Huben Travel is a dynamic new premium travel agency for the LGBTQ+ community set up by Surrey-based husbands Hugh and Ben Eddon-Carruthers. Huben Travel specialise in tailor-making personalised, high-quality travel itineraries that include two sets of recommendations for clients, reflecting Hugh and Ben’s differing interests and preferred travel styles – they call it their ‘Two Voices, Your Choices’ approach. We asked Hugh and Ben to tell us more about their exciting new LGBTQ+ travel business.
Hi Hugh and Ben, can you tell us what Huben Travel is?
Hugh: Huben Travel is a travel service that specialises in tailor-made luxury travel for the LGBTQ+ community – travel that comes with reassurance and advice on any destinations we sell.
When and why did you set up Huben Travel?
Ben: We are both passionate about travel and continually came back to our own experiences of booking our trips. Although there are some wonderful companies doing travel very well, we couldn’t find anyone that offered exactly the service we wanted, that would offer comfort and assurance while keeping it personal. We always felt there was gap in the travel industry for an LGBTQ+ luxury specialist, run by gay people, for gay people and with gay people as the focus.
Hugh: Another big factor was work/life balance. Ben was a West End stage manager for 11 years and I’m a chartered accountant, so our day jobs meant we didn’t really get to spend any quality time together. We needed a better work/life balance as well as the foundation to eventually start a family. In mid-December last year we headed off to a lovely hotel in the Cotswolds, and notebooks in hand we spent the weekend brainstorming ideas. Some were crazy, some weren’t, but we kept coming back to travel as the thing we were really passionate about.
Can you tell us about your ‘Two Voices, Your Choices’ approach – and reflected in your ‘Huben’ name?
Ben: Our company name is obviously a combination of our names and Huben Travel already had the ‘Two Voices’ as we often like different things about the same destination or experience. We have always found booking a holiday a compromise and not at all in a negative way – it’s just there are so many exciting options that we are always suggesting different ideas to each other. So the ‘Two Voices, Your Choices’ approach seemed a natural one for us. In a nutshell for every holiday booking we will offer our customers the opportunity to complete a brief questionnaire before we start planning their trip. From this information we will then tailor suggestions that fit the needs of every traveller. It will be interesting to see whether travellers are more ‘Hugh’ or more ‘Ben’…
Can you describe each of your different approaches to holidays and travelling, and how that will help your LGBT+ customers?
Ben: So, we’ve just landed in New York, taxi straight from the airport, checked into the hotel. I’ll be reserving a table at the hotel bar and planning my next cocktail as the waiter brings my French 75. Hugh will be getting his camera ready to trek out and tick off a couple of sights before the light goes. It’s all about compromise and luckily we have that nailed now. The ‘Two Voices, Your Choices’ approach has worked for us and by offering plenty of different suggestions along the way, we can make sure everyone gets what they want from the trips we organise.
Why did you decide to create an LGBT+ travel business together? And has it been fun, challenging or a learning curve to do it?
Hugh: We wanted to create a company that would really spend the time with a customer, make sure they felt understood and got exactly what they wanted from the trip. Working together has been a fun learning curve. We both have our areas of specialism. Ben has spent so much time on the phone building relationships with all our suppliers and hotels. At Huben Travel it is essential that we have a relationship with a hotel right down to the reception desk, so if there’s an issue we can solve it from our office allowing the clients to continue with their holiday. With my accountancy background, I’ve been busy looking after all the contracts and money side of the business. I’m very quickly getting to know how Ben used to be in his stage manager role. Ben is learning very quickly how to behave in a more corporate setting.
Can you tell us about the ‘Travel Personality Questionnaire’ that you invite new customers to complete and how that helps you make holiday suggestions?
Hugh: We offer our guests the opportunity to complete a short questionnaire comprising of 15 questions which gives us an idea of how each individual likes to travel. This helps us create a trip that meets the expectations and requests of all of the guests on the trip. Sometimes couples are surprised by each other’s answers. That was definitely true for us.
