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Our Model

We believe that tourism can and should be a force for local development. Reality Tours is a social business that uses a profit sharing model to fund our sister-NGO Reality Gives. Eighty percent of our post-tax profits go directly to Reality Gives which runs high quality education programs in areas where Reality Tours works.

 

Spreading the Model

We started in Dharavi but we are now using the same model for local development in New Delhi in the Sanjay Colony slum. We also consult with tour operators around the world to further increase our impact. For example, one of our co-founders, Chris Way, consulted with Smokey Tours in Manila, The Philippines to help them implement the same model.

Transparency

We strongly believe in transparency and accountability. As a result, we publish all of our accounts online.

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Reality Gives

Learn more about Reality Gives, their programs and the other NGO’s that we work with on the Reality Gives website.

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Our Impact

On January 4, 2016 Reality Tours and Travels celebrated 10 years of working here in Dharavi. To mark the occasion, we created a video that looks at the different ways in which we have impacted some of the lives of the tens of thousands of people who have been a part of our story.

As a responsible business, we value all of our stakeholders equally: our local community, our staff, our program participants and our tour guests. Our organisation doesn’t exist purely for our guests on tour or even the students in Reality Gives’ programs. Instead, we place importance on any group that comes in contact with our organisation. By strengthening all of our stakeholders, we strengthen our organisation. This has been the key to our success over the past 10 years and will be the key to our success over the next 10 years.

 

Best Practices

To ensure that our tours are conducted in a sensitive way that respects the privacy and  dignity of the local residents, we have developed a series of best practices for our Dharavi  and Sanjay Colony tours.

1

No Photo Policy

We have a strict no photography policy on all of our tours of Dharavi and Sanjay Colony.

2

Profits Stay in the Community

We use 80% of the profits from our tours and 100% of the profits from merchandise sales to support local education programs in Dharavi and Sanjay Colony through our NGO Reality Gives.

3

Small Groups

Our groups are kept small (6 people maximum) to ensure that our tours are as unobtrusive as possible.

4

Local Guides

We train and employ exclusively local guides who are friendly and speak excellent English. These guides are almost always from underprivileged communities and are thus able to give accurate insight into local life.

5

Dress Code

We have a strict dress code and will turn away any customers dressed in a way that might offend residents (i.e. no tank tops, low-cut shirts, shorts, etc.).

6

Tours on Foot

All of our tours through Dharavi and Sanjay Colony are walking tours.

7

Continuous Communication

We communicate regularly with the community to ensure that there are no issues with the tours. This happens informally as our staff is always in the community and formally through interviews. In 2013, we commissioned a study that interviewed 75 residents along our tour route about the tours and Reality Gives. You can read the entire report here.

8

Involvement of the community

The community is heavily involved in the organisation as guides, teachers, and community and reception centre staff. Sometimes it is difficult to see where the line is between Reality Tours, Reality Gives and the community. Local residents and factory workers have seen the tours, inquired, and become guides. Some staff have worked for both Reality Gives and Reality Tours, or started out in a Reality Gives program. Visitors on our tours come back to volunteer or start a program. Reality Tours staff volunteer for Reality Gives. And the list goes on.

Mission

Our goal is to provide authentic and thought-provoking local experiences through our tours and to use the profits to create change in our communities.

Vision

Our vision is a world where all tourism promotes cross-cultural understanding and local development.

Values

1

Helpfulness

We genuinely want you to have a great experience with us and we are committed to going the extra mile to ensure this. Our friendly guides are the key, have you met them yet?

2

Reliability

We reply to emails quickly, communicate clearly, and turn up on time. It’s simple, really: we love India and we want to make it as easy as possible for you to as well!

3

Value

We believe that all tours need to add value. Our tours would be difficult to do on your own. Whether it’s providing information you wouldn’t find in a guidebook, adding a twist to a well-known sight, or introducing you to hidden gems, our tours aim to help you get closer, understand better, and experience more. Learn more on our blog.

4

Honesty

We give you advice that is in your best interest and we won't sell you anything that you don't want. If we make a mistake, we’ll admit it and compensate you for any inconvenience caused.

5

Community

We believe in building strong communities and we are committed to working with and investing in the communities where we operate. Eighty percent of our post-tax profits fund Reality Gives, our sister-NGO that supports projects that create positive change in our communities. Learn more here.

6

Authenticity

Our aim is to help you really get to know the places you visit. In India, like everywhere else, there are many things to celebrate, but also social issues to address. We want to help you to understand the full picture.

Feedback

From International Visitors

“An essential part of a visit to India. The most thought provoking thing I have ever seen. Compassionately done with 80% of profits going to the slum. A real eye opener!”

via TripAdvisor

"Fantastic tour - well priced, informative and respectful to residents of the Dharavi slum. Really insightful experience and one of the most memorable trips I've ever been on. Thank you."

Maggie, UK via TripAdvisor

“If you have 24 hours in Mumbai - make sure you do 2 tours with Reality! My wife and I did the street food tour in the evening and then the Dharavi long tour the following day in the afternoon. Both were brilliant. As a foreigner and tourist in Mumbai, it gives you a perspective that you would never get on your own.

... The Dhavravi tour is simply perspective and mind altering. I thought I knew India, I thought I had been to slums before, but this tour was simply both energising and humbling...."

UK via TripAdvisor

"Working in the social sector in India I was highly skeptical of a slum tour...However, my worries were calmed once we began. The guides were careful to make sure we were not interrupting anyone's work or invading anyone's privacy, no pictures are allowed on the tour, and groups are kept small.

