On this special year when we are celebrating our 10th anniversary, we interviewed our Directors Mr. Alex Le Beuan and Mr. Jeremy Grasset to throw some light on the story so far. They answer all the questions we have about this adventurous odyssey.
1. Alex, what made you to create Shanti travel 10 years ago?
Alex: I had a dream to share my passion for Asia with fellow travelers and also to help them to have an amazing trip so that they take back beautiful memories with them. His Holiness the Dalai Lama said that “Once a year, go someplace you have never been before.” So I created Shanti Travel to let others to explore Asia in Peace (Shanti) and to have never ending memories.
I also wanted to live in Asia and particularly in India. The Himalayas have fascinated me since my early age and after exploring this mighty continent for 10 long years, my decision to start Shanti Travel was very much obvious.
And of course, to make my dream of becoming a travel entrepreneur a reality. I believe that being an entrepreneur in the travel world is potentially an entrepreneur of happiness. I am just a medium to make you all happy by bringing Asia closer to your heart.
2. Why you named your company Shanti Travel?
Jeremy: The word Shanti is actually a Sanskrit word which means “peace”. The same word is incorporated in many different languages in Asia like in Hindi, Sinhalese, Balinese, Nepali, Bengali and in many other vernacular languages of the Indian subcontinent. It is also a very common female name in the region.
Alex: Shanti because we believe that travel can be a medium to spread world peace. A Tibetan proverb says “the journey teaches tolerance.” To meet, know and to share your thoughts bring more broad-mindedness among people. We named it shanti because our trips are created to accept the difference, and see beyond the differences.
Alex & Jeremy…. Few years back!
3. What kind of model did you want since the inception of Shanti travel?
Alex: First of all, I would like to say about our expertise for vivid countries since the very beginning. We have local agencies with travel experts for the destinations that we serve. Our passionate Shanti Team is living in 5 Asian countries (India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Indonesia and Myanmar) and work in 7 local agencies (including 3 in India in New Delhi, Pondicherry and Leh).
Jeremy: We do not involve any intermediary which help us to understand and respect the need and desires of a traveler in a better way and they love us for keeping things transparent. From the very beginning, thanks to the democratization of the Internet, Shanti Travel has established a direct relationship with the traveler system without going through an intermediary, which means, without going through an travel agency in United Kingdom, United States or France, which itself sells the packages but subcontracts to a local agency for organizing the trip. Thus, we are 20-30% cheaper than an agency based in your country. It is a great success!
Alex: We also wanted to assign a dedicated travel expert for travelers! We made it happen… He or she through their vast knowledge about the destination advises before the trip, via telephone, Skype and email, tailor make the travel needs, take care of bookings and finally welcome travelers upon arrival in their respective countries. This is not the end the travel expert accompanies the guest via phone throughout the trip. We always love to have an eternal relationship with our guests even after the trip, so we stay in touch with our guests via phone, emails and sending postcards.
4. Why did you create local agencies in Asia rather than an agency in France?
Alex: Very selfishly I always wanted to live in an extraordinary country! Where every day is a new adventure! In addition, nowadays travelers are increasingly connected and informed, but at times information over internet can be misleading. They look for a trip tailored according to their needs. They create their own definition of luxury, charm, and optimum pace etc… They are increasingly savvy consumers and compare, look for the best price and quality ratio. They want more of sustainable and eco-friendly travel. Finally, they are in search of individualization and personalization of their trip.
So be it on the site is essential for creating best products, competitive prices and for responsible tourism. Most importantly, our travel experts can meet our guests in real time, on site, to meet all the travel desires. Finally, only a local agency can truly develop partnerships with communities and local NGOs as we do. This has a very positive impact on the human and natural environment of the regions that any traveler want to visit.
5. Who are the Shanti Travelers?
Jeremy: I would say that the Shanti Travelers are both aesthete and lover of beautiful things, often “early adopters” who love to explore incredible destinations and they are even trendsetters. They want to be disconnected with day to day life and want to get rewarded with adventurous odysseys. They do not hesitate to come out of their comfort zone making them increasingly demanding. The concept of service is very much required for Shanti travelers.
6. What Shanti travelers are looking for?
Alex: Travelers who travel with Shanti Travel want us facilitate the journey they first dreamed of, advised by our travel experts and also on our expertise about the destination.
Jeremy: They want to “be” in the country, or even to “do” or “experience” rather than “sightseeing”. By offering to participate in photography workshops, cooking, painting, crafts, organic farming, yoga or immersing in a community of traditional musicians, we respond to their expectations.
7. What is your personal vision of the journey?
Alex: The journey is a kind of small existence, which is remembered long time, sometimes forever.
Jeremy: The trip is also about self-discovery. Marcel Proust wrote that “the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in seeing with new eyes.”
8. What are the values of SHANTI?
Alex: We have several…. The expertise, passion, creativity! We are constantly looking for new destinations, new programs, and new products to make our travelers dream about it.
Jeremy: We value customization of travel needs and closeness with our travelers. We are committed towards social and sustainable responsibilities by the way of supporting environmental NGOs enabling them to preserve the rich local culture and tradition.
9. You used the word “Journey” and never used the word “tourism”, why?
Jeremy: In tourism, we agree a moment of relaxation or adventure, in fact a parenthesis, so that the trip is a continuum. Journeys change our perspective about life it has an everlasting consequences even in the future that is yet to come.
10. An extraordinary travel experience to tell us?
Alex: Probably the first big trip, with my childhood friend, we travelled between Nepal and India. We did hiking, gave English lessons, learned Nepali and Hindi, learned to cook momos (Tibetan and Nepalese dumplings) and feasting on Dosas ( South Indian pancakes) and to meet and share experiences with fellow travelers and locales. It was this strong sensation of touching the horizons, to feel things and just not to be a mere spectators of life.
11. What is that thing which drives your SHANTI Team?
Jeremy: A shared passion for living in Asia, to travel across the continent with an open mind, willingness to share and ultimately the exuberant enjoyment of life.
12. What projects are coming from Shanti Travel in coming years?
Jeremy: At the moment we are developing new destinations and we will open new local branches in Southeast Asia. We have just launched Vietnam and soon we will start tours in Cambodia and Laos as well. But the project which is close to our heart right now is Shakti Mela… An all women conference that will be held in October 2015 in the World Capital of Yoga, Rishikesh.
Alex: Over the past few month we have developed quite a many Ayurveda and wellness programs. One of the most amusing program that excites me is the Yoga in the Himalayas. I believe that yoga is a path for personal harmony and transformation so this program is started at Nimmu House in Nimo village in Ladakh Valley at the confluence of River Indus and River Zanskar.
You like horse riding than Shanti Travel have got lot of exciting and adventurous tours for you. We have developed and now offering horseback riding tours across Asia in places like princely state of Rajasthan in North India, horse ride through Assam in Northeast India, Sri Lanka and very recently in Lombok Island in Indonesia archipelago.
13. A word for the end?
Alex: I leave it to Loick Peyron, “The best trip is the one that has not yet been done.”
Take a look at this cool Infograph that talks about Shanti Travel’s journey in Asia over the last decade: http://bit.ly/shanti-10-years