Tony Laker

Multi-award winning businessman and powerful motivational speaker.
Tony’s topic “How the Hell did that Happen?” is described as a no-nonsense, common-sense, roller-coaster ride of adventure, fun, intrigue, mystery, and if time permits, a little bit of travel. His message of “if an ordinary guy like me can do this, just imagine what you can do” is hugely entertaining and empowering to all audience types.

Tony was born and raised in Bluff, the son of a fisherman. He describes his schooling as simply eating his lunch until he was old enough for someone to decide if he was bright enough to steer the boat or just work the deck.

In 1999, Tony and wife Tracey decided to open their own Travel Agency - House of Travel Lakers Invercargill. Every travel industry expert (not to mention the Bank Manager) warned it was a terrible idea and proceeded to list a host of very good reasons why.

Against all odds, House of Travel Lakers has quickly become one of the largest Travel Companies in New Zealand with a staff of twenty and an annual turnover in excess of $19 million. Compare that to the average sized New Zealand Travel Agency of 4 staff and $3 million.

In 2013 at the inaugural New Zealand Travel Industry Awards, run by the Australian Federation of Travel Agents with support of the New Zealand Travel Agents Association, House of Travel Lakers Invercargill was awarded the 2013 New Zealand Retail Travel Agency of the Year - selected from all Travel Agencies/All Brands nationwide.

In 2019, after increasing turnover from an average of $19 million to $28 million, Lakers were awarded ‘House of Travel Large Outlet of the Year’ for New Zealand (for the second year running).  At the 2019 New Zealand Travel Industry Awards they were presented with New Zealand Retail Travel Agency of the Year (chosen from over 300 travel agencies/all travel brands nationwide).  

At those same awards, Tony was presented with the prestigious ‘Lifetime Industry Achievement Award’ for ‘outstanding leadership and contribution to the New Zealand Travel Industry’ (only the 6th time this has ever been presented).

And then in early 2020, COVID arrived, the borders closed, and that changed to zero turnover !!!

Join Tony for his talk he has entitled “How the Hell did that Happen”? which he describes as a no-nonsense, common-sense, good fun, 45 minute roller-coaster ride of adventure, controversy, intrigue, some good ideas, and if time permits – a little bit of travel.  COVID-19 has added a new chapter to Tony's remarkable story about rebuilding, using exactly the same principles that made House of Travel Lakers such a success - and how and how anyone can apply these very same simplistic principles to their business and life.

Book Tony Laker, one of NZ's best motivational business speakers, to speak at your next event.


“Very personable, positive and keeps audience enthralled.  We would have Tony back again”  Harcourts Group

“Tony was brilliant – the best speaker yet”  Local Government Committee Advisors Conference

“Tony recently spoke at our annual More FM Top Shop Business Awards Breakfast.  He was truly inspirational and held the audience captivated with his humorous and motivational speech.  His ‘simple’ philosophy to life and how he approaches each day certainly makes you take a step back and reassess what is important.  If everyone took his approach to life, the world would be a more positive environment.  Thank you”  RadioWorks Southland

“Tony recently spoke at our first Travel Managers conference in Australia.  He was a huge success with our travel managers and they found his talk both inspiring and educational.  Some comments from our delegates follow:  “What an asset to HOT, that guy should be dipped in gold, he is really amazing”.  “Fantastic!  Could relate to all that was said.  Very real and down to earth.  Great timing and got us all inspired and laughed at the same time.  Loved his sayings especially ‘Life’s hard, get a helmet!’.  “Funny, funny, funny! Made a great point and got the message across to us.  Broke up the day with a lot of humour, whilst it was still educational”  Retail Travel Managers Australia

 “Thank your for giving up your time to speak at the Merchandise Strategy session and sharing with the team some very valuable insights.  It was beneficial to everyone of the team.  We really appreciated it very much and I have received a lot of positive feedback.  I plan to print out some of your quotes and hang them on the walls around Merchandise.  Mitre 10

“I was a little apprehensive about choosing a travel agent from Bluff as our keynote speaker, but I should not have worried.  Tony was simply brilliant and immensely enjoyable.  A successful businessman in his own right, Tony delivers clear simple business messages in an entertaining presentation that’s hard to beat”  Retail Meat NZ

“I’m sure you’ve already received a number of accolade emails today as a result of your stand out speech on Saturday.  I just wanted to say thanks for inspiring me, our company and later those that will now hear about your ‘simple’ philosophy on life - ‘Attitude, Belief and Focus’.  You said you thought the philosophy was simplistic – I disagree, judging by the number of people that kept telling me how much your speech and words resonated, I’d say you hit the mark a million times over and that’s not simplistic, that is sheer brilliance.”  Michegro Chisholm, House of Travel Conference

“On behalf of the LAPA Committee and conference attendees, I am writing to congratulate you on your amazing speech at our recent conference.  I’d heard great things about your public speaking abilities from several sources but to experience it was something else again.  You managed to combine real humour with your inspiring and challenging story; to do that and to deliver it in such a personal and heartfelt way is certainly a gift.  Your story is simple and very powerful yet something that everyone can bring to their work and their life every day”  Local Authority Property Association

“I have known Tony for 5 years.  I was looking for a guest speaker for my regular team meetings.  I needed someone with a fresh, enthusiastic and entertaining approach, a person that would inspire and challenge my team.  Tony’s ‘performance’ is a flawless expose of a boy growing up in the rough and tough town of Bluff, who struggled through school (due to boredom), took major risks and ‘made good’ in his mature years.  I watched my team who were totally enthralled by his speech, hanging on his every word, and soaking up his messages like sponges.  I loved the way Tony utilised his real life experiences, links in humour and brings it all together with a permanent smile on his face.  From a frontline perspective through to an Executive long-term strategic level Tony covered it all.  I look forward to hosting Tony again soon and hearing all about space travel!”  Southland Building Society

