Matthew Cameron-Smith with family

Who knows travel better than those who have dedicated their lives to it? In this series, 7travel talks travel & tips with industry experts. Learn the best travel tips, what mistakes not to make, and what destinations should be on your to-visit list.

Matthew Cameron-Smith, Managing Director of Trafalgar, has worked in every corner of the tourism and hospitality industry over his 29 year career. In his experience, Cameron-Smith has noticed that Australian travellers are keen to get the most authentic cultural experiences possible. And the way to get it, he says, is a guided holiday.

7travel: What value does a traveller get from going on holiday with a guided holiday?

Cameron-Smith: I’m a great advocate of experiencing what the countries around the world have to offer from a different perspective. I love the guided experience because it gives me a far deeper appreciation of the people, places, culture.

Matthew Cameron-Smith with family in Hawaii

7travel: What are the best aspects of travelling with a guided holiday?

Cameron-Smith: At Trafalgar, we are relentless to make sure we’re giving our guests a unique and exclusive experience. What a guide book will show you is what everyone will have a look at. But a local, and what we call our Travel Directors, will show you their part of the world. You might want to see the icons, and you do, but then you go to the locals’ favourite sights. It’s a genuine, in-depth experience for a traveller. I am always completely amazed by how much there is to do and see beyond the book.

There’s also a phrase of 'travelling on your belly' that speaks to how important food is around the world. You can go to any restaurant anywhere around the world. But to eat with a local at a local place, that’s a real experience. It’s a window to the soul of a culture. We have the Be My Guest program, which focuses on this. Locals set up dinner in vineyards, farmhouses, and homes where they can share stories around the dinner table with our guests. Right now, we have hundreds of Be My Guest itineraries all around the world.

People enjoying lunch at table outdoors

7travel: How can Australian travellers get the most out of their guided holiday?

Cameron-Smith: Aussies have a pretty good radar when it comes to knowing if an experience is authentic or manufactured. We don’t like to skim the surface - we like to go deep into a culture. So just be aware of the tour operator's pedigree and know they’ll give you the best experience. And these days, a lot of popular trips sell out. So don’t wait for the deal to get better - jump in when you can get your space.

7travel: What are some of your personal favourite destinations?

Cameron-Smith: I did a family holiday with Trafalgar to Italy - one of our specialised family departures. We learned to make pizza and gelato, which was great. But one thing I didn’t know existed in Rome was a little place called The Gladiator School. We all dressed up as Gladiators and learned how to tumble-roll and learned the sword. It was fantastic! Then, when we went to the Colosseum, we could put it all into perspective.

Trafalgar Gladiator School in Rome

7travel: Do you have any last words of wisdom?

Cameron-Smith: The beauty of travel is that there are so many beautiful places to see in the world. Even in Australia, there are so many beautiful experiences to have right here. The world is your oyster, really. Go travelling!