Shane Mahoney, Luxury Lifestyle Specialist at Lugos Travel

Risk Management As A Travel Professional, with Shane Mahoney of Lugos Travel

Episode Overview

Episode Topic:
In this episode of TravelPreneur, we engage in a compelling conversation with Shane Mahoney, the esteemed luxury lifestyle specialist at Lugos Travel. The discussion unfolds around crafting extraordinary travel experiences, emphasizing personalized planning, safety measures, and the infusion of unexpected elements into each journey. The episode navigates through Lugos Travel’s collaboration with exceptional partners, shedding light on the rigorous vetting process ensuring professionalism and local expertise. Moreover, it explores the dynamic trends shaping luxury travel and how Lugos Travel stays ahead in meeting evolving client expectations.

Lessons You’ll Learn:
Listeners are in for a treat as Shane shares invaluable lessons from his journey as a luxury lifestyle specialist. The episode unfolds key insights into defining luxury in travel, providing advice for travelers seeking personalized experiences. Aspiring entrepreneurs in the travel industry will glean wisdom from Shane’s experiences, with a glimpse into the transformative work done by Lugos Travel. The importance of immediate and up-to-date information, meticulous planning, and safety considerations in luxury travel are among the valuable lessons discussed.

About Our Guest:
Shane Mahoney, the luxury lifestyle specialist at Lugos Travel, brings a wealth of experience and expertise to the podcast. Shane’s insights into the world of luxury travel and his role at Lugos Travel are sure to captivate listeners. With a wealth of experience in curating personalized travel experiences, Shane offers unique perspectives on the essence of luxury travel. With a focus on creating stress-free and exceptional travel experiences, Shane has spent 12 years shaping Lugos Travel into a unique tour operation. His commitment to safety, meticulous planning, and collaboration with exceptional partners set Lugos Travel apart in the luxury travel industry.

Topics Covered:
The episode covers a spectrum of topics, starting with Lugos Travel’s approach to personalized travel planning, safety measures, and the infusion of unexpected elements. It explores the meticulous vetting process for collaborating with partners, industry trends shaping luxury travel, and staying ahead in the dynamic travel landscape. Shane shares his vision for defining luxury in travel, Lugos Travel’s aspirations for the future, and practical advice for aspiring entrepreneurs in the travel industry. The conversation encapsulates a holistic view of luxury travel, leaving listeners with profound insights and a renewed appreciation for the transformative work done by Lugos Travel.

Our Guest: Shane Mahoney-The Maestro of Luxury Travel.

Shane Mahoney, the distinguished luxury lifestyle specialist at Lugos Travel, brings a wealth of experience and passion to the realm of personalized travel. With over 12 years in the industry, Shane has honed his expertise in crafting extraordinary travel experiences that go beyond the ordinary. As the torchbearer for Lugos Travel, Shane has revolutionized the process of luxury travel, focusing on meticulous planning, immediate access to up-to-date information, and the infusion of unexpected elements into each journey.

Shane’s journey as a luxury lifestyle specialist has been defined by a commitment to redefining the essence of luxury in travel. His visionary approach extends beyond the traditional model, offering clients a seamless and stress-free experience from the moment of planning to the final destination. Shane’s unique insights into the travel industry, showcased in this episode, reflect his dedication to ensuring clients not only have a luxurious vacation but also an unforgettable and transformative journey.

Beyond his role at Lugos Travel, Shane Mahoney is a forward-thinker, anticipating industry trends and staying ahead of the curve to meet the evolving expectations of luxury travelers. His passion for providing personalized experiences has earned Lugos Travel a reputation for excellence. As an entrepreneur, Shane envisions a future where the world of travel becomes easier to explore, not just for Lugos Travel’s clients but for aspiring entrepreneurs in the travel industry as well. With an extensive background and a commitment to excellence, Shane Mahoney continues to shape the landscape of luxury travel with innovation, dedication, and a genuine love for creating extraordinary moments.

Discover Luxury Lifestyle Travel with Shane Mahoney

Episode Transcript

Shane Mahoney: Most people equate the value equation with how much they spend on their vacation. And chiefly what they’re looking at is the difference between what would it take if I book it myself, and hiring a professional. For one, you have to realize as a client, what is your actual time worth? Because the realities of booking international travel is approximately 40 to 60 hours of your time if you’re doing it on the level that we do it. So if you value your time at even just $100 or $200, you are spending an extra $4000 to $8000 of your money to plan your trip.

