Kavinda Herath / Tips
Tony and Tracey Laker are leaving their successful House of Lakers travel business after 22 years, but the business remains open.
Award-winning travel agents Tony and Tracey Laker are leaving their 22-year-old Invercargill business for personal reasons.
However, the business they started from scratch remains open, with the couple’s partner, House of Travel Holdings, taking over their shareholding.
The Lakers endured a tough 18 months, with Covid-related border closures resulting in massive revenue cuts and staff layoffs, while Tony was diagnosed with rare 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 to travel again.
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The plan had been to continue, but that changed when Tracey recently listened to an old recording on her phone.
The recording was of Tony’s surgeon giving him a prognosis after his cancer surgery a year ago. Tracey said she wasn’t sleeping after listening to him.
The next day, she asked Tony if they were living their “best life.”
After thinking about it for a moment, he said no.
So they decided to quit 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 with Down syndrome when she was told both parents would be home when she returned from school each day.
Tracey said they had a “passionate goal” of beating Tony’s cancer and that he was on private medication and was supported by his oncologist, Dr Chris Jackson.
âEven though we haven’t beaten cancer yet, it absolutely hasn’t beaten us either,â she said.
Tony said he was feeling good and looking forward to the future.
âThe decision is to focus on ourselves now, fix my health and move on to the next chapter in our life. “
With 22 years of hindsight, their first attempt at starting a 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, which has since been their business partner.
âWe started with no customers and no money and ended up as the current New Zealand Retail Travel Agency of the Year,â Tony said.
Diversification was the key to their business, they said.
Tony said they were proud of the company’s accomplishments, but even more proud of the support they have given to many Southland charities and organizations over the years.
The couple’s last day at the travel agency is October 29, but they have emphasized that they are not retiring.
âOpportunities will present themselves,â Tony said.