October 5, 2022

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Just Do Travel

Invercargill travel agents step aside after 22 years, but business staying open

3 min read
Tony and Tracey Laker are leaving their successful House of Lakers travel business after 22 years, but the business is remaining open.

Kavinda Herath/Stuff

Tony and Tracey Laker are leaving their successful House of Lakers travel business after 22 years, but the business is remaining open.

Award-winning travel agents Tony and Tracey Laker are leaving their 22-year-old Invercargill company for personal reasons.

However, the business they started from scratch is remaining open, with the couple’s partner, House of Travel Holdings, taking over their shareholding.

The Lakers have endured a tough 18 months, with the Covid-related border closures resulting in a massively reduced business turnover and staff layoffs, while Tony was diagnosed with a rare from of liver cancer in August 2020.

They said the cancer had not spread, while their House of Travel Lakers business was well positioned to thrive once people started travelling again.

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The plan had been to continue, but that changed when Tracey recently listened to an old tape recording on her phone.

The recording was of Tony’s surgeon giving him a prognosis following his cancer surgery a year ago. Tracey said she didn’t sleep after listening to it.

The next day she asked Tony if they were living their “best life”.

After thinking about it for a short time, he said no.

So they decided to leave their business and focus on family and health.

Their decision was cemented when both children reacted positively to the news. Tears filled the eyes of 18-year-old Flynn, who has Down Syndrome, when told both parents would be home when he returned from school each day.

Tony and Tracey Laker are leaving their House of Travel business and looking forward to the future [file photo].

Robyn Edie/Stuff

Tony and Tracey Laker are leaving their House of Travel business and looking forward to the future [file photo].

Tracey said they had a “passionate goal” to beat Tony’s cancer and he was on private drugs and being supported by his oncologist Dr Chris Jackson.

“Much as we haven’t beaten cancer yet, it absolutely hasn’t beaten us, either,” she said.

Tony said he was feeling great and looking forward to the future.

“The decision is about concentrating on ourselves now, fixing my health and moving to the next chapter of our lives.”

Looking back 22 years, their initial attempt to start the business was thwarted by the bank, which refused to lend them money.

With 12 travel agencies already in Invercargill, the bank thought they were crazy, they recalled.

Undeterred, the couple instead borrowed money from House of Travel Holdings, who have been their business partner ever since.

“We started with no customers and no money and finished as the current New Zealand retail travel agency of the year,” Tony said.

Diversification was the key to their business, they said.

Tony said they were proud of the company’s achievements, but prouder of the support they had given many Southland charities and organisations over the years.

The couple’s last day at the travel agency is October 29, but they stressed they were not retiring.

“Opportunities will arise,” Tony said.