Megha McSwain: Welcome to Travel-Preneur, the weekly business show for the travel industry. I’m your host, Houston-based travel journalist, Megha McSwain. Each episode, we’ll be exploring what it takes to thrive as a business owner in the travel industry. From conversations with leading travel business executives and industry-focused venture capitalists to exploring the innovations that are shaping the next generation of travel businesses. If it impacts the travel industry, we cover it here on Travel-Preneur. Hello, fellow travel enthusiasts. Welcome back to another episode of Travel-Preneur. I’m your host, Megha McSwain. Today we’re joined with Shane Mahoney, the luxury lifestyle specialist at Lugos Travel. Welcome to the show, Shane.

Shane Mahoney: Thank you.

Megha McSwain: Shane, how does Lugos Travel go beyond the ordinary and crafting personalized travel experiences?

Shane Mahoney: Thank you for the question, because I think we’re vastly different than a lot of other agencies out there. To put a finer point on it, I feel like I almost have to explain to the audience the way that the system is for everybody so that you understand the differences of what we have. All of this was born because I think all of us are pretty used to Amazon’s model of “I want something, I have it. Makes sense? So every single travel company that does luxury travel has pretty much the exact same system. It’s a web form that leads to a phone call, typically about an hour long, and 3 to 5 business days later, you will get one proposal. If you make any changes, it’s another 3 to 5 days to get an update. And this process goes back and forth for typically about three weeks. Makes sense so far? So this is how we’re different. I realized that people are not calling their travel professionals the day after they decided to go ahead and travel. So what really happens is that people kick the can down the road for one, two, three months until an event reminds them that they don’t have any plans for the summer. And it’s at that particular point that they reach out to a travel professional, meaning that their stress of the client is already kind of up to their neck, if you will. And it’s at that point that now you’re initiating a three-week process. It’s just untenable. We didn’t want that. So our main focus at Lugos Travel is to remove as many of the stress points as possible so that people can lead happy lives with their families up until and through their travels. And so here’s what our process is, and this is what sets us apart. Lugos Travel can offer over 70 tour proposals in over 20 countries in under ten minutes, with prices that are good for any day of the year, meaning that you can get 100% of the information that you want. In less than an afternoon, you can craft and customize that tour in any which way that you wish. You can sign the proposal and understand that you can go any day of the year, even Holy Week, even Christmas to New Year. You can go in June. You can go in July. It doesn’t matter to us at all. There are no blocks. And so at that point, once you have secured your tour, the only thing our clients are responsible for is being at their front door at the time. We tell them to be ready because we have a private car that’s going to pick them up, take them to the airport, and everything about their vacation is on cruise control.

Megha McSwain: Wow, that sounds like a vacation.

Shane Mahoney: Our process we call a vacation from planning a vacation.

Megha McSwain: Yeah. And people forget that you need that because just planning one gets so stressful and, the fun of the trip is the anticipation, right? So when you’re stressed about it and you’ve got all these things that you’ve got to like, check the boxes before the actual trip, you’re exhausted by that point.

Shane Mahoney: Well, our supposition is that we deal with a lot of executive couples and families, people who have busy lives and are constantly trying to fit the stresses of their jobs, their family, their friends into this matrix of what we call a life. And they want to have a great vacation. But the truth and the reality is that every single company in the world is showing you the pretty pictures, the Instagrammable spots, and all the stuff. But the reality is that booking, that vacation is super stressful and it takes a lot of back and forth. Ultimately, what I really found was that people who are put in this stressful situation are going to pick something that’s suboptimal for themselves because it is always better to have a plan as opposed to having no plan. You’ll take a bad plan over no plan. And so having all this back and forth is just wasteful and it doesn’t make sense.

Megha McSwain: Can you share an example of a trip where Lugos Travel’s planning, and attention to detail turned an ordinary vacation into a really unforgettable, stress-free experience?

