Episode 314

Ricky Zhang, Creator of Prince of Travel for Miles and Points

Published on: 29th April, 2024

In this episode, we travel to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, to chat with Ricky Zhang, the Founder and CEO at Prince of Travel.




Ricky shares insights into his journey from a passionate traveler to building a successful travel brand.

1. **The Birth of "Prince of Travel":** Ricky explains how the name "Prince of Travel" originated from his desire to start a travel blog and the struggle to find the perfect domain name. "Prince of Travel" captured the essence of traveling the world on one's terms.

2. **Inspiration Behind the Venture:** Ricky's upbringing, marked by family travels and exposure to diverse cultures, fueled his passion for travel and eventually led to the inception of Prince of Travel.

3. **Strategies for Travel Rewards:** Ricky delves into the world of travel rewards, emphasizing the potential to leverage loyalty programs and credit card optimization to stretch travel budgets and unlock premium experiences.

4. **Building a Strong Digital Brand:** Ricky discusses the importance of upholding high standards in content creation, from video production to website design, to cultivate trust and engagement with the audience.

5. **Navigating the Digital Space:** Ricky offers advice for aspiring entrepreneurs entering the digital space, highlighting the significance of creativity, consistency, and community-building for long-term success.

**Key Quote from Ricky:**

- "The world's becoming more connected...there's more lands of opportunities out there." - Ricky Zhang

Mark expresses gratitude for Ricky's insights and encourages listeners to continue their journey of creativity and exploration. He invites them to join in for future episodes as they unlock the world of creativity together.


  Welcome back friends to our podcast, your world of creativity. And the last few episodes we've been traveling the world, LA to Long Island, Austin to England, Bay Area to Boston gaining experience from all sorts of creative practitioners from a marriage and family therapist to singer, songwriters, a filmmaker, a home designer.

And today we're stamping our creative passport in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. And we're talking to Ricky Zhang. Founder and CEO at Prince of Travel. Ricky, welcome to the show.


for having me, Mark. Good to be here. That is a bold title of both yourself and your company, the Prince of Travel.

How did you come to earn that kind of moniker?

Yeah, I suppose I came to earn it through simply dawdling and waiting around and trying to figure out another better title. It just never came to me. You know what I mean? Back when I was starting this thing, I was, I had this idea of starting a travel blog for a long time and I sat on it for about a year because I couldn't think of a domain name that really spoke to me.

And so I kept trying different domain names and then eventually Trying different, words of travel or different domain names related to travel. And then Prince of Travel sounded like it rolled off the tongue and it captured the the spirit of, you know, traveling the world on your own terms that I wanted to evoke.

And so I just went with it and then it's been seven plus years now.

Yeah. And then you just build on it. Let's get back to the journey itself. Now that we know the origin of the name, yeah, you were quite the passionate traveler. You decided to found this venture for travel. What inspired you?

I've been fortunate to travel from a young age on some family trips, and that's one of the things that I definitely credit my parents for having taken me to different places around the world. My upbringing was also, lent itself well to eventually starting a travel company. I was born in Vancouver, but grew up in Asia at a time when You know, it was it was it was um, like a booming time economically.

owing up in Asia in the early:

es. Took a big Brazil trip in:

And all these, all those adventures for the masses. And I'd say there was a bit of a trial by fire as well, because after my Europe trip, it was like time to graduate. And then I was faced with the prospect of, holding a full time corporate job. And that was like, that was the antithesis of what I had wanted at the time.

And so that was the thing that I needed to run away from. And what I ran to was starting my content and starting Prince of Travel.

Love that story. And I wanted to rewind a little bit and underscore that word you use, rewarding. Certainly we find the joy and reward in travel, but you took in a whole nother level of reward.

And you're talking about loyalty programs, credit card optimization, and growing a strong digital brand focused on this kind of travel. What kind of strategies have you employed to really leverage those ideas of rewards?

Oh, yeah, absolutely. And the whole idea here is, with travel, there seems to be so much so much obstacle for people to a lot of people to make that a reality, right?

And the whole idea is there are so many ways that you can, leverage tools that are at your fingertips to reduce the cost of travel or take your budget and stretch it so much further. And that's something that most people don't. Really know about but if you put the time and effort in it's it's something that has tons of possibilities at hand so essentially It's you know, it's all about travel rewards.

Some people call it travel hacking as well It's it's mostly going to be applicable and useful if you live in the United States or Canada but essentially all of the major banks they've got their loyalty programs, right their points program their credit cards and they work with the airlines and hotels to issue those points and they're a reward for consumers to Either spend on the credit cards or engage with the airlines or hotels.

So stay or fly essentially what happens then is You know, the more that you engage, the more you spend you earn these points and then you're able to then redeem them for, outsized value is what we say in the sense that you can say fly a whole bunch of times in economy class and then redeem points for business class, right?

And get like that. Very special experience that you wouldn't otherwise pay for. Likewise, first class international first class is really where the top of the top kind of rewards lie, right? That's the super fancy pampered experiences with the shower and the sky and the bar and whatnot.

How can the rest of us use points and rewards To gain that kind of status and level.

