Gossiping with… cocktail connoisseur and Easia Travel BDM Heena Bhudia

By Lisa James
23/02/2024
Home » Gossiping with… cocktail connoisseur and Easia Travel BDM Heena Bhudia

Many agents know her from Travelpack, but last November, Heena Bhudia became Business Development Manager at Easia Travel, a DMC specialising in Southeast Asia. Heena tells Travel Gossip about her love of cocktails, why she’s not a beach person and the celeb that left her speechless…

I’ve met quite a few celebrities, but I’ve only been star-struck once. That was when magician Dynamo asked me to pick a card, then put it back in the pack. It turned up in my pocket. I’ve no idea how he did that. I was lost for words – and people who know me know that doesn’t happen very often.

I fell into the travel industry. After graduating with a major in marketing, I got a job as a PA for [Indian Hindi language] Zee TV and after that a recruitment company put me forward for a job with the GSA for Jet Airways and Gulf Air. Most people know me from Travelpack, though. I worked there for more than 20 years (with a short stint in the middle at bmi), then I moved to Easia Travel at the end of last year.

You pronounce it E-Asia (even I was unsure until I worked there). We’re a B2B DMC specialising in the Southeast Asia destinations of Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Myanmar. I’m the first BDM since COVID – and the first ever to cover the Nordic region, in addition to the UK and Ireland. We work with tour operators as well as some agents, such as Travel Counsellors. My next trip is to Vietnam. Our parent company owns a property out there, Avana Retreat, an amazing, sustainable resort in the mountains, surrounded by paddy fields. It’s the first sustainable and responsible hotel in the area. I’m excited about seeing it.

It was hard to leave Travelpack, but I had been doing the BDM role for seven years and I needed a challenge. Before I worked for Easia Travel, I would think: “Why do DMCs take so long to deal with our requests?” Now I understand the complexities.

I’m not a beach person. I’m more of a bucket-lister. Breakfast next to Kuang Si Falls in Laos, a cookery class with a famous chef, hanging out with a local tribe in the hills – that sort of thing.  One of my best experiences was free diving with whale sharks in the Philippines.

I used to swim competitively. When I was at school, I represented the borough. But when it got to GCSEs, my parents told me I needed to stop training and concentrate on my studies.

My mum’s my hero. She’s the strongest person I know and my inspiration. My parents moved from Gujarat in the early 1970s. They worked incredibly hard and encouraged my brother and me to get that education they didn’t have. I still live in the house I grew up in, in Kingsbury, near Wembley. My parents also have a house in India, so when they come back, they stay here with me.

When I was younger my nickname was Icey, because I liked sparkly things. And I still do.

I love a French Martini cocktail. Followed by a Pina Colada – I love rum and that instant tropical feeling you get, which makes you feel you’re somewhere exotic. In fact, I love cocktails so much that, during COVID, I started to learn how to make them, as well as creating my own. The more flamboyant the better, such as Espresso Martini with popcorn and gold leaf. I have an Instagram account, @cookinglapassion, where I share photos of food and cocktails I’ve made [including the ones pictured above].

I think it’s important to give back. I volunteered at a COVID vaccination centre during the pandemic. I’m also involved with Basket Brigade UK, a charitable organisation that delivers baskets of food around Christmas to people who are in need.

We’re incredibly lucky to work in travel. We get to experience some amazing destinations and five-star venues. Some of the most generous and supportive people work in travel. It’s such a sociable and fun industry and I don’t think there’s an industry like it.

Quick questions
  • Texting or talking? Talking.
  • Dawn or dusk? Dusk.
  • Love Island or Married at First Sight?  Love Island.
  • Cats or dogs? Dogs.
  • Heels or pumps? Heels.

You can learn more about partnering with Easia Travel and the unique experiences it offers in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand by emailing [email protected]

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