Sep 7 - 13, 2007 / No.1530 By Mak Ying Kwan - TTG ASIA

SINGAPORE - Holyland Travel plans to launch tours for disabled travellers by January 2008 called Meditour Assist.They will be conducted at a more leisurely pace to suit the groups needs and will be escorted by tour leaders who have medical training.

The idea to introduce such tours came when the agency directors saw disabled people on holiday. Feedback from such tourists revealed tours they had joined rushed through places visited, leaving them unable to keep up and without sufficient time to see the sights. Holyland Travel director of sales, Mr Christopher Fernandez, felt such tours lacked consideration for disabled travellers, who cannot move as quickly as able-bodied tourists. He told TTG Asia: °These disabled travellers have paid for their tours and they are entitled to enjoy it." The agency therefore decided to design Meditour Assist specifically for this group and will target travellers from South-east Asia. He added there was a market for these tours and it would grow as the population of Singapore and Asia, in general, were rapidly ageing. There is likely to be an increasing pool of elderly with physical limitations or medical conditions, but who had the financial means and desire to continue travelling.

A recent study by Euromonitor, a business intelligence research firm, said more than half the world's population of over-65s lived in the Asia-Pacific. MasterCard Worldwide Asia Pacific economic advisor, Dr Yuwa Hedrick-Wong, wrote in his book The Glittering Silver Market, the elderly in affluent Asia (South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia) were forecast to spend about US$144.6 billion on travel and leisure activities by 2015. Holyland Travel already caters to those with serious medical conditions who wish to travel, but have been advised by their doctors to avoid travel unless accompanied by medical personnel.

Recently, the agency customised a holiday for an Indonesian family of six. A nurse, also a full-time staff of the agency, travelled with them and cared for the 79-year old father. He has cancer but had wanted to visit Geneva. Mr Fernandez said: "We liaised with the hospital there so they were aware of his condition and needs in case he required urgent medical attention."

Holyland offers assisted holidays for the disabled

All these extra services come at a cost, but Mr Fernandez said the agency would keep the tours "affordable". He added: "Sometimes, those who are ill or disabled want to fulfil their dream of visiting a place and we want to help them to achieve that."
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