I joined the travel industry straight after university, where for three years I worked with teenagers as an activity coordinator in the south of France during summer, and a ski guide during winter.It was during my last ski season in Val D’Isere where I met Chris Loughlin, the CEO of Travelzoo, who offered me a job. The rest, as they say, is history.
What do you like most about your job?
That’s simple, it’s about travel. As an avid traveller myself, this resonates well with my personal ethos. In addition, I am excited to be part of a high growth, internet media business that is at the forefront of travel innovation.
Across the world, the travel industry is experiencing a boom. Travellers are getting savvier and demanding high-quality experiences. The power of the internet and social media are driving this demand. Mobile takes this even further, enabling travellers to get instantaneous updates while on the move. This opens up a world of opportunities to engage travellers, and inspire them to travel and experience more.
Travelzoo aims to do just that by offering travel and lifestyle deals that have been rigorously researched, negotiated and test-booked by our team of deal experts, ensuring each deal we publish is genuinely the best in the market. We engage our subscribers at different personal levels, from the Top 20 newsletter, Local Deals to mobile applications and social media. It is a challenging environment as the Internet moves in milliseconds. Twenty-seven million subscribers globally, with 700,000 from Australia alone, are constantly counting on us to provide the best recommendations.
Overall, it is an exciting time to be in the travel industry, and I look forward to be part of this evolution every day at work. And having such talented colleagues who push you to always do the best is an added bonus.
What’s one of the biggest achievements of your career so far?
I will say moving to Australia, a country that I have never been to before, to head up the Travelzoo business.Making the transition and facing off the various challenges that comes with building a business in a foreign country has given me a huge sense of achievement.It has also taught me valuable lessons that will forever shape my working life.
What’s the best advice ever given to you and who gave it?
My dad always told me to treat people how you want to be treated yourself.I think that’s true outside of work as it is in business.
Who do you admire and see as a role model in the travel and / or hospitality industry?
Sir Richard Branson. I think his attitude towards life and to his employees is extraordinary. Richard is a true visionary. I especially love the story on how he came up with Virgin Airways.
Apparently, it all began in 1979 when he was flying from Virgin Islands to Puerto Rico with Joan, his then fiancée and now his wife.The story goes that his flight was cancelled.Instead of waiting around, he got a blackboard and persuaded people who had their flights cancelled to buy the seats on a chartered plane.He managed to get them to fill up the seats and pay for his and his fiancée’s seats on the chartered plane.The name on the blackboard: Virgin Airlines.And an entire airline company was born.Essentially, his “Screw it, just do it” approach has seen him build a huge business venture, and is something that I will like to embody in the way I approach life’s challenges.
What can people expect from your company and what sets it apart from its competitors?
The travel industry is highly competitive. Travel is no longer the luxury of a few. With urbanization, consumers are looking to travel to relief stress. They are searching for memorable experiences and unique escapades from their hectic lives.
Presently, there are many travel related products and services circulating over the internet that target these experience-seeking travellers. However, travellers are also being overloaded with information over the Internet. Some information is legitimate and valuable, while some can be inaccurate and misleading. It is time consuming for an individual to evaluate all the options thoroughly to make the best choice.
In that sense, Travelzoo captures an important market gap in providing real deals for consumers. So when we say “real deals”, we mean deals that are filtered, qualified and verified to ensure consumers always get the best value. It is our most important differentiator, and the key reason for our strong industry recognition and subscriber base. Our Deal Experts, sitting in 25 major cities across the world, examine thousands of deals being published each week, and distil it down to those that genuinely offer real value for money. And we are not just offering deals but integrity as well. Every deal we publish adheres to Travelzoo’s stringent selection and approval process. No amount of money ensures that a deal will get listed on Travelzoo.
In addition, our deals aim to inspire a deeper holiday experience for our subscribers. We work with thousands of travel suppliers and entertainment companies around the world to craft unique experiences for our subscribers. We aim to fill our subscribers’ travel calendars with such unique experiences. For example, an Australian subscriber has holiday options for wine tasting in Napa Valley California, scuba diving in Phuket, half day tour to the world’s largest fish market in Tokyo or a fine dining experience at a Michelin-rated restaurant in London.
What destinations are on your travel bucket list?
First is getting more out of Australia. The country is fascinating in the diversity of travel opportunities it can offer. You can climb mountains, taste world-class wines, explore the almost human-free outback, dive at the Great Barrier Reef, and explore unique fauna and flora that live in both tropical and temperate climates. It’s a world in its own, and I am looking forward to exploring it as much as possible.
Second is skiing in the world-class snow of Japan’s Niseko. The reason why it is one of the best: Deep powdered snow. Add the reasonable prices as a result of the weak yen, unique setting and delicious food, the 1972 Winter Olympics venue becomes a memorable ski holiday destination. Of course after a fun day of skiing, it will be great to pamper yourself in an Onsen, a traditional Japanese bath.
Lastly, I will love to see with my own eyes the awe-inspiring landscape of New Zealand that added magic to the Lord of the Rings. You can walk across the Abel Tasman National Park that sports beautiful beaches bordered by azure waters, try out glacier trekking, do bungee jumping in the land that made it famous, hike across Tongariro Crossing like the hobbits did at “Mordor” and “Mount Doom”, and soak in the Maori culture. There are many things one can see, do and experience in New Zealand, and it is a place that should be in everyone’s bucket list.
What’s a memorable travel experience you’ve had (good or bad)?
It has to be my trip to Malaysia. I was fortunate to not only visit the capital city, Kuala Lumpur, but also see two other island destinations: the islands of Langkawi and Penang.
Kuala Lumpur is the country’s political and economic centre. The streets are lined with majestic buildings depicting both colonial and traditional Malay architectures. As a trading centre, it is a shopper’s paradise for all budgets. Top it up with the sandy beaches of Langkawi where nature and tourism has found a nice balance, and Penang where the places of worship and flea markets dominate the island and you can understand why many revisit Malaysia.
But it is the food in Malaysia that made my personal experience memorable. The influence of Malay, Chinese, Indian, Portuguese, and British culture has cooked up new cuisines that combine Western herbs, with Chinese ones and Indian spices gratify your taste buds. Some of the dishes, like Penang Laksa, Nasi Lemak offer a unique culinary adventure like no other. New restaurants are opening up across the nation that combine traditional cuisine and mix it with Malaysian favourites—a marriage that I am sure will continue to keep Malaysia as one of the top food destinations in the region.
What are three things you always take with you when travelling?
A MacBook, a digital camera and my passport are always at my side whenever I travel distant shores.
Name someone famous you’d like to travel with and a destination you’d like to go with them.
As a Welshman, it would have to be Tom Jones to Las Vegas.
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