Profile - David Rubin of DavidTravel

QTMagazine - May 2001
QT Profile - David Rubin
Around the World with DavidTours [DavidTravel]
by Duane Wells
May 2001
Issue 20


David Rubin - DavidTravelEver planned a trip only to arrive at your destination to find that there was some small detail you had overlooked?  Ever been disappointed that you couldn't get a reservation at a wonderful restaurant in your destination city because you only discovered its existence after your arrival?  Ever longed to meet other gay people like yourself while on vacation in some place other than a nightclub?  Ever checked into a hotel with your partner and requested a single king size bed only to have the front desk tell you upon arrival that they caught the error and changed your room to one with twin beds?  Well if any of these things has happened to you, you were clearly not on a tour created by DavidTours [DavidTravel].

Since 1996, David Rubin, through his DavidTours [DavidTravel], has been pampering gay travelers with 5-star, luxury travel in destinations that range from South Africa and Botswana to Budapest, Morocco, India, Copenhagen and a host of others.  For every destination Rubin tirelessly researches accommodations, restaurants, sites and every possible detail imaginable to insure that his clients' travel experience is maximized and to guarantee that they are not only treated with respect, but also treated royally.  Beyond this, Rubin's DavidTours [DavidTravel] take travelers beyond the typical tourist experience, by insuring that on all his tours clients have the opportunity to meet other similarly situated gay locals in each destination.

Rubin's hard work has been rewarded with Out & About's Editor's Choice Award for three years running and led the Advocate to proclaim, "For strictly 5-star-treatment, look no further than DavidTours [DavidTravel]".

I recently chatted with David about DavidTours [DavidTravel]' success and the art or traveling in 5-star luxury and let me just say, David Rubin knows travel (I guess that's why he does what he does)!  Here's a little of what I gleaned from the conversation...

DW: I know you left practicing law to launch DavidTours [DavidTravel].  What kind of law were you practicing at the time you launched DavidTours [DavidTravel]?

DR: I was doing business litigation, [but] I started my career doing maritime work in New Orleans.

DW: How many years did you practice?

DR: 10 years.  And although I don't practice I still maintain my license.  Once a lawyer, always a lawyer they say. [Laughs]

DW: What inspired you to leave law and start DavidTours [DavidTravel]?

DR: I've always loved travel, meeting people and connecting people.  It just brings tremendous joy to me.  While I was practicing law and when I was in college, I was the person friends would call and say 'I'm going to Paris.  Where should I stay?  Where should I eat?  Who do you know there and who can you put me in touch with?'  Before e-mail, I'd connect people...I'd call or fax a friend and say 'A friend is visiting...I think you guys would enjoy meeting one another'.  Really just making the world a smaller, friendlier place.

For me the greatest joy of traveling has been the people that I've met and the friendships that have developed.  I really wanted to incorporate that into travel.  I found once I was busy practicing law, I had a week or two weeks to travel and I needed for things to go pretty perfectly and I was losing some of that ability to interact with people and socialize with people.  So when I realized that I didn't want to practice law anymore, I looked around to see if I could combine what I love with what I do [for a living]. That's how it all came together.

The thought was how can I set up trips for the busy, successful professional person with luxury, but not isolate them from the local people and a real sense of what I think is the magic of travel.

DW: How do you go about choosing the DavidTours [DavidTravel] destinations?

DR: A lot of it is pure instinct.  Initially it started with New Orleans because I had lived there for 10 years and I had great contacts there...I had great friends there.  Then it went to central Europe where I also had very good friends in Prague and in Budapest and in Vienna and that can often be the basis of a decision because I invite locals to join a group.  So having strong social contacts in a destination really helps me with that foundation.  It's really a combination of what I think will be hot, what I think will be popular and where I think I can add a tremendous service.

DW: What have been your most popular tours thus far?

DR: My southern Africa tour, the central Europe tour, India and Scandinavia.

DW: About how many people are on each tour?

DR: Anywhere from 6 to 20.

DW: Of all the destinations on the DavidTours [DavidTravel] itinerary, are there any in particular that you look forward to with glee each year?

DR: I especially love the Budapest, Vienna, Prague destinations.  I love those cities.

DW: Now you're going to have to explain the Budapest part of that to me David.  I was there maybe 7 years ago and had a dreadful time.  Maybe I should have been on one of your tours!

DR: First of all, we stay at the Intercontinental and I think it has some of the best service of any hotel in the world.  Every client gets a room with a view of the Danube and it's just magic.  You don't have to leave your room to enjoy Budapest.  It is gorgeous!  You see the Danube, you see the castle, you see the Chain Bridge.  I like a room to be dark when I sleep, but it [the Intercontinental, Budapest] is one of the few hotels where I leave the curtains open because I love seeing the sun rise over the castle.

The dining we do there is just fantastic.  The Gundel is one of the most magnificent dining rooms in the world.  It was the dining room during the height of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire.  Ron Lauder of the Estee Lauder family and the owner of Café des Artistes in New York went in and renovated it about 12 years ago and brought it back to it's Old World glory.  It's a wonderful experience.

