Interview: The founders of “Student Ramble”, the company behind BudaFest

Eleanor Metcalf 6 February 2014

John's students Boaz Sobrado and Daniel Forde have recently set up Student Ramble, a travel company catering exclusively to students. The Cambridge Student talks to them about the idea behind their business, their inaugural trip to Budapest and their future plans for nationwide expansion.

What is Student Ramble: what does it offer, and what were the inspiration and intentions behind its foundation?

Student Ramble is a network for students throughout the UK. We intend to harness the great magnitude and geographical clustering of the student community to negotiate cheaper prices for students across a number of industries. We’re excited to operate nationwide which allows friends at different universities to reunite and loads more new friendships to be made.

We chose the word 'ramble' because it’s a bit different and its definition incorporates a sense of aimless wonder: a headstrong journey into the unknown with great variability but endless possibility for the serendipitous stumbling upon something great. It matches the fun, optimistic, adventurous nature of our customers.

You were criticised by The Tab for promoting a hedonistic and alcohol-fuelled holiday to Budapest offering the chance to 'party with porn stars' which, as one commenter pointed out, The Daily Mail would have a field day reporting; feminist readers also took issue with the choice of strapline. Do you have a response to these objections?

We make no apologies for our trips being hedonistic or for some of our students opting to drink whilst partying with us: we’re not offering a day trip to The Sedgwick Museum. We firmly believe that these formative student years are an important part of life and actually toured around Budapest ourselves hand-picking features which align with our aim of making the university experience as enjoyable and affordable as possible for everyone. Intriguingly, we actually have significantly more female than male bookers at the moment. We have targeted our marketing slightly more towards girls but I'm sure the ratios will roughly even themselves out, especially after the guys have read this article!

How did you come to know the so-called 'Italian Stallion' who is at the centre of all this hype?

Boaz is well-connected in Budapest, so we got in contact with him and were invited to dinner in his cafe. He treated us to his own brand of wine and offered us a special meal deal for our students which will grab them two courses and a drink for £5. He even invited us over to his studio which is over 1000 square feet and includes paintballing, a motor cross track and a helicopter hangar.

Why did you pick Budapest as your first destination?

Budapest is a favourite of ours: April will be Daniel's fourth visit and Boaz lives there. This allowed us to use our experience and network in the city to organise a sick trip. Budapest is famous for its 16th-century Ottoman thermal baths, incredibly cheap prices and, of course, its world-class nightlife.; we worked very hard to produce a trip which showcases the best parts of the city, many of which are missed out on a typical tourist’s trip.

It's also incredibly cheap, with a shot or pint in a club usually costing under £1; we've personally suffered at the hands of budget airlines and their hidden costs so we deliberately created a trip that can be bought and enjoyed for exactly the price advertised.

BudaFest takes place during the Easter holidays, normally prime revision time. Cambridge students are notoriously work-orientated – who is your target audience for these holidays?

Anyone and everyone. Personally, we took a 5 day trip last year and it really helped structure revision and keep us focussed when we returned. We’re marketing the trip to students across the country but not exclusively to ‘party’ universities or societies. Ramblers can also bring friends along who aren’t at uni themselves, everyone’s welcome.

How have you gone about advertising your first trip? How much concrete interest have you had so far?

It’s policy not to give exact numbers but we’ve had a brilliant diversity in our customers already: undergrads and postgrads from Cambridge, Oxford, London and up North have all booked which is great. Overall, we started with 100 places and we’ve now got fewer than 30 left of the £199 package, so that gives you an idea of the popularity we’ve been lucky to experience.

We’ve used social media a lot to advertise and also Student Unions at various universities, which have been really receptive to helping fellow students. Naturally, Student Ramble has received the most coverage here, in our own university, so we are looking at having colleagues on the ground at different unis. Alternatively, we might be forced to go and party with students across the country to find them and spread the word!

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