Gaura Travels : Connecting families across India and Australia
Gaura Travel specialises in the air travel industry particularly between India and Australia. For over 15 years, it has reunited many Indian families with their loved ones, served thousands of customers and has operated more than 100 charter flights. The founder of Gaura Travel, Ashwini Sonthalia spoke to Akasha Usmani
Akasha Usmani (AU) - Gaura Travel has been the premier name in the air travel industry
between India and Australia. Can you tell us the story behind “Gaura Travel”?
Ashwini Sonthalia (AS) - It started in 2007, me and my brother, Abhishek, we are the two founding members of Gaura Travel. At that time, 15 years ago, there were only a few Indians in Australia but it was slowly increasing. We used travel companies but found that they were very professional in their approach and service so we started Gaura Travel. Gaura in Sanskrit means “Golden”, so we started Gaura Travel to provide this service to the Indian community in Australia and right now it is one of the biggest companies in this particular market. We have over two hundred thousand customers over the last 15 years and we have become a very known name in the Indian community in Australia.
AU - Can you tell us about the work you did during the peak of COVID-19?
AS - As we all know all the borders were shut down between India and Australia like anywhere in the world and it was a more severe shutdown for people traveling in India and Australia because there was no air bubble arrangement between the two countries. On the other hand there were other countries which had air bubble arrangements with India. There was no option for people to travel to India from Australia and at that time we took the opportunity to discuss this with the Indian consulate locally in Australia and they really encouraged us , so many people were suffering, so they asked us to start some charter flights. We started the first charter flight in July 2020 and till December 202, we organized 102 charter flights and more than 20,000 families were united with their loved ones over the course of 2 years during the pandemic.
AU - What is the situation of the Indian tourist footfalls in Australia?
AS - India has a very big population and with more and more people from the Indian community and Indian background living in Australia increasing over the last 20 years. Similarly, tourists have also increased and their presence in Australia is increasing every year because those who are living here often call their family members to visit for holidays and generally speaking whenever a country has more Indians living then tourism also increases. At the moment, India is in the top 5 countries of tourists to Australia and every year it is increasing, especially last year during the T-20 World Cup, there was lots of Indians who had come to Australia. We have another business called Turtle Down Under, which takes care of tourists coming to Australia and we organized for a lot of people to come in last year. In terms of Gaura Travel, it mainly focuses on families and people visiting their families
AU - How has the travel industry changed after the Global Pandemic?
AS - Yes, it’s completely different to what it used to be before. Prior to Covid-19, there was no requirement of getting tested for Covid and there was no requirement to produce any kind of medical certificate before coming and there was no talk about vaccinations and vaccine certificates. Now, these are very important. Any person who is traveling is usually vaccinated, they have to carry the vaccination certificate to travel, just in case, as any country can change the
rules at any time so it’s important for people to keep that in mind. India and many other countries have introduced the requirement of PCR Tests from any person traveling from China and some other countries as well. It has become much more complicated and even then we find that lots of people are interested in traveling and are traveling. Last year at Gaura Travel we served more than 40,000 customers. I think it has become more arduous on the traveler to take care of certain rules and regulations but at the same time this hasn’t deterred them from traveling rather they are traveling more to connect with their loved ones.
AU - How do you think the tourism exchange between India and Australia can contribute to the improvement in people-to-people relations on both sides?
AS - Tourism plays a big role in the bilateral relationship of any country. When people don’t know about the country then they really don’t aspire to be there. With tourism, people come to have a look at the country, they understand how things work here and then more people feel attracted to either visit Australia or to migrate to Australia or study in the country. According to me, tourism is an essential relationship and friendship between India and Australia. There is a good relationship between India and Australia in terms of cricket that really binds the two countries together. It's a sport that both the countries are passionate about. Similarly more and more Indians are looking to travel overseas and the tourism industry in Australia is welcoming more and more Indians to Australia and that brings more opportunity in other fields where
people develop love for the country and translate that into more permanent migration and business opportunities. I think it is playing a very critical role in developing the relationship between both the countries.