The tour completely changed my perception of what it means to live and work in a slum…"

Zoe, USA via TripAdvisor

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From Indian Visitors

“Fantastic & Eye Opening Tour! A Must For Mumbaikars Too! I attended the Dharavi Tour and I must say that Reality Tours is doing a fantastic job to help change the perception of the slum. Apart from that, they are helping local youth get employed and earn a living, which I am very much a supporter of...The tour is a MUST for Mumbaikars who possibly have more misconceptions about Dharavi than tourists."

via TripAdvisor

“Dharavi Walk: A must for locales and tourists alike.” A city within a city, the Reality Gives walk is the best way to see a side of Mumbai that people are aware of but few sign up to experience.

Sign up for this tour if you want to do something off the beaten path and need to experience the city apart from the regular jaunts and haunts. A 2.5 hrs long tour, guided by a well informed, local guide, you will be privy to the commercial and residential life of the largest slum in India. The word "slum" will soon start sounding like a misnomer as you progress through the tour and by the time you finish it, I am sure that you will have a completely different opinion of what a "slum" is or isn't."

via TripAdvisor

“I'm staying in Mumbai and I recently did a Dhravani tour with a friend of mine and should say it was an amazing experience. Typically, the people who do this tour are foreigners but I would suggest that every Mumbaikar should do this. It's a chance to experience how people live inside Dhravani and what it is that they exactly do which generates $ 650 million turnover every year! (Yeah, you heard that right)."

via TripAdvisor

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From Student Visitors

"[T]he tour showed me that people here work hard to recycle any kind of material we are using every day and that really impressed me. I will try to reuse more things at home and also talk to my parents about it. I will also tell my friends at school about this tour."

- Arjun ,12, student at MET Rishikul Vidyalaya Bandra

“I experienced a feeling of empathy and felt shocked as well as proud. The trip make me realise what life is like for others There is always a bigger pictures and our trip to Dharavi help me see it. It was an amazing experience.”

- Isha, 9th grade, Oberoi School, Mumbai

"We as a school cherish any experience that expands our world view and see how we are all interdependent. This tour did exactly that for us!"

- Aparna, Fifth Standard Teacher, Ascend International School, Mumbai

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From NGO Partners

"Cooperation among NGOs is never easy, but when we look at what CORP and Reality Gives have achieved in the last 2 years we can be proud. We function as a one team, triggering opportunities in both directions. Furthermore, more than 20 differently abled children and young adults attending our centre in Dharavi have today a much better quality of life thanks to the support received by Reality Gives."

- Stefano Funari, Change Maker, Community Outreach Program (CORP)

“Reality Gives' greatest support to us is probably their capacity to connect us to many valuable organisations involved in social work. Their support greatly opened our horizon to wider perspectives and contacts. Our activity could start growing with more input thanks to those new collaborations. Today, most of our present partners have been originally introduced to us by Reality Gives!“

Walter Fischer, founder of Barefoot Acupuncturists

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From Dharavi Residents

"Yes, we feel very good about this. They give 80% back to the community. It’s very useful, because children will get good education and they can do something in their life...It’s good, because they are earning money to help the people in the slum."

- 60 year old housewife from Maharashtra

"I was a bit surprised, because I was wondering why they were coming here. At the same time I thought in the back of my head ‘He’s my guest, he’s coming to my country, my place. He’s my guest, so similar to a God. So I have to give something to him.’ - 41 year old a soap factory owner from Maharashtra

"Now we feel really good about them coming here. We feel proud. Sometimes they say ‘hi, hello’ to our kids. We don’t have much of an idea why they come here. Maybe they come for some research or something."

- 30 and 45 year old housewives from Maharashtra

"There is no influence at all [from the tours]. We are busy with our own work and they are busy with their things. But we are quite happy, because tourists here in India are guests, and guests are treated like gods. When the people talk politely with me, I talk politely with them. There is no problem or influence at all."

- 65 year old male retiree from Maharashtra

In 2013, we commissioned a researcher from Stenden University in the Netherlands to conduct a survey of the community and evaluate the community’s perception of Reality Group. The interviews were conducted primarily along our tour route. The above quotes were taken from his research. His full thesis can be read here.

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From Reality Gives Program Participants

“As well as football we are learning leadership, responsibility, friendship, enjoyment and English.”

- Mansi, 15, Dharavi Girls Football Academ

“Coming here and joining this course, I get a lot of confidence. Before coming here, I was very embarrassed to talk with friends. I was not confident in speaking English, whereas my friends, they can speak in English in a very natural way. Now, joining this course, I feel very confident now. I definitely understand more and I feel very good."

- Pratiksha, Youth Empowerment Program Participant and Bachelor of Commerce graduate

"This class has encouraged us not only to learn English but to improve our other skills. The Youth Empowerment Programme also includes computer education and soft skills, which helps us develop basic etiquette and our personality. I enjoyed because there is no particular age limit. People have joined also with different backgrounds, religions, castes, etc. Some people are married, unmarried; students, workers, etc. Everyone has different ideas and experience to share. We share thoughts and beliefs and family situation. All are one and everyone shares their problems and help each other."

- Hajirah, Youth Empowerment Program Participant

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Awards

The reward truly lies in the progress we make towards our mission and the opportunities we provide for our staff and program participants.

We are however humbled to have been given some of the biggest awards in the responsible travel industry, as testament to our commitment to serving our local communities.

2015 Winner

WTTC Tourism for Tommorrow Awards,
Community Award

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2014 Overall Winner

TO DO! Socially Responsible Tourism Award

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2012 Overall Winner

Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism
Awards

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2012 Best for Poverty Reduction

Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism
Awards

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2014 Finalist

World Youth and Student Travel Conference,
Social Responsibility Award

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2014 Finalist

Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards,
Best in Community Engagement & Development

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2011-2016 TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence

We have received a certificate of excellence from TripAdvisor for the past five years - every year that we have been listed on the site!

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