Plus, I have great friends in Budapest who my clients love meeting.  Our Hungarian tour director is always adored by our clients.  The city has a great balance between old world charm and beauty, combined with decaying elegance and warm, fun, friendly, stunning, and hunky Hungarians.  Then add the homoeroticism of the not gay but very gay popular Turkish baths that are hundreds of years old and you have a very magical destination.  Duane, if you "do Budapest" with DavidTours [DavidTravel], you will love it as all of our clients do.

DW: What are some of your more gay-friendly destinations?

DR: Actually, to step back, I wouldn't necessarily define many of our destinations as "gay destinations".  Morocco...India...Tanzania... don't have gay venues.  In fact, India, with almost a billion people, has no gay venues.  There might be certain places that are 'gay-popular' in these countries, but there are no gay venues.

In Scandinavia, going to Stockholm and Copenhagen, I think it's quite a non-issue.  We do make it clear [that it is a gay group], but it's almost an unnecessary question.  Even so, they may not be gay-knowledgeable.  So we'll say we want to make sure the concierge is knowledgeable or if he doesn't know the address of a club or something that he takes the time to find out [the information] for the client as any top concierge would.

Overall, we have worked very hard to be ambassadors for the gay community and strive to make sure that everyone we work with and every property we use is or learns to be gay friendly.  This is an exciting part of our work.  Through our work and meeting our clients, people around the world enjoy great times and experiences with our clients who they know are gay people.  We are regularly told that our groups are favorite groups.  As a bottom line, people have fun with our groups.

DW: You've talked a lot about your clients.  Who is the typical DavidTours [DavidTravel] client?

DR: On one tour, the age range was literally 22 - 92.  Our median age is 30 - 60.  We typically have about 50% singles and 50% couples on a trip.  We have 90 - 100% men so we are very happy to have more women.

More and more we're getting clients from different countries and to me that's really exciting.  We have straight clients, too.  They know and are comfortable with the fact that our clientele is 90 - 100% gay.  The single straight women love the way the gay men look after them.  The straight couples love the fact that our groups are fun and the tour members are younger than a similarly priced mainstream tour.

Several things are different on our tours from most luxury mainstream tour companies and our clients love this.  For example, on most luxury mainstream tours almost all tour members are the age of our clients' parents or grandparents and they dine without locals at 6:30pm at the hotel restaurant.  Our median age is about 30 - 60 years old and our clients don't pull out the photos of children and grandchildren.  All of our clients like the fact that we do things like dine at the best, most trendy restaurant on Saturday night at 8pm at the best table with great locals joining us.

DW: Do your clients tend to be professionals, for the most part?

DR: They're generally well traveled...and quite successful.  They're from all walks of life.  We do have a lot of doctors...[and]...attorneys who are clients.  We have quite a number of successful models, professors, bar owners, interior designers, architects...people really in all walks of life are taking our tours.  

DW: You've got such a full schedule of tours at the moment. What destinations are you still interested in adding?

DR: I'm adding Kenya...Peru...Iceland and we're considering Cuba and we'll be working on getting permission from the Treasury Department to do that.  At some point, I'll be adding Russia...I'm [also] looking at perhaps Turkey and Egypt.

DW: I think that means you're going to have to split yourself in two!

DR: [Laughs] Well, this will be over a period of a few years.

DW: I know you must have many, but can you recount for me one of your more memorable Epicurean experiences?

DR: In the South African wine country, the restaurant we use for lunch...many clients have told me that it's one of the finest meals they've ever had.

DW: Well, don't be so mysterious.  Where exactly is this little hidden South African gem?

DR: It's in a town called Franschhoek, near Cape Town, and it's called Haute Cabriere.  In Marrakech, the restaurant's in a gorgeous small palace...It's about a 4-hour meal and everything is exquisite.

DW: Okay David, as a final question I have to ask you about some of the more unusual things that might have happened on some of your tours.  I mean you can't put that many gay men together and not have something interesting happen.  What's one of the wildest things that's ever happened on your tours?

DR: January 1, 1998 in Johannesburg, South Africa...I had about 15 clients on tour.  So many local friends wanted to join us for dinner that we had 20 guys from Pretoria and Johannesburg...we had more locals than clients!  One of my clients who is an incredible art collector, met one of my local friends who is one of the top architects in South Africa and also has an extraordinary art collection.  They have been together ever since.

My client, who lived in New York and the Hamptons, moved to Johannesburg and they now live there and in Cape Town.  And that's not an isolated story.  Some very wonderful friendships and long-term relationships and wonderful evenings have developed from the tours and that's been really wonderful for me.

Well I don't know about you but I'm sold.  Romance, unparalleled luxury, art, culture and interesting company?  Where do I sign up?  As far as I'm concerned, those are all the elements of the perfect vacation and the best part of all is with DavidTours [DavidTravel] doing all the legwork; you can just sit back, relax and truly enjoy the experience.  With DavidTours [DavidTravel], David Rubin has succeeded in creating an environment whereby the gay community can travel the world in style and with dignity.  No small feat.  And who says all lawyers are bad?