You’ve got a great range of holidays and travel ideas, can we ask you what your recommendation would be for these travellers: firstly a younger gay couple who are getting married next summer wanting to choose a special, exotic honeymoon destination and hotel?
Ben: We would recommend Rayavadee and one of their beautiful villas situated on the edge of Krabi’s national marine park in Thailand. After planning a wedding not that long ago we know more than most how much you need to get away and enjoy some time as a newly married couple. Rayavadee’s pavilions and villas are a real haven, somewhere you can really enjoy each other’s company. And they can also be coupled perfectly with a stay in Bangkok, which is such a vibrant city – go and check out how amazing those lady boys really are!
What about an older gay man in his late 50s on his own who is looking to make new friends and do something a bit more exciting than just sitting on the beach?
Hugh: Jump aboard one of the more intimate Silversea cruise ships. You’ll experience service and comfort far above the level of most land-based hotels. You only have to unpack once, but you get to see lots of different beautiful ports and discover them with your fellow passengers. There are plenty of social opportunities in the evening to chat about the day’s travel over a few drinks or a delicious dinner.
And talking about sitting on the beach, what is your suggestion for a beach resort which is a bit different for younger Boyz readers who love their sun and sand but also like a bit of sight-seeing too?
Ben: This may surprise you, but Tel Aviv in Israel is a really great place to go to enjoy a great beach and a wonderful LGBTQ+ nightlife. From here you have trip options to lots of amazing ancient sites. This is a real Middle East experience without having to travel into the more conservative neighbouring states.
Can you tell us about your Hosted Tours?
Ben: We have had a few holidays where we have both thought “this would be great to showcase to others”. Our hosted tours will be one big old gay trip away, and we’ll be with you helping to make it fabulous. It will be a chance to meet like-minded gay travellers with us as guides, buying a few rounds at the bar or even topping up your glass with more champagne. There may even be a chance to enjoy a ‘Two Voices’ day. A group could stay with me and enjoy the rays and the hotel pool while a group head out and explore some local towns and shops with Hugh. This is something we will be launching in 2021 so please do keep your eyes peeled on our social channels and make sure you join our e-newsletter sign up.
We’re quite keen on wine here at Boyz, do you have any good wine-tasting tours?
Hugh: We do, as we love wine too. One excellent tour we offer is based in Bordeaux. The best thing about a trip in France is you can drive from the UK, and then on arrival our trips all include transport so you are free to enjoy the wine and not have to worry about a designated driver. We have a wonderful trip that goes tasting just champagne and also an Essential Bordeaux where you will sample several wines from various vineyards in the region We also offer tours in other parts of Europe, South Africa and California. One of our hosted tours planned for late 2021 is a trip to San Francisco and then on to the Napa Valley for four days of wine – it’s top notch and that’s before tasting the cabernet.
Your website is great and really comprehensive and we were interested in a few destinations we hadn’t heard much about before: can you tell us about Rwanda, the Seychelles and Jordan from an LGBT+ point of view?
Hugh: Rwanda always surprises people, because most of its East African neighbours don’t share the same progressive LGBTQ+ laws. Rwanda is home to some wonderful treks to see the famous gorillas in the wild and beautiful international hotels such as the One & Only Nyungwe House where you literally stay in the jungle. As with anywhere that is slowly becoming more enlightened it’s wise to exercise caution in public.
Ben: The Seychelles are a beautiful alternative to the Maldives for the LGBTQ+ traveller. With stunning resorts, these islands are perfect for an LGBTQ+ honeymoon. The Seychelles are a great combination with South Africa too. Jordan is a stunning place to get up close and personal with ancient history, and the world-famous Treasury at Petra is simply breathtaking. Homosexuality is legal here too. At any site within Jordan it is respectful to wear more conservative clothing and refrain from public displays of affection, but this is the same for any couple, gay or straight.
And although cruise ships are probably some way off from majorly sailing again, what would be your recommendation for a two week cruise for a gay couple wanting to enjoy a lot of new destinations and in comfort, and on what ship or line?
