I recently got in touch with Mr. Tony Harrell, travel consultant & owner of Abundant Travel, a travel agency aiming at providing the best travel experiences to people of size.
Here is the first of a two-part Q&A Mr. Harrell was kind enough to participate to!
Tell us about yourself and your background.
Well, I’ve been involved in both the travel industry for over ten years and the size acceptance community for about fifteen years. My wife Cathy and I are both members of NAAFA (National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance) on which I am proud to have served as a Board Member for the past four years. We live in the Washington DC suburbs where we enjoying spoiling our dachshund “Pep”.
What is the story behind Abundant Travel?
While working for a travel industry association, I started thinking about my own travels with Cathy as well as stories shared with me by other plus-size friends about the challenges they faced when traveling, if they even traveled at all. I realized that there was an underserved market of potential travelers and decided that I would do my part to change that by becoming a travel advisor that focused on plus-size travelers.
What is/are the most important challenge(s) faced by plus-size people when they travel?
On the physical side, it’s often getting to the destination. I’m considered to be in the “typical-size” or “average-size” range yet most coach airplane seats are rather tight on me. The situation can be that much more challenging for travelers of size. I guide my clients towards the best transportation options for their needs. Sometimes it requires an extra investment – at least for travelers from the US – but I believe investing in your dreams is worth it.
And then, there is the emotional side. Some travelers of size have an understandable concern about how they will be treated at their destination. That’s a valid concern as life can certainly be unkind. I work with my clients to find a destination and accommodations that will make them feel welcome.
What is/are the concern(s) you hear the most about from your clients?
Besides the potential for investing in additional or upgraded seating that I previously alluded to, some clients are looking for a hotel or resort that promotes itself as “plus-size friendly”. While there are destinations and hotel accommodations that can be more size-friendly than others, there is not a place that I would recommend or guarantee that a traveler of size would never face a potential issue. What I work to do is maximize my client’s comfort zone based on their stated preferences and concerns.