TRAVELER OF THE WEEK: LUKE VAUGHAN | LUXURY TRAVEL
And the traveler of the week is LUKE VAUGHAN
Ever dreamed about living in Australia? Have you ever wanted to fly in first/business class? Ever wondered what it's really like to be in the travel agency business? If so, Luke has you covered.
Check out his interview below.
Where are you originally from?
Born and bred in Melbourne, Australia.
What's the best part about living in Australia?
The quality of life here is second to none. Four of the top 10 most livable cities worldwide are located on this barren southern island! While travel can be expensive given our location, the high salaries allow us to get away pretty often. I’m especially enamored with my city, as Melbourne is the food, culture, sport and art capital of the country. And we’ve arguably got the best coffee in the world! That said, our winter down here is pretty dull and grey so you can’t have it all.
have you ever lived anywhere else?
Like every Australian, I had a stint living in London, bartending when I was a much younger, more handsome version of myself. I also spent a year in Rio de Janeiro, where my wife is originally from.
If I'm a first time visitor, what are the top three things I must do in Australia?
Easy: Dive on the Great Barrier Reef (catch it before it disappears!), have lunch while sailing around Sydney Harbour and drive the Great Ocean Road to see what’s left of Victoria’s ‘Twelve Apostles’.
Do you prefer Sydney or Melbourne?
I’m a highly biased Melburnian; but hey, Sydney doesn’t appear on that Top 10 Most Livable list, so I must be right
you travel quite a bit for work. Could you tell me about what it's like to be a travel agent? Most of the agents I've worked with in the past helped me plan trips, but they never traveled with me. Do you get to travel with your clients?
I’m similar to the agents you’ve worked with. I plan trips, but I don’t travel with clients (although I have definitely bumped into them in airports around the globe!). That said, I am looking to get more involved in specialized tours. I want to take small, escorted groups to parts of the world I’m passionate about.
My travels are either holidays with my wife and friends, or attending an industry trade show overseas to keep up-to-date with the best travel experiences for my clients and to meet with suppliers who can help me to grow my business.
How did you get into the industry?
When I returned from my first big backpacking trip around South America, I was working as an freelance designer. I was really unsatisfied with the industry and my mind was exclusively focused on travel. I figured that working as a TA might be the perfect opportunity to earn some $$$ while getting to travel for free. Little did I know that the latter isn’t a reality, but with a lot of hard work, I managed to carve out a successful career.
Is it difficult being a travel agent? What's a big con?
It’s probably more difficult than most people would assume. The amount of work required to generate a good salary in an industry of consistently reduced margins is huge. Those who aren’t able to carve out a niche or specialty area often find themselves struggling to make ends meet. Clients generally want the personalized service of a travel agent, but in a world of price-matching and site-comparing, clients too often forget that this service does (and should) come with a fee. The worst part of the role is when mistakes are made, we cop the cost, and fees in the industry can be enormous. I’ve personally been hit with costs of over $10000 from something as small as a slip of the finger, and I know of agents who’ve been hit with a lot more than that.
What's the most bizarre encounter you've had with a client or someone you met abroad?
Just last week I was waiting for my baggage after hopping off a Singapore Airlines flight back to Melbourne. I spotted a passenger who was seated across the aisle from me on the flight, and we started chatting. He was knowledgeable about the airlines and we were sharing our favourite travel experiences, bucket list first class seats, dream itineraries, etc. We kept chatting through customs and into the arrivals halls when we exchanged cards. We both laughed when we realised that he was a client of mine. The vast majority of my clients interact with me electronically so he hadn’t recognised my face!
What's the coolest trip you've taken for business purposes?
A few years ago I went to Turkey to meet with some suppliers and luxury hotels around the country. The beaches and Istanbul were of course amazing (and the trip was what prompted me to visit Turkey again earlier this year), but the highlight was without a doubt getting the opportunity to go hot air ballooning in Cappadocia. The sheer number of balloons in the air over an almost cartoonishly beautiful landscape makes for a pretty spectacular visual.
If you could be anything in the world, what would you be? And it can't be what you're doing now.
An architect. Growing up it was always what I’d planned to be. I was obsessed with every stage of building design, and would spend my days creating rough and architectural drawings of my ideas
Qatar Airways. They’ve given me the most consistently superior experience from my flights with them – 5 star throughout
Favorite meal abroad?
Sushi Saito in Tokyo. For those who aren’t familiar, a quick Google search will detail the reasons why this is the best sushi to be found anywhere. A special mention: the Maxwell Road Hawker Centre in Singapore: $3 rice dishes that I’d happily pay 10 times the price for back here!
Worst meal abroad?
Flying from Mexico to Argentina via Bolivia many years back with the now-defunct Lloyd Aereo Boliviano. I was offered “pasta or meat” as the meal. I should have seen the warning signs when only the term ‘meat’ was used; but my foreign culinary interest got the best of me. Needless to say, I spent 24 extremely uncomfortable hours in a food poisoning-induced delirium in a Buenos Aires hostel. Always go for the pasta!
What places are you itching to scratch off your bucket-list?
South Africa, India and Iceland. 2018/2019 is looking promising.
I was scrolling through your Instagram feed and noticed you're always in first or business class lol? Do you always fly first class? And if so, what's it like. I'm always in coach so I want to know about the perks! And is it worth the additional cost haha?
The vast majority of my travel history was up the back of the plane, so don’t worry – I’ve roughed it! Over the years I’ve become a lot more adept at gathering frequent flyer points and working out the best way to utilise these points to travel in style. I also have very strong relationships with some airlines due to my sales, so I’m lucky to also receive complimentary travel at times as a reward or to trial a product which I can then on-sell to my clients. The bells and whistles are of course amazing: Dom P by the bottle, five star dining, spacious bathrooms, etc. But the biggest advantage by far is how you arrive. Being able to get to a new country after a good rest means you’re ready to hit the ground running and make the most of your time. When you live 24 hours from Europe, trust me: it makes a difference! I think everyone needs to try it at least once so keep an eye on online forums in your country for deals.
Is it worth it? Hmm. That’s the question I have to answer for many clients. I tend to think there are four times when it is:
- An incredible deal (eg. earlier this year I contracted a fare with LATAM from Australia to South America for round USD $1600 return in business)
- A special occasion (honeymoon, etc)
- Travel for work where it’s vital (and cost-effective) to arrive fresh and well rested
- If you’re filthy rich!
What do you enjoy the most about travel?
Meeting people with different perspectives – hands down. I come from an island in the corner of the world where the entire continent is quite culturally uniform (despite being a highly multi-ethnic nation). This is why Aussies love to get abroad and experience how others live. Nowadays I’m less interested in galleries, museums or waterfalls, and more interested in how locals have their coffee, what they do on their days off and what they like to talk about in day to day conversation.
When I travel for work I spend most of my time meeting with hotels, airlines, ground operators, etc. Yet it’s when I’m able to interact with other travel agents from around the world during trade shows or conferences that I get the most inspiration, as I learn new ideas which I can apply to my own business.
How can my readers get in contact with you? Do you have a business/website, social media, etc.?
I frequently post articles on www.pointhacks.com.au which is an Australian-based site focusing on boosting airline status and travelling in style for less. If readers are interested in finding some discounted rates on business or first class travel, they can reach me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m relatively fresh to Instagram but with a busy year coming up I’m looking forward to sharing more and more of my travels; readers can follow me at @l_v_travels.
If you would like to be the next Traveler of the Week, please send a message to email@example.com.