What better time to launch your new LGBTQ+ travel brand, than pride month? Hugh and Ben used Wanderly to pull together a website for their new business from the ground up in less than six months- and in the midst of a global pandemic no less!
We speak to Ben Eddon-Carruthers, co-founder of Huben, about travel tips, starting up in Covid-19, and no-shoes travel.
How did Huben come about? Why is specializing in travel for LGBTQ+ people so important to you?
“We had a terrible work life balance. We were working totally separate ends of the day because I work in theatre and Hugh is an accountant, so we’d never see each other.
We want to start a family, so we were thinking, what can we do? What’s important to us?
We were in a pub just before Christmas, in the Cotswolds when we decided, travel is our passion, so that’s what we decided to do. Then we started thinking about niches, and about exactly what we are, which is LGBT travellers, and creating holidays for people like us.
We want people to be able to travel, wherever they want in the world. Including some places that might seem a bit daunting or scary- we’ll send you all over the world. We’ll make sure we provide you with the advice that we’d want to be given ourselves as LGBTQ travellers. Although it’s illegal to be gay in the Maldives for example, any of the resorts are international and governed by international law. So that’s the most important thing for us, that people are safe and these trips are researched, right down to the reception desk in the hotel- like, “hey don’t ask these guys if they’re brothers, because they’re not.”
Being a start up in the time of Covid, what was that like?
“We’ve actually found it really useful. I finished my job in March and through the government’s self employment scheme was still being paid. It’s come at a really good time because I’ve had time to set up our business. we’ve not had to deal with the refunding and cancellations and restrictions that the travel industry are currently experiencing. We’re just going into it ready to go.
I feel like we’re really well placed, we’ve had time to get things together and get the website live.”
What would your advice be for other travel startups navigating covid right now?
“If people are looking to start up, I’d say now is a good time. The industry has had a shake up obviously and some businesses who haven’t been able to be as flexible have really struggled with this. As a result I think there’s going to be a total reform, operationally, so there are a lot of opportunities.
Advice wise, being a travel agent or a travel provider is going to be essential in future because people are going to want trust and transparency from their providers, and have a sounding board rather than book things themselves which a few years ago was more the norm. That extra premium means you get the service and the help if anything goes wrong, and I think that’s going to be essential. I feel like good service is about honesty, openness and trust.
Throughout the process, did you learn anything new about one another?
“We’ve learnt to work in the same office together! We’ve never done that before. There are a lot of things we already know about each other, that I thought might get frustrating, but haven’t.
I don’t think he ever quite understood how impatient I am, generally through my job- that show has to happen at seven o’clock, no matter what happens. I’m very communication and deadline driven, whereas he isn’t as much.
I think that might have been a bit of a shock to him. But he’ll get used to it. Just like I’ll get used to the fact he’s always right.”
It wasn’t even just getting your website up and running, it was building your new business from the ground up with branding, copywriting, everything. How did you find coordinating all that?
“I find I’ve taken the lead on most things because he’s been busy working. sometimes he doesn’t have five minutes to spare so I just get on with it. Seems to have worked so far!”
What are your favourite travel destinations?
“We love America. New York is special because that’s where we got engaged, we’ve been there so many times. We have a new found love for California, and our bolt hole in Europe is Tenerife- there’s one hotel we go to all the time.
In terms of future travel I really want to see Australia and New Zealand, do some exploring in Asia.
Six Senses have been so lovely and they’ve got so many properties out in Asia, so it might just be a case of doing a little tour with them. They’re all barefoot resorts and wellness is the top priority, our friends had a honeymoon with them in the Maldives and they had their shoes whipped away as they got on the speedboat, and they put them in a little bag for you, and they didn’t get their shoes back until they left the island two weeks later. Which sounds so nice.”
So all your personal travel experiences have fed into your products as well?
“Absolutely. On travel websites it’s so common to choose the basic room, get the economy flight, don’t include the transfer, and then the price looks so reasonable on the website. we’ve tried not to do that. Obviously we’re not looking to scare people off, but we’ve priced it as we’d want to do it. So we have private transfers, we’ve upgraded the flights… that kind of stuff.
I was on a travel website this morning and it was like “5 star hotel, Bora Bora, from £3,900 per person for five nights” and I was like great my friend wants to go there, they have about £12,000 I’ll give them a call.” And the guy I rang was like, “you couldn’t get the flights for £12,000” and- that can be so misleading. There’s nothing more frustrating than when you see a price and call a company, and then all of a sudden it’s an extra £7,000. We package things up how we’d want to travel and price it clearly and honestly.
There is also a lot of wine tasting and cruises- so a lot of deliciousness!”