My perfect vacation experience is a bit different than many people’s. I’ve traveled quite a bit and worked in the industry for a while, those experiences allowed me to feel very comfortable winging travel. I love the experience of something unexpected arising that becomes an amazing memory and story later on. Some of my favorite travel memories are when I didn’t plan something, or my plan was detoured. I saw things I didn’t expect, met people new, and had a different experience.

As part of my series about “developments in the travel industry over the next five years”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tracy McHugh.

Tracy has worked in the travel industry for over 8 years and has experienced the changing travel trends firsthand. She has also traveled to 28 countries and 47 states, anticipating hitting her 29th country in the summer of 2024.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

That is a humorous tale of someone (me) in their early 20s trying to find their way. I had a friend working in a hotel that knew I was looking for work and she mentioned they had openings. The travel industry is not what I studied in school or the path I thought I would go down, but I figured at the time I could work in a hotel for a year to get some work experience. Fast forward 8 years and I found a career out of that job.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

One hotel chain I worked for as Regional Event Manager had restructured their department, so I was in the market for a new position. Shortly after this announcement, I found a Training Manager role where I traveled to almost 30 states in 6 months to train over 250 associates on systems and best practices. It was my favorite job I’ve held during my career so far. I got to meet so many employees within the organization while getting paid to do what I love (travel). I had given up my apartment and was living in hotels for half a year, spending every few days in a new state. It was thrilling!

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When I was working in banquets, my hotel was a Coca-Cola products establishment, but we did have a small supply of Pepsi products on request. Someone asked me to bring them a Pepsi. I ran around the hotel to track down my supervisor. When I found him and asked him about providing the Pepsi, he replied with not to waste my time, his time or the customer’s time. Know the difference between what I can feel empowered to do and what I need permission on. It has really helped me with time management, the ability to identify what I need to consult others on and what I can just execute, as well as how to prioritize tasks.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”? Can you share a story about that?

I would say understanding prioritization, time management and having a sense of urgency. This may sound like characteristics that would add more stress. But if you are in a job in the travel industry that doesn’t punch in/punch out (i.e. sales, finance, leadership, etc.), most of these companies are open 24/7, so you may be getting calls, texts and emails around the clock. If you are able to prioritize, you’ll know what are the key things that need to get done within your day and what can wait. If you have a sense of urgency and time management skills, you are able to get to a majority of tasks, especially the ones that need to get done from the list you prioritize as well as handle the urgent matters that arise. If you are ahead of most situations instead of behind them and set boundaries, it can help keep you from burnout.

When I was starting off in my career and trying to prove myself, I didn’t have as many of those boundaries. When I was more established in my career, when I was at work, I was fully present and available. If we had a special event where overtime was needed, I went above and beyond. But when I had a personal engagement, I was totally available and present in that moment until it was over. My parents had come to visit me in Los Angeles for my dad’s birthday and it was a milestone birthday for him. I also hadn’t seen my parents in almost a year and a half due to the pandemic. So, when we had gone out for the day for my dad’s birthday, I did not check my work email for the duration of the outing and limited checking my phone in general until we got home.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I never think there is ever truly just one moment or person that shapes a person’s life or career, but rather a bunch of moments (big and small) and groups of individuals that can help define someone’s career.

For me it was such moments as contacts providing me a referral for a job. Teammates that mentored me for a promotion. Colleagues that lead by example and made work an enjoyable place to go to.

Thank you for that. Let’s jump to the core of our discussion. Can you share with our readers about the innovations that you are bringing to the travel and hospitality industries?

I think the coolest transitions I have seen in the travel industry, technology wise was the ability to have airline tickets and hotel room keys on mobile devices. I did not personally invent those, but having many things automated and in one place, makes it easy to keep things in order and not lost in the shuffle. Years ago, you would need to wait in a line at the front desk to check in and get a room key that you may or may not lose or get de-magnetized. Another cool thing at one hotel I had worked for had a robot with a basket on top. So if someone called for more towels or toiletries, instead of an employee running it to the room, a person from the front desk would put the items in the robots basket and the robot would go on the elevator solo and have the room phone ring when it was in front of the room, that was pretty awesome and kept associates from having to run around a very large hotel as much.

For what I have done personally in the industry, I stick to the basics: honesty, respect, timeliness in my follow ups, conflict resolution skills (because fire drills arise all the time) as well as utilizing the industry resources and knowledge for guests to have successful travels and events.

Which “pain point” are you trying to address by introducing this innovation?

I personally try to resolve any miscommunications or confusion. Which circles back a bit to what I said above. I try to make sure my responses are timely, concise, and everything is spelled out in a way that is easy to understand. If I have a phone call with a customer, I make sure everything we discuss is sent in an email to them immediately after to reiterate the points. Planning travel and events is not necessarily hard concepts to grasp but there are a lot of details and moving parts, so sometimes it can become overwhelming to people. I try to solve some of that anxiety by being as available as possible to answer questions and make sure the customers have all the information they need as soon as possible.

