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Businessman Tony Laker is seen as innovative and inspiring

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Invercargill travel agent Tony Laker has died aged 57.

Robyn Edie

Invercargill travel agent Tony Laker has died aged 57.

Invercargill’s award-winning travel agent Tony Laker, who died aged 57, was an inspiration to the Southland business community and a good guy, a town leader has said.

Laker died Sunday after being diagnosed with a rare form of liver cancer in mid-2020.

Sheree Carey, chief executive of the Southland Chamber of Commerce, said Laker’s success in the travel industry has shown other Southland business people what can be achieved nationally and internationally.

Laker and his wife Tracey started their business, House of Travel Lakers in 1999 with no money or customers, at a time when there were 12 other travel agencies in Invercargill.

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They worked hard until it became an extremely successful, award-winning business, and Laker was a fantastic employer, Carey said.

“He knew how to treat his staff…he was incredibly inspiring to the Southland business community.”

House of Travel Lakers was named New Zealand Travel Agency of the Year at the 2019 New Zealand Travel Industry Awards, and Laker itself received the Lifetime Industry Achievement Award.

A family man – the couple have two children – Laker devoted much of his time to helping others in the community, often through sponsorships, and was a big supporter of Hospice Southland.

Laker’s good friend Jamie Mackay described him as an “extremely positive” person.

Tony and Tracey Laker in 2021.

Robyn Edie / Stuff

Tony and Tracey Laker in 2021.

The son of a fisherman from Bluff, Laker could “sell ice cream to an Eskimo” and was a great trader, talker and networker, Mackay said.

He “couldn’t sit still” and was always on the move with a plan.

“They started with nothing, zero customers, zero money, and they built a business empire over the next 20 years. They both worked incredibly hard and were innovative in the industry. travel.

“Tony realized that to grow his business he had to expand, and he did that by touring overseas.”

Mackay and Laker have taken farmers on “walking and farming tours” around the world, following the All Blacks to the UK, Argentina, South Africa and Japan, while visiting farms in those countries.

When Covid-19 hit the Lakers, they changed their business model from international vacations to domestic vacations, but suffered a 95% reduction in revenue and staff layoffs.

They left their business in October 2021 to focus on family and health, with the couple’s partner, House of Travel Holdings, taking over their shareholding.

At the time, Laker told Stuff they were proud of the company’s accomplishments, but more proud of the support they had given to many Southland charities and organizations over the years.

A celebration of Laker’s life will be held at ILT Stadium Southland in Invercargill on Monday at 11 a.m.