Shane Mahoney: I, absolutely, could probably tell a ton. We’ve been in business for 12 years and we’ve sent thousands of clients all over the world. But ultimately, I think what this comes down to is the value equation. And most people equate the value equation with how much they spend on their vacation. And chiefly what they’re looking at is the difference between what would it take if I book it myself and hiring a professional. And I think that’s a really interesting thing to be able to really pick apart because, for one, you have to realize as a client, what is your actual time worth. Because the realities of booking international travel is approximately 40 to 60 hours of your time. If you’re doing it on the level that we do it. So if you value your time at even just $100 or $200, you are spending an extra $4000 to $8000 of your money to plan your trip. Now, here’s the thing. Here’s where it comes down to it. How are you going to surprise yourself? You’re not. You can’t. Right? And then, furthermore, here’s how we really deliver on that service. What you get with us is not just the planning and the putting all the pieces together. It’s the real-time emergency management situations. So to answer your question more directly, how have we far and above beyond what was necessary? So we include private English-speaking transportation, anytime your luggage is going to be with you. We also included any time it’s more than 20 minutes from point to point. But in this particular case that I want to tell your audience, we had clients that were leaving their hotel, they were going to the train station, and the train station was taking them to another city, and then we had another car to pick them up and take them to the new hotel. This is a very simple and very streamlined process that most of the time works great. Here’s the thing is, that morning at 2 a.m. their time, we were notified that there was going to be a train strike and that it was going to directly affect their travels. Now, I don’t know anybody in the world who raises their hand and says, “You know what? When there’s an emergency on my vacation, I’d like to be the one to take care of it.” Nobody does that. Right? And so here’s what the experience was like for my clients. It could have been that if they booked it themselves, they woke up to an emergency they needed to solve and quick. But instead, because they booked through us, they got up, they had their breakfast, they got into the car that they knew they were going to get into. And it was at that moment that they were notified that they were not going to go to the train station. We had already arranged for the limo driver to take them all the way to the new destination, and because it had been so far away, we actually also negotiated to include a small two-hour tour in a town along the way where they could also have a little lunch, relax, get out of the car, stretch their legs. And so it became an experience in and of itself to not have their train. And they showed up at their hotel and everything was good and they got to continue their vacation. So if you understand the value of booking with a travel professional, it’s understanding that we have the ability to do far more in less time and create a better experience for you with surprises that actually mean something to you, while also managing all of the changing aspects of travel that can happen on the fly.

Megha McSwain: That’s a really great example because I’m going to be honest. What you just said happened to me and my parents when we were traveling in Greece before Covid several years ago, but it was a strike. I think it was like a taxi cab strike or some sort of strike where we woke up and we were like, what is going on in this different country? And we didn’t know what to do. I mean, so that’s a really good example because it does happen and most people don’t know kind of navigate through that.

Shane Mahoney: Well. I’ve been trying to educate as many people as possible right now because I think you just mentioned something from pre-COVID, and we really have to understand the market that we’re in right now. And what happened is that thousands of travel professionals throughout the industry, from hotels to flight attendants to guides to, you name it, lost their job, took other opportunities and basically switched their careers. So there is far fewer support staff across all parts of the travel sphere right now. And couple that with record number of people who want to go. And so there are built into the system right now guaranteed things that will fail. We don’t know when and we don’t know where, but we know that they will. And we’re constantly being responsive to being able to create the experience for our clients that they don’t even have to know about the problems. They just get to have a good experience. And I think ultimately, that’s the way that we can change people’s lives and make a better system for the entire process.

