?
We’ve had to educate the travel industry around things such as wheelchair access and facilities for the visually or hearing impaired. Initially, some hotels and destinations showed no interest or saw it as too big a challenge, so we had to change our stance. When they realised they could gain a huge increase in customer bookings, many were persuaded to get on board.
What kinds of challenges have you tackled?
The first challenge has been tackling perceptions. Some people can be a bit condescending towards people with disabilities. In some cultures, I’ve found that people don’t have the patience for those with mobility needs. In others, it’s almost as if they are shut off from society.
The second challenge has been with the customers themselves. Many people with disabilities put off going on holiday because they lack the confidence or because of the perceived lack of facilities. Half of my staff at Limitless Travel have disabilities themselves, so customers can see that we can relate to their circumstances. We are helping people get their confidence back.
How has Limitless Travel acted as a disruptor in the travel industry?
Through my own research, I’ve found that many companies convey a very negative approach to disabled-friendly travel in their branding which I don’t find appealing at all. I wanted Limitless Travel to be fresh and exciting and take an aspirational approach to disabled-friendly travel.
How did you fund your business?
When I started, I had no idea how I’d get the money together. The way I see it, it’s like being plonked into the middle of an ocean - you can’t see land, you just keep on swimming and swimming until you get there. Eventually, we did get there and received funding from The Key Fund, The Nominet Trust and UnLtd along the way. This has enabled us to spend time researching destinations whilst we build and test our business model. We are now in a position to really grow the business and scale across the UK.
What have been your greatest achievements to date?
One of our greatest achievement was recently reaching the final of HRH Duke of York’s Pitch@Palace competition where we were the smallest business by far and where we won second place in the People’s Choice award. These types of things mean a lot when you are a small start-up.
What does it take to drive a start-up like Limitless Travel?
As a start-up entrepreneur, you should never be afraid to fail and change tact. The strongest thing we have is a passion and drive to change the world. We have a mission statement that we will ‘send people with disabilities to space one day’. We are basically saying that you can make a crazy big dream like ours happen if you believe in it enough.