Meet Mat: An Australian author, battlefield historian and travel entrepreneur. Read more as he shares his story…

 

What is your role in your organisation and what does your day normally look like?

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I’m a battlefield historian and the Managing Director of McLachlan Tours – our two key brands are Mat McLachlan Battlefield Tours and our exciting new product, McLachlan European Holidays. My day is mostly spent working on new and interesting itineraries to battlefields all over the world, as well as interacting with Australian travellers who wish to walk in the footsteps of their relatives who served.

 

What is happening at your organisation that’s important for the industry to know?

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We’ve recently branched out from our battlefield touring niche and launched McLachlan European Holidays, a collection of escorted tours to more than 200 destinations across Europe. It’s a brilliant product that offers outstanding value and guided tours on the most luxurious coaches in Europe.

In the battlefield space, we’ve launched a big new range of battlefield tours for 2019, including more than 20 Value Tours to the battlefields of Europe, Anzac Day in Australia, Kokoda (both trekking and non-trekking), Anzac Day at Hellfire Pass and my Signature Tour of the Western Front, the only tour I will be personally escorting in 2019.

 

What lesson have you learnt recently that you are now implementing?

To surround myself with good people. You can’t do everything yourself – find good talent and get them working to help you reach your goals.

 

What kind of trends are you seeing with travellers?

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Travellers are getting more experiential. They want to absorb a destination, rather than just visit it. Our escorted tours are built around the principle of travelling with an expert guide, who can really bring the experience to life.

 

Were there any statistics that surprised you? If so what were they and why the surprise?

I recently saw statistics that indicated Australian travellers no longer see long-haul travel as a luxury item – they factor it into their lives in both good times and bad. If travel spending is no longer seen as a discretionary item, that’s great news for the industry going forward.

 

Who inspires you within our industry?

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My parents, Gil and Leonie McLachlan, who had a crazy idea in the 1970s to launch a travel agency in our hometown of West Wyalong (population 2500). 40 years later, they have one of the most respected names in the Australian travel industry. With my sister Lisa, I’m proud to be a part of that family legacy.

 

Where would you like to see the industry in 3-5 years?

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The importance of travel agents seems to have bounced back in recent years, and I hope this trend continues. I could be biased by my upbringing in the family travel business, but I believe that Australian travellers have very specific needs which are best served by an experienced and talented travel agent.

I’m confident this will continue in the coming years, as travel agents demonstrate their immense value to consumers. As a tour company, our travel partners are our most important asset and we will continue to work closely with them to provide unique and compelling holiday offerings to their clients.

 

What message would you share to a student entering the industry for the first time?

Ask lots of questions. The travel industry is one of the most friendly and welcoming industries in Australia, so you will meet great people every day. Don’t be afraid to seek their advice and learn from their experiences as you shape your career. We see young people as the future of our business.

 

How did you get started within the industry?

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Really by accident. I was working as a journalist and when my first book was published in 2007, it seemed like a good opportunity to merge my love of history with my family’s expertise in the travel industry. We had 34 passengers on our first tour in 2008, 50 in 2009 and then 600 in 2010 – by then I realised we were doing something pretty special.

 

What is it about the travel industry that you love the most and why?

I sound like I’m repeating myself, but I love the people. It’s an industry that attracts the brightest and best, and I always enjoy catching up with my colleagues in the industry.

 

What is it about your organisation that you love and why?

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Mat McLachlan Battlefield Tours has given me the opportunity to make a genuine difference in people’s lives. When our clients walk in the footsteps of a family member who served or died, it’s humbling. I feel greatly honoured that they choose our company to help make that dream a reality.

 

What has been your most memorable trip?

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Without a doubt, it was our tour to Gallipoli for the centenary of Anzac Day in 2015. When we launched that tour I was hopeful that a couple of hundred people would want to travel with me for this iconic anniversary – we ended up booking more than 2000 passengers.

Although a logistical challenge, the tour was amazing – it was wonderful to meet so many people who were passionate about our Anzac history. When the sun came up over Gallipoli on that freezing April morning, it was a moment I’ll never forget.

 

If you could travel anywhere on any budget, where would it be and what would it look like?

I would take my children on an adventure across Europe. Many months, and many destinations! I always love visiting Europe, and sharing it with my family is one of life’s great pleasures.

 

 

How did you get started in the travel industry?