Since I have been interviewing people of great talent, virtue and wisdom, this power couple inspired me on a different level for many reasons. One of them is, if you stumble upon their startup’s Facebook page – Art of Travel, the first thing you will witness – a yellow flag with a black spot, waving high in the open skies with a yellow mini cooper and two rafting boats, followed by a silver lining of waves as a backdrop – Gosh, I was taken aback with the creative lift it gave me in no time!
And that’s how I chased this power duo. And guess what? Meeting them in person was even more cherishing.
Both holding degrees in Psychology, having worked for corporates and being Travel Enthusiasts, Faraz Waheed and Hajra Razvi thoroughly understand how transformational travel could be for people’s lives, performance and mindset – finally they set out for a travel startup.
Unlike other local travel agents, this travel startup ‘Art of Travel’ is more than just a ticketing outlet. It offers a variety of custom retreats for corporate team building, wilderness therapies, wildlife safari rides, whale watching, cruising, family camping and so much more than I had ever thought of getting from a local travel platform.
Let’s check out more 🙂
NIS: Why and how you guys thought of a travel startup?
F: Having worked for corporate giants as a trainer, I used to design team building retreats for professionals and top players of the company and during that experience, I realised the power and potential that traveling holds for each individual, how it helps to unwind, refreshes the soul and help people perform better in their real life struggles and challenges.
H: Similarly, I worked for an Edtech startup where we used to train teachers and interact with children, alongside, I used to volunteer on some of the local and foreign training tours and that’s how it struck that training and travelling could go hand in hand to create mindful experiences – not just for the high-end professionals but for any individual who wants to disconnect through travel and gain meaningful experiences.
NIS: Being a couple and business partners, whose idea was it? How do you complement each other in your startup?
H: It was initially Faraz’s idea (followed by a wide bright smile). However, we both agreed and felt the same love for it.
As far as our roles are concerned, Faraz is mostly engaged with vendors, logistics and processes whereas, I look after all the creative stuff like design, promotional activities, custom packages and stuff.
F: We sit together to listen to our clients, always discuss and design trips around their needs. So it’s more of a teamwork and not just a one-man show!
NIS: What do you guys focus on while planning a trip?
H: While we’re focused on curating custom packages and trips for solo travellers, families, couples and professionals, we ensure that we keep it culturally immersive along with a variety of activities, adventures and unique touchpoints
F: I would emphasize, we’re not just any regular travel agents who book tickets/hotels, we believe in developing relationships to work through custom packages according to our client’s likes and dislikes. A lot depends on the budget of course, but we curate the best possible options while making it a lot more than just sightseeing or leisure trip for them.
NIS: What difficulties do you face in the startup ecosystem?
F: When we formally entered, we got to see that the travel industry is kind of hijacked by a few big players! They have been operating from Pakistan for like forever (laughs).
On the other hand, we noticed that the majority are offline players and hardly have any social media presence. They do not have the art to connect with the youth (18 to 30+), curate and create niche tours and that’s where we come into play – Art of Travel. We’re pushing people to think of travel as exploration, therapy and self-actualisation opportunity.
NIS: Where do you see your startup in the next 2 years?
H: We’re looking forward to being the new and creative face of the travel industry in Pakistan. We’re trying to reshape the idea about how traveling could be transformational, productive and is one of the best investments.
Also, we are educating people to become responsible travelers and be vigilant of environmental well-being. Moreover, we have always been mutually beneficial for both, the host country and travelers. Whether domestic or foreign, we ensure that tourists spend on good and better.
According to the situation, we offer proper training before sending solo travellers, also if there is a demand, we do offer professional guides for corporate groups, families and professional retreats. All in all, we are focused on developing the travel industry on a global level so that it occurs more often, and remain mutually beneficial for the host country and travellers together.
Read More: How Travel Benefits the Human Psychology?
NIS: What’s the secret sauce of the good response you’re getting?
H: The secret sauce is our psychology backgrounds and professional experiences we had in the industry. We integrate psychologically driven key elements to carve out ‘just -perfect’ packages from solo backpacking to weekend long voyages for most of our clients.
F: Also, we have a number of on-ground vendors, guides and trainers on board from across the globe. We have grown our network in different countries to operate as seamlessly as possible with year-round tour plans and custom services.
NIS: Many travel startups come and go. Do you have any exit plan?
F & H: A big NO! (a simultaneous response from the duo). We may pivot according to the need, but there’s no way we can shut it down. We are fortunate that we have psychology backgrounds and we’ve so much to bring to the table because customer psychology works best behind every trip we design. So we’re all set to go bigger and better!
NIS: If any high-stress situation occurs while planning a group tour, how do you handle?
F: Firstly, we have very defined policies. If someone backs out three days prior to the departure, we have certain charges/deductions and so on. Second, we keep our clients informed of every move for transparency, so we are mostly on the same page. However, if there’s any situation beyond human control, we mutual discuss and come to a conclusion.
H: If there’s any problem from our end, we take charge of it to makeup or we try to compensate as much as possible, even if it means to bear the monetary loss. 🙂
NIS: What do you do when there’s a disagreement between you two?
F: Disagreement! (Sigh) Ahhh yes, it’s natural but we talk it out 🙂 We don’t let it come on our business activities.
H: It’s a part and parcel of the game! We do have it sometimes but we make sure, it sticks to our agenda of bringing the best of the play we’re up to! I don’t believe in dragging it for too long. *laughs* – she is the good cop!
NIS: Since there are many other travel agencies out there, how do you think AOT stands out?
H: Our USP is to come up with meaningful yet creative travel experiences within people’s budget. We design culturally immersive activities like river rafting (not just sightseeing), camping, wildlife safari, live whale watching, wilderness therapy etc. where people can interact with new people, exchange knowledge and gain too.
F: We encourage and facilitate solo backpackers, customize packages for families, tours for university students, corporate retreats for professionals and so much more!
NIS: How do you see Pakistan’s Travel Industry and Government’s support to it?
F: Pakistan’s Travel Industry has great potential, huge opportunity lies in the untapped areas of Pakistan. The current government is aggressively working to promote travel and tours in Pakistan and we could see great travel-focused events/conferences happening.
NIS: Your best advice to young people coming or wanting to set up a Travel Startup?
F: Only come into travel business if you are very passionate about traveling because the development of initial business processes, customer acquisition and client processing are difficult and sometimes nerve-wracking, especially when one fails to acquire any customer for a few months. It’s really hard to bring everything and everyone on the same page.
H: Young people who are passionate about places, new cultures, travel hacks and are ready to take the hassle must come because the travel industry has great potential and huge untapped opportunities. The younger newbies are, the more creative they are and can do a lot to promote travel within and beyond Pakistan.
NIS: How’s been your Nest i/o journey?
H: The nest journey has been incredible. We knew nothing about formalizing business processes but the mentors we got at the nest were genuine. From the beginning, we got the right direction and realized that not everything could be done together or simultaneously. We learned to set milestones and achieve goals.
F: The best part about the nest i/o is that everyone is going through their own entrepreneurial journey with similar challenges and mindsets. So we never felt alone or were the only struggling ones! Nest taught us to be outspoken about the needs, overall it has been very helpful throughout the period and even today!
We wrapped up with great travel insights, lots of jokes and humbleness! The vibes were calm, focused, positive and as strong as the duo itself.
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