The witty Bollywood actor discusses his travels to the land of the Glenfiddich and his love for nature
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OT: How did you end up founding Byond Travel? What was your inspiration? And why ‘Byond’?
Vikram Ahuja: My parents were in the Indian Navy, so travel has always been an integral part of my life. A few years ago, I travelled with complete strangers to the Burning Man Festival in Nevada and came back with many memories and friendships. This provided the spark I was looking for and the next year we started working on a concept combining unique destinations, curated experiences and, most importantly, the community aspect of travel. Since the idea was to explore travel ‘beyond a destination’, the name Byond stuck!
OT: Tell us a bit about your offerings?
Vikram Ahuja: We see ourselves as a community platform that allows travellers to participate in shared experiences with a group of like-minded people.
We build and lead travel journeys focussed on women-only, yoga, motorcyclists, moms & kids, senior citizens and more.
OT: What sets Byond Travel apart from other travel companies?
Vikram Ahuja: We work closely with powerful influencers within different interest groups to create journeys that are immersive and truly personalised. While certain communities are well organised, travel is a completely new offering for many other groups such as moms & kids. We bring these different communities together. Also, we ourselves lead every trip.
OT: What are some of your really unusual tours?
Vikram Ahuja: We planned the first-ever road trip expedition from India to Bangkok via the new Asian Highway Network. We also have an upcoming trip for music and dance enthusiasts to Cuba led by a prominent Indian salsa guru, Lourd Vijay. Other unusual tours we do include ‘The Yomaste Series’, which are yoga-centric getaways in the Himalaya, and an excursion to Mongolia that promises a completely localised experience.
OT: Tell us a bit about your augmented reality initiative.
Vikram Ahuja: Our efforts have been on building narratives using virtual reality and 360-video to create immersive content which the interested traveller can view through a headset. These include getting a first-hand feel of doing yoga at Pangong lake in Ladakh, driving on iron bridges and crossing the Myanmar-Thailand border and so much more. Earlier this year, we also partnered with Google to explore augmented reality in travel via an app which allows travellers to navigate environments not mapped by GPS such as marketplaces, bazaars, little streets, etc.
OT: What is trending in the Indian travel space? What future trends do you foresee?
Vikram Ahuja: Word of mouth is an essential trend. People increasingly get inspired by travel-related stories and content shared on social media. Community travel is another one, where people from younger demographics are driving the trend forward by being open to travelling with strangers. As far as future trends are concerned, over 7.5 million senior citizens are expected to travel outbound from India next year. Also, Indians are increasingly travelling for music festivals and world cups. Women-only travel has also been growing phenomenally.
OT: What’s your personal travel style? And some of your favourite destinations?
Vikram Ahuja: Running a travel company gives me an excuse to travel a lot and I enjoy interactions with local food and wine, communities, music and dance, cultures and people. I like to sample the most local food, no matter how inedible it might seem. This includes feasting on bugs, cockroaches and even a rattle snake! Favourite destinations include Cuba, Ladakh, Spain and Romania.
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