“Excellent, fantastic – very relevant to retailers being a practical not theoretical address”  Composite Retail Group

 “We attended the Rabobank function at Wanaka where you gave your presentation.  It has so challenged us that we are brainstorming re our operation at Westbrook.  If has caused us to realise we have the attitude, we are focused and we believe in what we do but our focus is being sharpened.  Thanks for your input and the challenge”  Rabobank

“Once again thank you very much for speaking at our workshop dinner.  I think you provided just the right boost of our enthusiasm and moral that we needed at that time. Of all the sessions for our PD days, Tony’s was by far the most popular and received excellent feedback”  AMP Financial Services

“I loved working with Tony Laker.  He is an amazing man.  His presentation was superb.  I have seen a lot of motivational speakers and Tony is particularly impressive – he is self-deprecating and yet incredibly inspiring.  Very funny, very moving and with ideas that anyone in any business could use.  He is also tremendously efficient at the whole organising thing – creative, efficient and always calm and good-natured about everything.  There were many last-minute changes with Southland winter weather throwing us a few curve balls, and Tony always cheerfully managed to accommodate the changes and find ways to make things work.  Positive attitude, generous spirit and very safe hands”  Michele A’Court, Speaker and MC

“The perfect balance of humour and motivation emphasizing the importance and value of people and relationships”  NZ Pork Industry Board

“Excellent”  Encore Events on behalf of Romeo Bragato Conference

It was an absolute pleasure to meet you and to listen to your fresh pointers on building a positive attitude to all things in life and business, in such a way that everyone could relate your tips to their own circumstances. Thank you for bringing your smiling enthusiasm to an early presentation at the conference, setting the tone for the event and getting us off to a great start. Our delegates appreciated your humour and willingness to answer questions and extend your time with us. We have had extremely positive feedback about your meaningful and fun talk, with inspiration of great value to us all to take away and practice.   Corinne Moore, Registered Master Joiners

“Tony spoke to our annual conference of 250 Pharmacy owners in August 2009 at the Sofitel Resort Fiji.  84% of the audience rated his presentation as superb.  He has a fantastic personal story told with great humility, and amusing anecdotes that resonated with the audience. This lead in made his take home messages more impactful and were very relevant for small business owners but equally impactful on staff and suppliers in the audience.  He was a comedian, businessman and story teller with simple meaningful messages.” Alan Wham, Chief Executive Pharmacybrands Ltd

Tony Laker was recommended to me as an excellent speaker, so I took the chance of hiring him for our large pharmaceutical conference, having never met him or heard him speak. So it was with some trepidation (and crossed fingers) that I listened to his keynote conference speech and I have to say that Tony is one of the best speakers I have heard.  Our audience loved him – he made them both laugh and cry, and had the whole room enthralled for his entire presentation. The feedback from our delegates was extremely positive, and in fact one of our delegates created a new category on our feedback form for Tony – ‘superbly superb’. I would have absolutely no hesitate in recommending Tony for any conference or event – he is truly inspiring and an exceptional speaker. Marina Nola, Managing Director, Eventive (Professional Conference Organiser)

Tony has managed and organized the Registered Master Builders Conference for us for 10 years and has always done an outstanding job in that regard. The Conference traditionally allocated spaces for guest speakers and at my first conference we had a number of well know sports personalities, high profile business people and TV celebrities. We changed the focus of our conference this year (2010) and had only one spot for a celebrity guest speaker. We had heard that Tony was well regarded as a speaker so asked if he would be interested. As no one had actually heard Tony the Board was, shall we say, ‘intrigued’ with the selection. Well Tony you certainly put any concerns to rest. Your speech was simply outstanding, relevant, funny, emotional, inspiring, educational, full of messages and passionate. Everyone was talking about it and it was better than any of the more “high profile” speakers we have had in the past. We would happily recommend you to anyone looking for a top notch speaker   Warwick Quinn CEO Registered Master Builders Federation

"Tony Laker presented the final address to the Markhams Accountants Education Conference held in Auckland in February this year.  This is a notoriously hard slot to fill as attendees are thinking of home through the headache caused by the previous evening's activities.  I was attracted to Tony as a presenter to an audience of accountants because he exhibited that "No. 8 wire Kiwi can do" attitude we admire.   Anyone who succeeds in a business against the advice of his peers and bank manager (and probably his accountant!) must have something worthwhile to say.  Within minutes of starting his address Tony had the full attention of the audience with his humorous and thought provoking presentation.  This was just what was needed to send the delegates home in a positive frame of mind.  I would have no hesitation in recommending him as a motivational speaker”.  Basil Brooker - Chairman of the Markhams Group of Accountants Education Conference Organising Committee

Tony’s down to earth personality was a great match for our audience.  Everybody related really well to Tony”  NZ Collision Repair Association

Tony provided an evening of thought provoking, inspiring and honest entertainment. His down to earth, confident and positive manner was a glowing endorsement for self belief and playing to your strength attitude he advocated.  No one came away from the evening without something to think about or some tips they could use in life and/or business. As one guest said, it was just the lift they needed in these tough times.  Sarah Hayward – Enterprise Clutha

The feedback we received was extremely positive the audience thought Tony was fantastic and it was great that he stayed back after the event to answer questions and mingle with audience.Resolve Accountants