Hugh: As we mentioned before, Silversea is a beautiful line but with the intimate nature of the ships comes a smaller range of entertainment and dining options. If you want to go big with the wow factor for entertainment and dining we would suggest our friends over at Celebrity Cruises. If you are looking for entertainment and amazing food but still want that traditional cruise experience where you dress in black tie for dinner then Cunard is the way to go. Itineraries range massively and it really depends where your interest lies. For smoother sailing with quite a few port days we would suggest a Caribbean or Norwegian Fjord cruise. If you are looking for a range of countries, it’s hard to beat the Mediterranean – you get to sail into lots of different ports and experience lots of different cultures. We love cruising (no innuendos, please) so could talk ships all day.
These are tough times for the travel industry with the impact of COVID, what can you offer to Boyz readers who want to travel safely right now (eg in the UK maybe?) and what can you do to help people’s travel plans for 2021?
Ben: We have really worked on our UK offering. We have some wonderful trips in the UK on the website, from the Cotswolds to Scotland, all taking in activities in the local areas and staying in some amazing hotels. Just across the water we have some trips in France and Ireland. As we head into 2021, we only use suppliers that have great reputations for COVID refunds and care for their clients. This gives us confidence that if travel restrictions are reimposed, we could refund our clients in full and we would then take up the refund with the suppliers. We keep a close eye on the FCO website, which is updated depending on risk.
You must have done a lot of travelling together – what are your three favourite countries to visit and why?
Ben: We really love America – we got engaged in New York and honeymooned in New England driving 2,500 miles in two weeks. Hugh loves Australia and the fact you can now travel non-stop to the other side of the world. Closer to home, we have a favourite ‘go to’ in Tenerife. It’s a great Spanish hotel with seven restaurants, five bars, three pools and a spa – the perfect escape from city life.
What is the story of how and when you two met?
Hugh: We met in Liverpool at University. Ben was in the year below me, we had a mutual friend, introductions happened, and the rest is history. We have been together for 12 years, happily married for five.
You’re now a married couple, can you tell us about your honeymoon? Was it special and did it make the grade?
Ben: We touched on it briefly earlier, but here’s the full story. We had a one way flight in first class booked with BA out to New York and were supposed to be on a transatlantic cruise all the way back to Southampton. The cruise line then decided that the ship would be better placed in the Mediterranean and cancelled our departure, leaving us with a one-way flight and nothing to do with it. We managed to make that flight a return, spoke to The American Road trip Company and they planned us a perfect trip around New England. We stayed in some amazing places, but our favourite was Provincetown in Cape Cod. A quaint little fishing town, but my my do they love the gays. It was just great to spend a couple of days there. We didn’t realise at the time that the road trip company had taken us through some great LGBTQ+ places and they put us in either gay friendly or gay owned accommodation. It was this subtle attention to detail that really resonated with us and made the trip just perfect. We loved it so much, we have put our exact trip on our website to book.
And finally Hugh and Ben what are your plans and hopes for Huben Travel into 2021 and beyond?
Hugh: We simply hope to become a well-known and trusted brand that the LGBTQ+ community can come to book travel. We hope that a vaccine is found for COVID-19 and that we and our clients can get out and start exploring our beautiful world once more.
BOYZ READERS HUBEN TRAVEL OFFER
We asked Hugh and Ben to come up with a special Boyz readers offer to mark the launch of Huben Travel.
“Travel’s our passion and we’d be delighted to help you book your next getaway. We’re offering the first 200 Boyz Magazine readers who subscribe to our e-newsletter mailing list, £50 off a 2021 long-haul adventure.
Sound good? Just head over to our dedicated webpage – www.hubentravel.com/boyz – by 30 September 2020 and tell us your name, email address, telephone number and a little about the type of holiday you’re interested in booking.
We’ll then give you a friendly call back to chat with you about your dream holiday before getting to work to make your travel plans a reality. You’ll even receive two sets of travel ideas in honour of our ‘Two Voices, Your Choices’ approach.
We’ll move mountains (not literally, it’s a map thing) to help you make memories of a lifetime on your next holiday.
And for all the nitty gritty, the full T&Cs for the offer are included on our website.”
Watch Hugh and Ben’s launch video for Huben Travel here: