Leeds backpacking company Euroventure has just scooped a top industry award, coming only second to Warner Brothers. Neil Hudson reports...
When he was 16, Philip Cabra Netherton told his mother he was going ‘interrailing’ to Berlin on his own. “She didn’t like it,” recalls the 31-year-old, who is now managing director of Leeds-based Euroventure. “But she said, ‘I can’t stop you’. I went to hostel in Berlin and I remember someone asking me, ‘Are you backpacking?’ I’d never heard that word before, so I said something like ‘Well, I’ve got a backpack..’, which sounds really sarcastic looking back but it was borne out of naivete. I think I wanted to go somewhere on my own and see what happened.”
Travelling is in his blood - the same goes for his brother Kevin, 27, who founded the business with a grant from Leeds University. At the time, he was applying to join the Royal Navy and is now a naval officer. They grew up in Spain, spending their first 11 years living in Valencia with their parents, Anne and Miguel, who also travelled widely.
“My love of travel came from living in Spain and later France and for Kevin, it was living in Spain and Singapore but also having parents who travelled and backpacked. I’ve never been able to stay still.”
Both brothers travelled extensively when they were younger. Philip freely admits his carbon footprint was “terrible” and adds: “We both just went off on trips on our own. For me, it was the era of 1p flights. In my second year at uni, I went away every weekend. I went to Finland, Spain, Italy, Milan… I can’t even remember all the places. I still travel a lot, a lot of it is for business. Now it’s trips as a buyer, because we are buying a lot of hostel beds or train tickets.”
Six years after starting the business from Kevin’s bedroom, Euroventure is catering for around 1,000 backpackers a year and employing six people, with plans to more than double that by July this year. On top of that, they have just won silver in the British Youth Travel Awards, coming second only to London’s Warner Brothers Studio and its Harry Potter tours.
Philip says: “A lot of people still think London is where the talent is. Our win at the British Youth Travel Awards goes to show that with enough passion, small businesses in our region can compete with even the biggest names in the industry. We hope that our win inspires more locally based businesses to aim high, so that we can represent our region at a national and international level.”
Coming second to Warner Brothers is no mean feat, especially when you consider the respective sizes of both businesses and the fact this is the first time they have entered the awards.
One thing they pride themselves on, and which helped them win the award, is their customer service, as Philip explains: “Increasingly, people want bespoke holidays offering the chance to gain real experiences and the kind of thing you don’t get with a package holiday.
“When people book with us, they give us an idea of what they want to do, where they want to go and the timeframe in which they have to do it and we basically join up all the dots. So, they get directions from the train station to the hostel and we arrange for all the tickets they need and so on - they do not have time to do all the research, so that’s what we are doing.
“But we also provide a comfort blanket and a 24-hour mobile phone helpline, which is set up in a way so that if anyone does ring it, at whatever time, someone will pick up. We don’t want to scare people into saying something will happen, because often it’s just small problems. Perhaps they can’t find the train they need… there was one a girl who rang from Amsterdam in an altered state of mind and she had forgotten hich hostel she was staying at, so we helped her out. Another group got on the wrong train and so it was just about reassuring them and making sure they had accommodation for the night.”
But Euroventure goes above and beyond...
“There was an incident in which we booked a trip for a wheelchair user. She was travelling with two carers to meet her family. She was going from London to Amsterdam, Berlin and then Rome and it was really important for her that she got their on her own. Part way into her trip, it emerged that the wrong ticket had somehow been booked for one of the trains and because this specific journey needed a specific ticket for wheelchair access, the only way to get it was from a ticket machine in Germany, so I basically flew to Amsterdam, then travelled by train across the border to Germany, bought the ticket, then went to her hotel and delivered it by hand to the reception desk. We didn’t even tell her, because we just wanted to her to have a smooth, worry-free experience.”
Marketing manager Catherine Livesley joined the business in 2015 as unpaid intern, says: “If we can help people who would otherwise feel too nervous, they have that added level of security and that may enable them to do it. We all know the advice people need to hear. Make sure you don’t go out on own, that people know where you are, don’t go into situations which are unsafe. We sometimes get emails from hostel saying ‘X’ hasn’t checked in… every single time that’s happened, the person has got back in touch to say they decided to stay with a friend or something else but it’s just that level of keeping in touch with them, having their family details available if needed.
“People are searching for experienced more and more. That’s the way people want to travel these days, to live like a local. People are searching for something different and for holidays which are not just sitting on the beach and also to realise what a cool thing it is to backpack. It’s not terrifying, it’s easy.”
Euroventure has organised backpacking trips for people of all ages and they run group tours, led by one of their team. They currently sell trips all the way to Beijing, 8,000 miles away but have plans to expand and begin operating in Asia and Australia.
“We facilitate trips to anywhere in mainland Europe” explains Philip. “We have partnerships in every major city, so at least one hostel, one three star hotel, one four-star hotel in each of those. We’re also a Deutsche Bahn ticketing agent, so we are licensed to sell and print European tickets from the office, which we send out with our travel packs. We aim to provide a smooth service, so people can enjoy their journeys - lots of our customers say we helped make their dreams come true and that’s what we set out to do.”
Founded by two brothers in 2012, Leeds business Euroventure travel creates bespoke Interrail trips for groups and individuals, as well as selling a range of adventure tours in Europe, Asia and Australia.
Kevin Cabra Netherton, 27, started the business with a grant from Leeds University - he later joined the Royal Navy, where he still works, while also being a director of Euroventure.
Brother Philip, 31, now runs the business full time. He once flew to Amsterdam, then took a train to Germany to ensure a customer had the correct ticket.
The company offers a round the clock helpline for their customers.
Their first booking was for a group of 13 lads from south Wales going to Spain at the end of their school year.
They have organised trips for people aged six up to 89.
They recently won silver in the British Youth Travel Awards, coming second to Warmer Brothers - it was their first time of entering the awards.
More information at www.euroventure.com. For further information, interviews and photos please contact Catherine Livesley – Catherine@euroventure.com or call 0113 868 2360.