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Shane Mahoney: Oh, I love that you asked that. So Lugos is a question that I normally get because my last name is Mahoney. It’s not Lugos, so a lot of people think that it was come from my name. I actually am a bit of a history nerd, and Lugos was the ancient god of all arts and the protector of all travelers in ancient Gaul before Julius Caesar conquered that area, he renamed the god to Mercury. And I think we all know him, right? So Lugos was how I started my company because I thought that there was a really distinct opportunity for the American market to understand safe travels. I think we all can relate to wanting to make sure that we’re okay, but being okay is not just about like not being robbed or things like that. It’s also about feeling comfortable with things like, “Hey, I’m going to need to use the restroom. Am I going to have a problem doing that in this town?” Right? Those are legitimate concerns because if you’ve ever had to go to the bathroom, that’s sort of an emergency too, right? So we do a number of things throughout the entire process to create a seamlessly safe experience for our clients. And I can give you a couple of top-line things that that means. For one, we’re going to register 100% of our international clients with the US State Department. It’s an added layer of safety that allows the US government to know who you are, where you are, and more importantly, how to get a hold of you should things happen. I mean, the people who are most recently in Israel were keenly aware of how the US government can really help in a situation like that. So that’s number one. Number two, we use an in-house app that we use to be able to give our clients up-to-date information at all points. So if anything about your itinerary changes, we can actually push that notification directly to your phone so that you have immediately updated information. That means that you’re not wasting time being in the wrong place at the wrong time. We do a number of things also throughout our email process, to let people know how much cash to bring, how to pack fashion guides on what to wear and where to wear them, whether it’s hot weather, cold weather, wherever you are there country-specific and we have lots of different information, so we take a lot of care to go above and beyond to create a safe experience for our clients, not only from the perspective of their physical safety, but their mental safety. They are knowing that they’re going to be comfortable in new environments and understanding that they’re going to be okay. Another thing that we do is E2nglish-speaking drivers. I’ve been asked like, why do you say English speaking every time? I’m like, well, because if you need something, if you see a store that you’d like to stop at, if you have any needs whatsoever, isn’t it nice to be able to look to the driver and say exactly what you want and know that that’s going to be able to be happening?

Megha McSwain: Yeah, I think you don’t realize that until you’re in a situation where you need that and then you realize, “Oh, okay, this would have been helpful.” So that app is something that when people work with you, they sort of download. And that’s kind of what they use throughout the process.

Shane Mahoney: Yeah. So we actually give people access to the app about 1 or 2 days after we do the onboarding meeting, because one of the things you mentioned earlier was building anticipation. We have a countdown clock that goes directly to the moment you leave. So from the moment you book with us, you’re going to know exactly how long it is until you leave. But throughout the app, it’s really built out to be able to create a better experience. How do I mean by that? We have all your flight information. We have all your tours, transfers, phone numbers. We have everything in one place. A gratuity guide to let you be comfortable knowing how much to tip for certain things. We’re tracking whether we have a map function where we’ve also added information that clients may want to use if they don’t book additional services. I’ll give you a finer tip on that. So we have some of our itineraries that have days at leisure where there’s no particular plan. If you have no particular plan, you may not know what you want to do. So our map function actually also has points of interest historical sites, restaurants, bars, all that have been pre-vetted by our team and show up on our map. So that’s not everything that’s available. It’s only the things that we’ve curated to know that they’re amazing. You get immediate information. Plus on the map it has directions will tell you how to get there by walking or by car or however. So you can actually have no plan and still create your own experience with our app, knowing that you’re going to be in good hands and that you have the full ability to not only get to where you want to be but to get back to your hotel at the end of the day as well.

Megha McSwain: Right. You mentioned places that you’ve vetted, Lugos Travel collaborates with exceptional partners. How do you vet those partners to ensure that same level of professionalism and local knowledge? How do you kind of go about that? Do you guys go in advance? Sort of, what’s your process there?

Shane Mahoney: Yeah, this is something that, considering the audience is more technical-based, I think this is something we can explain a little bit better. It’s my experience that travel agencies throughout the United States are working with travel partners, and they have no formal contracts, no definable system for who they are, what their clients should get. And so what you get is you put out like the average travel professional puts out a quote. They get the information they send that to the client. And that’s pretty much the end of the story. We are not a travel agency. We’re a tour operation, so we take things a lot more seriously. And before we work with a travel partner, we actually have an extensive vetting process and a multi-page process and contract that clearly defines every single piece and part of what we want, how we want it, where we want. I’ll give you a great example. So a lot of companies don’t offer this, but we do. And it’s a personal photographer. We offer this in one, two, or three different times of your trip, and we offer it in two-hour increments every single time. Now this is where most companies would stop. “I hired a photographer. Here’s the client. Go take some pictures.” That to me is just not enough, right? Because ultimately, vacation photography, I think we can all agree, generally sucks. It’s arm-in-arm with your person, with something over your left or right shoulder and a cheesy fake smile, right? It’s either a selfie or you hand your camera to a perfect stranger and just play a lot of hoping, right? So what we wanted to do is we wanted to craft really good pictures, but we wanted to get the genuine smiles of people. We wanted them to be in the moment without somebody telling them, chin up, arms back, do this here, yadda yadda. Right? And so our contracts for just the photographers specifically defined that our photographers are supposed to do a paparazzi style shoot with medium to long range lenses. They’re supposed to stay out of the client’s way. They’re supposed to be across the street getting those shots with the right backgrounds as the client is experiencing what they’re there to experience so that we get the real people in the real moment, not some fake cheesy thing. And ultimately, what we found is that our clients not only love this package and have great photographs from the session, but a lot of our clients are choosing to blow up and hang those pictures on canvas in their living room. And I think we can all agree that is a rarefied case, we’ve never been in anybody’s house and seen their vacation pictures blown up big, right?

