Amar Latif is a dynamic world traveller and successful entrepreneur. As a qualified accountant he became Head of Commercial Finance for British Telecom and is now the Founder and Director of his own company, Traveleyes. Traveleyes is the world’s first international tour operator providing a specialist service for blind and partially sighted people. Amar spoke to Leslie Cousins about what it is like to be a blind business owner…
How did you come up with the concept for Traveleyes?
“I am blind but I always wanted to see the world and travel. What I wanted in terms of my travel aspirations did not exist. So, I thought either you can do without or you can do something about it, that’s why I set up Traveleyes”.
What are the obstacles that you have encountered in setting up Traveleyes and what did you do to overcome these barriers?
“Entering into the travel industry, one of the most competitive industries in the world was a real challenge. Running your own business in itself is a challenge, it’s hard to know where to get finance, how to set up your staff and build up your knowledge. One of the most important things you have to realise is that if you have a problem or if there are barriers, the buck stops with you. The staff may make mistakes but at the end of the day, it is your responsibility and you cannot pass the buck.
Being a blind person is also a challenge but you have to work your way around the obstacles along the way. You just have to find a way of identifying what your problem is and how to overcome it. I also think that if you are very passionate about something, you should stick with it and make sure that it happens. There is always an answer, it may not happen instantly but if you think about things for a while, the answer will crystallise eventually. So being absolutely committed and passionate about what I really wanted was very important. Patience, perseverance and a lot of thinking are the ingredients for success.
What makes Traveleyes different from mainstream tour operators?
“Traveleyes has been operating for more than 7 years. It is different because if you are blind or partially sighted, you can browse our accessible website or brochure, choose a holiday that you like, pick up the phone or go online and book it. Also, as a blind traveller, you don’t need to bring a sighted traveller with you. For sighted travellers, you are given a great opportunity to travel with a group, at a discounted price to a destination of your choice. You will also have the chance to meet interesting people from all over the world. Traveleyes allows blind and partially sighted people to just book and go, just like a sighted person. Sighted travellers have been able to do that for centuries but now blind travellers have got that facility as well.
What motivates you on a daily basis?
“It is very motivating to receive good comments from customers on how Traveleyes renewed their confidence and how it changed their social life by gaining them friends. Traveleyes is not just a holiday, it is a life changing experience for some people – that is enough to keep me motivated. For me it is also a great way to share learning with other people – you learn from them and they learn from you”.
You were presented by the Chamber of Commerce International with a ‘TOYP’ (‘The Outstanding Young Person’) of the World award, how did you feel?
“It is a good feeling to be recognised and it’s a humbling experience to receive an award like that”.
Do you have other business interests apart from Traveleyes?
“Traveleyes is my main business but on top of that, I also do a considerable amount of media work such as directing TV programmes, doing crazy things like going across the jungle for a BBC2 programme and doing motivational speeches. But Traveleyes is the main passion at the moment.
Is there a piece of advice that you would like to share with us?
“It is important to realise that life is too short to be wrapping yourself in a cotton ball. Just get out there and do things. If things go wrong, well then they go wrong. You have to pick yourself up and keep going. I take risks, calculated risks of course; I’m never scared of that. I believe that life is too short to hang about, you just have to get out there and do what you believe, and that’s what drives me”.
For more information on Traveleyes visit: https://traveleyes-international.com/