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 & 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.

Twenty years ago, 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 become one of the largest Travel Companies in New Zealand with a staff of 23 and an annual turnover in excess of $28 million. Compare that to the average sized New Zealand Travel Agency of 5 staff and $6 million turnover.

For the last two years running, at the annual House of Travel Awards attended by 800 staff from 72 offices nationwide, House of Travel Lakers Invercargill has won ‘The Best Large House of Travel Office in New Zealand’.     

And at the 2019 New Zealand Travel Industry Awards, House of Travel Lakers won the Best Retail Travel Agency, selected from over 300 travel agencies from all travel brands nationwide, and Tony was presented with the prestigious ‘Lifetime Industry Achievement Award’, for his outstanding leadership and contribution to the New Zealand Travel Industry, something that has only ever been presented six times before.   

And then COVID19 arrived!!! 

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, sex, some good ideas, and if time permits – a little bit of travel.  

Find out the secrets to the House of Travel Lakers success, how they are rebuilding again from COVID, and how anyone can apply these very same simplistic principles to their business and life.


“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

“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. .  From your breakfast speech to the end of the conference, wherever I went I could hear someone muttering "Attitude, Belief, Focus" - presumably, they are still doing so! All of us at LAPA send our thanks, and we have all taken away many things from your words.... such encouragement is a personal thing but you definitely touched many hearts and inspired us in so many different ways”  Local Authority Property Association.

It was a privilege to hear you speak and I appreciated the truly heartfelt subject matter that you presented.  You have a wonderful gift that allows you to connect with individuals.  You have further developed this talent in to be able to touch the hearts and minds of a room full of people. In short, I would have to say "The Boy from Bluff" rocked.  The scrum of groupies that cornered you in the conference room would also attest to this fact.   Brenda Cowles– Franchise Association of New Zealand Inc

I recently organised a conference for the WHK Group in New Zealand with attendees comprising of some 100 Principals and Corporate staff from across Australia and New Zealand.  The Theme of the conference was largely around growth and strategies for growth, and the motivation to achieve it.  Tony spoke to this theme with his own story on how his travel business was conceived and built.  Tony’s message was outstanding and inspirational. He delivered it with a combination of fact and humour that matted together a compelling and memorable address.  I would recommend Tony as an inspirational and motivational speaker, or just purely entertaining to any conference organiser.  Phil Mulvey – Chief Executive WHK Invercargill 

It gives me very great pleasure to recommend Tony Laker as a speaker. I have recommended Tony to several of my clients as an inspirational speaker for both conference sessions and after dinner. Tony is a truly inspirational and humorous speaker, he tells his story in a way which is genuine and fun. His presentation has wide appeal and there is a take home message for everybody. Tony's presentation always generates a lot of discussion around the table and during refreshment breaks. Tony is a wonderful person to liaise with before, during and after the event, professional and reliable. He is always happy to liaise directly with my client to make sure he gets the content right for the audience.   On a personal level, I would like to thank Tony for making me look good on a number of occasions. I have no hesitation in recommending him.
Amanda Graham – ForumPoint2, Event Manager

We have had great feedback from our franchisees after hearing you speak. One of the guests in particular has totally changed his way of thinking after hearing you speak and according to his wife repeatedly recites quotes “ as Tony Laker would say” and starts his day saying that “no-one will Ruin it”…..that’s Pretty cool! Kelly Leigh – Marketing and Merchandising Manager, Stirling Sports 

 Tony Laker was exceptional. He was the last speaker and provided us with exactly what is needed to finish our sort of conference. His presentation was full of humour, stories of achievement against the odds, and plenty of practical tips which could be applied to most businesses and life in general. All in all it was a great presentation and he had the entire audience enthralled from beginning to end.  Michael Renwick – Hotondo Homes (Australia)
I would highly recommend Tony as a most refreshing, funny and inspirational speaker.  He will delight and entertain and leave you feeling good for the rest of the day!  Tony was a highlight for our conference.
Cathy Myers – Regional Development Manager - Tower 

Tony Laker is an absolute star! We thought it was a bit of a risk – hiring an unknown travel agent, the boy from Bluff, to speak at our national industry Summit but he’d had great feedback on previous speaking engagements so we thought we’d give him a go… In reality Tony was one of the best speakers we have worked with in the 11 years the industry Summit has been running.   When the country’s bad weather disrupted Tony’s flights and he ended up on extra flights, on a 3 hour bus trip, then had to overnight in Wellington (all topped off by the airline losing his luggage enroute to Rotorua), Tony still came through regardless, all smiles and more determined to get to the industry Summit and speak!  It is true that Tony’s business of travel has nothing to do with the natural products sector of NZ. However his messages are 100% relevant to all people in business and in their personal lives and his humble manner of delivery is both delightful and fully engaging.  Tony is a wonderful speaker to work with and I highly recommend him. Michelle Palmer – Natural Products New Zealand

On behalf of My Farm we wish to thank you for the invaluable contribution you made at the MyFarm Conference 2013. From the feedback we have received, the conference was a great success, and we appreciate the time you took out of your busy schedule to join us, and thank you for sharing your knowledge and expertise with our staff and attendees. Sarah McVerry - My Farm Marketing 

Hi Tony,   It was an absolute pleasure to meet you and hear about the world according to you, very inspirational! There were many delegates talking about your wonderful story last night over a few beers. There are certainly changes I will implement in our business, so thanks for your I.P!  You made a great conference better mate!  Brett Hudson – Backpacker Youth and Adventure Tourism Association 

I had the pleasure of listening to Tony Laker present to our Versatile conference earlier this month. I commented in my conference wrap-up that Tony was the best speaker I have heard at one of our conferences (we run four per year for our various brands) and a few weeks down the track I stand by this judgement. Tony uses self-deprecating humour very well and keeps the crowd entertained from start to finish. More importantly Tony delivers a message that should resonate with all organisations, large or small, and in particular his message has huge relevance for franchise models such as ours. He keeps things simple and his focus on positivity and the difference individuals can make challenges all who are listening to think about themselves and what they can do to win in business. I have no hesitation in recommending Tony as a keynote speaker and thank him again for his contribution to our conference”  Peter Jensen, CEO, Spanbild Group.

Hi Tony,  Thank you VERY VERY much for your presentation, which can only be described as fabulous.  The feedback from everyone was fantastic – without exception.  Personally, I loved your success story, your positive attitude, how much you help others and well……everything!  I couldn’t have chosen a better key note speaker – “thank you” – you made me look good.  If you ever need a reference – I’d be more than happy for anyone to call, e-mail me at anytime.  Once again – thank you very much……….you were amazing.  Christine Laverty, OnePath

Hi Tony, Just a quick note to say thank you very much for today's talk to the Mediaworks Staff.  I can honestly say that I have never seen the staff so quiet and attentive and they all certainly took something away from it (and the reason I know this - is because they haven't stopped talking about it!)  I certainly prospered from it and the key for me was how you managed to get across so many important points in such an entertaining manner.  Thanks again, Tim Harris, General Manager Radioworks Southland