‘Incredible feeling’ for blind travel pioneer as he becomes an OBE

A broadcaster and entrepreneur who pioneered travel for the blind has described the “incredible feeling” of being made an OBE.

Amar Latif, who lost his sight in his late teens, set up the company Traveleyes, which specialises in foreign tours for the blind.

He collected his OBE at Buckingham Palace on Thursday.

Amar Latif with the Princess Royal at Buckingham Palace
Amar Latif with the Princess Royal at Buckingham Palace (Aaron Chown/PA)

The 48-year-old said being honoured made him think of all the people in his life who have helped him.

Describing how he began to lose his sight, he said: “I woke up one morning and I couldn’t see. I thought it was just morning fuzz but it turned out that I was blind. I realised my life was going to change forever.

“After seven years as an accountant I wanted to go travelling, but when I contacted mainstream tour operators they said, ‘Sorry, you need to bring somebody with you’.”

Mr Latif, who was the first blind person to appear on the BBC’s Celebrity MasterChef in 2020, decided to tackle the problem himself.

He said: “I set up the world’s first international tour operator that takes groups of blind and fully sighted people on holiday.

“Blind people have dreams and aspirations to do things, the only thing is that we can’t see.

“What’s the point of sighted people travelling when most people just take photographs and move on? As a blind person you engage all of your senses and the world comes alive.”

In 2019, Mr Latif and comedian Sara Pascoe featured in BBC Two documentary Travelling Blind.

On being made an OBE by the Princess Royal, he said: “It’s such an incredible feeling to have been honoured. After 20 years’ work I’ve been recognised, it’s a moving experience.

“It makes me think of all the people in my life who’ve helped me. These people are so incredible.

Amar Latif with Professor Adam McBride
Amar Latif with Professor Adam McBride, who nominated him for his OBE (Andrew Matthews/PA)

“There are moments when it’s hard being blind, but with all the help of these people it boosts your confidence, and then I am able to do things that changes other people’s lives.

“Thousands of blind people can now travel the world and it makes a huge difference.

“But there are still a lot of injustices – 66% of blind people of a working age don’t have a job.”

Mr Latif was joined by his former university professor Adam McBride at the investiture ceremony.

The professor helped him to complete his mathematics, statistics and finance degree at the University of Strathclyde after he lost his sight.

Prof McBride, who nominated his former student for the honour, said it was “inspirational” to watch him become an OBE, and to see the man he has become.