Megha McSwain: Right. Yeah. I mean, you’re right, they always tend to be awkward, or if someone, if a stranger takes them, they’re just never as good as might not be exactly what you wanted. And in this day and age where you can take thousands of pictures to no end on your iPhone, it would be nice if you had one that you could blow up. That’s a really great idea.

Shane Mahoney: So when our clients come back from that experience, we not only create a hardcover, leather-bound album with all of their pictures, but we also give them all the digital stills. We get them an experience, not just a photographer, and so being able to take all of the different facets and clearly define them in legal terms and have our partners sign off on those things, is what sets us apart. And every single one of our partners knows at a DNA level, exactly what it means to travel with Lugos Travel.

Megha McSwain: What is your plans for the future? I mean, clearly, you guys have an app. You’re very ahead of the curve, but kind of what is your vision for making the world of travel easier for your clients moving forward?

Shane Mahoney: That’s a tough question. I feel like we’ve made it really easy. For putting a finer point on it, anybody can go to our website, they can pick any destination and any tour. We have a yellow box. You fill that information in and within ten minutes, you have a proposal. So that’s pretty easy. Subsequent to that, we only require throughout the entire process three meetings, one to get your personal information so that we can make your bookings, one to go over your final balance, and one to go over your itinerary. We provide 100% of all other support if you need it in between, but we really have cut all the things down to the absolute minimum. What I really want our clients to do is to stay present in their lives. I want them to be good parents. I want them to be excellent employees. I want them to spend the time either with their family or making a lot of more money, so they don’t have to be experts in travel. I want people to have a good experience without having to know anything about it. Like, you can go to the opera and enjoy it without knowing how to sing. But so many people spend so many countless hours trying to be experts at travel. There’s just too many variables over too many different places and pieces for anybody to be that proficient at it. If they don’t do it all the time.

Megha McSwain: Right. And what advice, if any, would you offer to aspiring entrepreneurs looking to be luxury lifestyle specialists or kind of find their role in this space?

Shane Mahoney: Well, actually, we’re in the process of creating this. It’s not ready yet, but perhaps, while you’re later, audiences will be listening to it. It might be our intention is to create an agency in a box so that you can essentially start your own agency. But using all of our back ends, you could have megas travel agency, and as long as you can send people to that, we would take care of 100% of the processes in the background to make sure your clients have a great experience. That’s the long-term vision. In the short Terme vision, we do have an affiliate system. So for anybody who has networks of people that love to travel and they’d like to take advantage of that, we actually offer two different plans. You can either get cash payment for each client you bring us, or you can do it for travel credit. And we basically make the process really simple for you to share the good news with your people about how easy it is to travel.

Megha McSwain: Cool. Well, Shane, thank you so much for sharing so much about Lugos Travel. It sounds like there’s no other way to travel than with Lugos Travel. I mean, it sounds really easy and convenient. Let our listeners know where they can learn more about the company and where they can get in touch with you.

Shane Mahoney: Sure. So the easiest way is And on that site, anybody can book time on my calendar. They can see all of our travel properties. We actually have three travel companies that we encompass underneath the Lugos Travel brand. And you can check out videos, podcasts, any and all things. This podcast will be live on that site as well. So we like to offer a lot of resources for people to be able to get the information that they need.

Megha McSwain: Awesome. Love it. Well, thank you so much, Shane. And to our listeners, thank you for listening. Please follow and subscribe for future episodes and leave us reviews. That helps us that a lot. Thanks so much, Shane. Take care. You’ve been listening to Travel-Preneur by make sure to subscribe on your favorite podcast listening platform so you never miss a new episode, and we’ll see you again soon on Travel-Preneur.