How do you envision that this might disrupt the status quo?

I don’t think my principle of being concise and efficient while being informative, will necessarily disrupt the status quo but I think it would be very beneficial if more people incorporated these principles to avoid any miscommunications, wasted time, and/or disputes.

As you know, COVID19 changed the world as we know it. Can you share 5 examples of how travel and hospitality companies will be adjusting over the next five years to the new ways that consumers will prefer to travel?

I think many things will become more automated. Like I was mentioning above with the hotel robot delivering the toiletries. I don’t necessarily think these advances will take away jobs but allow the employees to be more efficient and effective with their time. Like with mobile check in and rooms keys at hotels as well as the airline tickets on mobile devices; I think these are great examples of how things will keep progressing in the future, incorporating more technology into the process. One fun idea I just had is one of those hotel robots dispensing the food and drinks while on an airplane. I’m sure that would help the airline crew to not constantly needing to run up and down the aisles.

You are a “travel insider”. How would you describe your “perfect vacation experience”?

My perfect vacation experience is a bit different than many people’s. I’ve traveled quite a bit and worked in the industry for a while, those experiences allowed me to feel very comfortable winging travel. I love the experience of something unexpected arising that becomes an amazing memory and story later on. Some of my favorite travel memories are when I didn’t plan something, or my plan was detoured. I saw things I didn’t expect, met people new, and had a different experience.

My favorite example was when I was going to Asia for a month. I had a short layover in Shanghai to Hong Kong. My flight to Hong Kong was cancelled due to weather so I wound up staying in Shanghai for 4 days. It turned into such a wild story. I met some cool people that enhanced the experience, and I was even able to meetup with them while I was in Thailand the following week. I had amazing food that I never tried before. One of the best parts were some cool sights I never would have seen if that detour didn’t happen.

Travel is not always about escaping, but about connecting. Have you made efforts to cultivate a more wellness driven experience? We’d love to hear about it.

When I first started traveling as a kid, I was at the mercy of my family or school for planning the trips destination and logistics. When I graduated college, I had gone to Europe for 2 months. I knew I had a limited amount of time and money, so it was all about moving as quickly as possible to see and do as many of the things I had researched. When I got a little older (aka I didn’t have the 22-year-old energy anymore) and became a more experience traveler, I slowed my pace a bit. I still tried seeing as much as possible, but I knew when to take a relaxation day. I even would alternate a city tour followed by a beach or more relaxing destination that didn’t have as many sights to visit, so I could have a bit of time to recharge. Slowing down and taking in my surrounds more allowed me to really appreciate where I was and engage with the local people and culture. In addition to adding some relaxation time, the slower pace also gave me a chance to not be scarfing down food that may not be the healthiest option for me or enhancing the experience.

Can you share with our readers how you have used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I think many people assume bringing goodness to the world is only for the one percent (Oprah, Taylor Swift, LeBron James, etc.) that have huge platforms to bring awareness and donate large sums. For the rest of us, it may be donating money or volunteering our time, but it also could be being mindful of how we respond to a stressful situation, being kind, offering a smile, really taking the time to listen, leading by example, and just being a decent person.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I mentioned Taylor Swift above. I think she puts out catchy music, but I was never a Swifty so to speak. I haven’t downloaded her music, only hearing songs if they come on the radio. I’ve never been to a concert. But I do have immense respect for her as a businessperson and an artist. She is a self-made billionaire whose wealth came solely from her music. If her rigorous schedule and accomplishments weren’t enough, I have only heard positive things about her in the media. Her reaching out to a family after a fan died in the stands of her concert in South America, donating to a family who’s relative died in the KC Chiefs Parade shooting, or getting a big payday from the Eras Tour and giving everyone who worked on the tour a bonus. I am sure there are so many things pulling her attention and people trying to ride her coat tails, yet she still chooses to be a positive influence in this world.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can find most of my contact info on my travel blog website:

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


  • Savio P. Clemente

    TEDx Speaker, Media Journalist, Board Certified Wellness Coach, Best-Selling Author & Cancer Survivor

    Savio P. Clemente, TEDx speaker and Stage 3 cancer survivor, infuses transformative insights into every article. His journey battling cancer fuels a mission to empower survivors and industry leaders towards living a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle. As a Board-Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), Savio guides readers to embrace self-discovery and rewrite narratives by loving their inner stranger, as outlined in his acclaimed TEDx talk: "7 Minutes to Wellness: How to Love Your Inner Stranger." Through his best-selling book and impactful work as a media journalist — covering inspirational stories of resilience and exploring wellness trends — Savio has collaborated with notable celebrities and TV personalities, bringing his insights to diverse audiences and touching countless lives. His philosophy, "to know thyself is to heal thyself," resonates in every piece.