Mention the words Sri Lanka and images of palm-lined beaches with turquoise-blue water spring to mind. Unless you’ve visited the island, you probably won’t be aware of the luscious, green hill-country, the diverse range of wildlife and the rich heritage the country has to offer. Further still, you won’t have experienced the warm and friendly Sri Lankan people, the seductive aroma of spices and the mouth-watering cuisine.
I have been travelling to Asia for the past 20 years and as my mobility has decreased, I have found myself asking the same old questions which all travellers with disabilities ask before booking a holiday- “Does the hotel have an accessible bedroom and toilet? Will taxis take my wheelchair? Is there a lift in this museum? etc. etc. etc. For travellers with disabilities, the answers to these kinds of questions determine whether a holiday destination will be booked.
Whereas accessible tourism is widely accepted in Europe, it is generally a foreign concept in Asia. However, for travel-lovers and adventurers, Sri Lanka is becoming more accessible to those with disabilities. In the past few years, I have noticed that the concept of accessibility has been adopted by both government and private companies. Disabled parking bays and wheelchair ramps, for example, are now commonplace.
The tourism industry though had been overlooked and it is difficult to imagine that until recently there were no wheelchair accessible taxis in the country. This all changed in October 2019 when ‘Ayu by Walkers’ launched Sri Lanka’s first wheelchair accessible tour vehicle- allowing wheelchair users (and upto 4 companions) to tour the island in a comfortable, air-conditioned vehicle which is not only fitted with European-standard safety equipment but is also an ‘Environmentally Friendly’, carbon neutral vehicle.
At the same time ‘Ayu by Walkers’ introduced ‘Wheelchair Accessible Tours’ featuring iconic locations, such as Kandy, the ancient, archaeological cities of Anaradhapura and Polonnaruwa, the tea growing region and wildlife parks.
‘Ayu’ is part of ‘Walkers Tours’, the oldest tour operator in Sri Lanka, having started tours in 1969. The ‘Walkers’ brand is synonymous with providing excellent customer satisfaction and this is the ethos behind ‘Ayu’. Drivers and guides are English-speaking with a vast knowledge of Sri Lankan culture and history. The ‘Ayu’ training means that tour employees know how specific disabilities affect customers when travelling and can suggest suitable alternatives when needed. ‘Ayu by Walkers’ are making this beautiful island accessible to more and more people and with their knowledge of hotels and sites, they will create the perfect itinerary for you to experience the Magic of Sri Lanka!
By James Exton
CEO & Founder – Access the Globe
Member – ENAT