Give us a break
Travelzoo’s Poon Wai-nang excels at finding the best leisure deals
Anyone who has ever spent time trying to find the best travel, lifestyle and entertainment deals online among the hundreds of thousands on offer will know it can be a mammoth task. For Poon Wai-nang, the Hong Kong publisher of internet media company Travelzoo, the job is made all the more difficult by the fact that he is searching on behalf of millions of people around the world, all looking for ideas, inspiration – and the lowest price.
Poon says his work is much like that of a stockbroker, only instead of shares and securities, he handles leisure packages.
“I am a deal expert,” he says. “That means I am a consultant, analyst, researcher, journalist, writer and sleuth all rolled into one. My job entails researching hundreds of travel, lifestyle and entertainment deals, and evaluating them against a rigorous selection and approval process to ensure they are accurate, available and genuinely the best in the market.”
Travellers from all over the world look to Travelzoo for travel ideas and inspiration to do things that they might not have otherwise considered.
“Knowing that the deals I recommend will have the opportunity to be viewed by more than 26 million global subscribers, 440,000 of whom are from Hong Kong, makes my day,” Poon says. “Our subscribers are smart travellers and are actively looking for expert advice. Knowing that they rely on and trust my recommendations is very satisfying.”
The Hong Kong travel market is one of the world’s most vibrant and Poon sees local travellers becoming more sophisticated, with a greater demand for high-quality experiences and getting value from their travel.
“Previously, travellers relied heavily on their travel agents and were presented with limited options,” Poon says. “Nowadays, abundant and readily available online travel content has seen many consumers experience information overload. Travelzoo captures an important market gap by providing real value for consumers with simple and easy content that is filtered, qualified and verified, to always ensure that consumers are getting the best value.”
Hong Kong has a huge demand for travel due to people’s fast-paced and stressful lifestyles. “We live in the most stressed-out city in Asia,” Poon says. “It is overcrowded and people work the longest hours. A recent Travelzoo survey found that an overwhelming 93 per cent of our subscribers in Hong Kong use vacations as an escape from pressure, compared to 72 per cent of mainlanders.”
In serving such a fast-paced market, Poon’s biggest challenge lies in being able to grasp seasonal and time-sensitive information and publishing it as fast as possible. “Our subscribers expect only the best and most up-to-date deals from us,” he says. “I scour through hundreds of deals each week to look for the best. Every week we select 20 deals that are genuinely of the best value and publish them. Sometimes we have to make last-minute changes to the recommendations to provide the most accurate information for subscribers.”
When consumers are experiencing economic uncertainty, they tend to cut down on the amount they spend on holidays. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean they will travel less. Poon points out that consumers are always looking out for cost-effective deals that will allow them to travel and attain new experiences, even on a budget.
“When the economy is good, Hong Kong consumers loosen the reins on their discretionary spending, but will continue to look for more value for their money,” he says. “Purchases will be less focused on the money spent, and more on how much has been saved.”
Poon’s job requires a love of travelling, a passion he says was inspired by the National Geographic magazine. “I am fascinated with the works of the National Geographic journalists. I aspire to explore and trek the world like them. They were a strong motivation for me to enter the travel industry,” he says.
Poon did not start his travel career as a fresh graduate. After graduating from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University with a higher diploma in merchandising, he got his first job as a scriptwriter at ATV, where he worked for four years. He then moved to Star TV to work in its public relations department for nine years, where he was responsible for liaising with journalists, writing press releases and publishing website content.
He says his work at Travelzoo helps him hone many of the skills he had already built up in previous roles. “Being a deal expert enables me to strengthen my interpersonal, writing, research and analytical skills, in addition to fulfilling my desire to travel more,” he says.
Every week Poon sits down with his team of deal experts to discuss and review competitive travel offerings and evaluate hundreds of shortlisted deals. “I write copy detailing the chosen recommendations, with the aim of engaging our subscribers, inspiring them to travel more and be entertained,” he says.
To be a deal expert, Poon thinks it is important to be able to interpret a wide range of information accurately, and have clear and concise writing skills. “You also need to have your finger on the market pulse and be sensitive to changes in the travel industry and the media landscape,” he says. “This helps you identify the best deals that will inspire more travel among subscribers via website, mobile applications and social media channels.”
Career prospects for a deal expert include progressive leadership roles in content management and development, or in sales and marketing within the travel and entertainment industry.
“As a deal expert, I have attained valuable experience in deal publishing and client relationship management,” Poon says. “In my view, a great deal expert is on their toes at all times. He or she is someone passionate about every step of the rigorous deal-selection process – from identifying and researching to evaluating and testing deals – to ensure the best value, accuracy and availability.
“Equally important, a great deal expert must have a reputation for being truly independent and reliable when recommending the best deals.”
POON’S TOP FIVE PLACES TO VISIT
Yamdrok Yumtso Lake, Tibet
“One of the world’s most beautiful lakes, reflecting a tranquil, mysterious culture.”
Cradle Mountain, Tasmania
“Listed as a World Heritage site, it is an unspoilt place in Tasmania with untouched spots of immense beauty. It is one of the best places to trek.”
“A photographer’s paradise and a great place to explore. The icebergs and wildlife make for a unique travel experience. You must visit before the icebergs melt!”
“The annual mass exodus between July and October of the hundreds of thousands of wildebeest and zebra that uniformly make a circular tour between Tanzania and Kenya is truly amazing to witness for explorers and nature enthusiasts. It is also noted as one of the world’s seven wonders.”
Furano region, Hokkaido, Japan
“Hokkaido has everything you want in Japan – a welcoming atmosphere, great food, amazing hot springs, shopping and beautiful nature. The lavender fields are a spectacular sight, with a calm, yet uplifting, floral fragrance that brings the mind tranquility.”