Plan your next adventure with Jaya Travel.
By Matthew Totsky
Photos by Jerry Zolynsky
As the retail arm of Sky Bird Travel — one of the nation’s leading airline consolidators — Jaya Travel & Tours has been offering discounted airfare, cruises and land packages for individual travelers for more than 40 years.
Arvin and Jaya Shah founded the company in Windsor in 1975 as a way for Indian people in the area to easily get back to their home country. The company relocated to Troy in 1981 before finally settling in Southfield in the late 1980s. The company currently has branch offices in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Atlanta, Seattle, Houston, Fort Lauderdale and Washington, D.C. There are also international offices in Mumbai, India, and Toronto, Canada.
“My father was studying at Wayne State and developed a passion for travel,” says Akshay Shah, the company’s vice president of marketing. “He got a job at a travel agency and everything clicked for him. There was a large Indian community here, and he and my mother started to cater specifically to that market. At first, their customers were just going back and forth to India, but then they started to book other trips through us and things took off from there.”
Akshay’s wife, Shweta, works as the director of marketing at Jaya Travel. “Our best customers are those who have already done the research on a trip,” she says. “What we do as travel agents is help them with the logistical side of travel — saving them time and money. We validate their choices and find additional discounts. We make sure everything goes smoothly so our customers can get the best value for their money.”
Customers come to Jaya Travel because they know the company brings its 40 years of experience in the travel industry to their personal itineraries. They are looking for a variety of services that will satisfy all of their travel needs, including private jet charters, group and meeting events, and travel consulting services. Jaya Travel does planning for destination weddings, sports teams, missionary groups, music groups as well as trade delegations.
With access to special negotiated fares, the company can offer extremely competitive prices on major airlines flying to destinations in the United States, India, the Caribbean, Africa, Mexico, Europe, Asia, the Middle East and throughout the South Pacific.
“Our staff are experts on flight itineraries and connection times,” Akshay says. “They can uncover little nuances that the consumer won’t be able to find on their own. Basically, we do the research so the consumer can get the benefits. Whether you need to make a reservation for travel to or from the U.S., we can make the process quick and easy. We continually find new ways to enhance our customers’ travel experiences with excellent customer service while providing the most economical pricing.”
Shweta adds, “Planning a trip is like a jigsaw puzzle. When one part has a change — like a date, for example — you have to rearrange all of the other aspects. That takes time away from your own life and other things that are important. By allowing us to do the planning for you, it frees up your time until you’re ready to review the trip, approve it or offer final suggestions.”
With careers in the travel industry, it should come as no surprise that the Shahs are a well-traveled family. When asked about their favorite destinations, Akshay and Shweta had several similar responses, including France and Italy. Both also cited India because of the ties to their family. “It’s a very diverse place with many different cultures and religions,” Akshay says. “The people are fantastic. I go about four to five times a year.”
Costa Rica was another shared favorite. “It’s completely the opposite from a place like India because there’s no hustle and bustle there,” Shweta says. “It’s untouched, serene and relaxed. There are a few roads and big buildings, but mostly just small villages. It’s a simple way of life.”
Akshay also has a fondness for Athens, Greece, because of its amazing party culture. “You can walk from place to place and everything is so alive,” he says. Shweta prefers Switzerland because she finds it so well organized. “It’s an easy place to get around,” she says. “The people have a nice balance between their family life and professional life.”
Philanthropy is another important part of the Shahs’ lives. “My parents established the Jaya Foundation in response to the massive earthquake in 2001 in the village of Bidada Kutch in India,” Akshay says. “There were no rehabilitation facilities for the people there. Tents were set up and hundreds of patients a day were treated by doctors from all over India. After the initial wave of disaster relief, patients started showing up at the tents from far away to receive therapy for many disabilities.”
Shweta continues, “The Jaya Foundation, supported mainly by our family, realized there was a need for a permanent rehabilitation facility. In 2004, construction finished for a 20-bed inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation hospital. On the 10-year anniversary of the earthquake, the Jaya Rehabilitation Institute and Research Center added an additional floor. The facility is now a 50-bed inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation hospital treating almost 50,000 patients annually.
“Giving is part of our soul,” she continues. “We are blessed to be able to travel so much in our lifetime. It is important to us to show our three daughters the diverse lives of different people. The exposure will help them gain a better perspective.
“We want them to understand that people all over the world are similar in so many ways. It is our responsibility to help those that need it.
“When you travel, you gain a new outlook. You meet a variety of people and hear of their experiences. You grow as a person and are positively changed. It is a learning experience like no other.” NS
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Jaya Travel & Tours
24701 Swanson Road, Southfield