Yeah, so definitely let's say you're based in the United States. The major banks that you want to focus on are American Express, Chase, Capital One, and Citi, right?

Those are the four banks that have got the what's known as the transferable points. Because when you earn points with these credit cards, you can then transfer them to other banks. The magic really lies in transferring them to the partner airline programs. And that's where the programs let you redeem for the pods and the suites, right?

Because if you redeem the bank points directly, which is actually what most people do, but if you do that, then you're actually just treating it a bit like cash. Like it's basically like a fixed value. It's typically one cent per point. So if. If you think about it, if you do the math a first class flight might be, 5, 000.

And you would need 500, 000 points to, to redeem it through the bank. But when you transfer it to the airline, it might only require 70, 000 or 100, 000 points. So that's where the arbitrage comes into play. And that's where the nitty gritty ins and outs of the game. Are something that, people who come to the website who follow Prince of Travel take the time to study and understand and once it's time to book, they've got the strategy in place to take the points that they've earned and transfer them and then redeem them for the flights that they want and unlock these experiences.

It's a very creative content for sure. Lots to learn for, travel buffs, even including myself. And yet I've looked at these videos. The content is not only strong, but the production value is right up there. How did you determine ways to really make this content, for your brand as strong as it is?

Yeah, Mark, I really like that question because I'm a big believer in the power of building a brand and the power of, creativity and design and, high standards being upheld as a means of cultivating, long term long term longevity in the space and long term trust from the audience and like cultivating a sense of people having a good experience when they come to Prince of Travel, when they watch our videos, such that they're more likely to engage with us, come back, and buy from our products in the future.

For me, I intuitively grasped these concepts before I ever started thinking about them. Because I wasn't I was never an entrepreneur like back in the day, right? I was starting this off just as a a personal hobby project and then I started to pick up the principles of running a business So back in the day, I like to think that what gave me a good launch pad for you know Whatever success i've had so far Was this sort of intuitive grasp of you know an eye for design a desire to cultivate that good experience for the user So Everything from what you've mentioned on our videos, looking to elevate the production value, like I, I'd consider myself a fairly accomplished video editor because I've had to build those skills and I just, it doesn't, it didn't matter at the start if it took me like 20 hours a whole day to edit a video, like that's what I would do in order to make the video up to scratch so that, it would meet my standards.

And then likewise before I did video, I did text, right? I did articles, and likewise the time spent crafting the storyline there, capturing the photos of the experience, and sharing on Prince of Travel, likewise the time spent creating the user experience on the website, I'm not a programmer or a web designer by any stretch of the imagination, but I was able to take it.

Off the shelf templates. And I was like, this isn't good enough because it's an off the shelf template. So I had to teach myself, the very basics of like CSS and HTML to modify the code such that I created this like very custom look and feel, even though it was an off the shelf template for the first, two years before I got a web design team to update the look.

So for me, it was all about. Creativity, needs that time and space to be expressed and you have to, uphold the standards of giving it that time and space to, to come out. And if that's close to your heart, then it's just like a non negotiable, like the work isn't done to the right degree.

Up to scratch, unless unless that happens.

I think those of us who've tried to get into this can appreciate your story of spending hours. It's one thing to do a little Instagram reel. It's another to do a 15 minute, YouTube program with the kind of production you've got.

Kudos to that. So learning. What you've learned, how would you advise new and aspiring entrepreneurs getting into this kind of digital space? How should they start? How should they look at it?

Yeah, that's a great question. Definitely the digital space is Going forward just gonna be the space, right?

Like I don't think there's any

That's a very good point I don't think there's any

Yeah, like coming decades, I don't think there's any if you're gonna start a new pursuit There's no avoiding being part of the space these days I think it's pretty clear that video is the way to go in terms of the future direction of content, even in our companies, we've been pivoting away from text and towards video, like just doing a bit of a rebalancing of our content efforts, certainly still putting out articles and ranking on Google and whatnot, but just with the, change in content consumption habits and definitely, the more you can grab people's attention, the better, right?

So video is definitely very strong for that. I'm, I have an interesting take on, the like short form versus long form, because I think short form is a very simple place to start for anybody who's just getting started with creativity. It's like you said, doesn't take much to edit an Instagram reel, and it's like easy to build your reps in terms of Letting your creativity flourish and putting out a piece of work.

I'd say that for people who are serious about getting started, it's important to, from the outset, understand that short form is a great place to start, but it's not going to be where you build that relationship with the audience. What I find has Given us so much and paid so much dividends for, my personal brand and our business is the fact that people spend 10 to 15 minutes with us every weekend on a long form video, right?

Some people put it up on their living room TVs. And it's they're spending time with me and the ideas I'm putting out and the ideas that we at Prince of travel are putting up. That's really where I'd say longevity as a content driven business is built. And I'd say, get your reps in on short form.

Like I said, uphold the standards of creativity and and take the time, to get it right. Because when you're first starting out there's no need to rush. You want to get it right. You want to get something that you're proud of, something that you're going to build an audience that.

It speaks to and that buys into the overall ethos of what you're building. So take the time to get it right, especially at the start. But once you've gotten a few of those reps under your belt I'd say that, long form video can be intimidating, like you had mentioned, but the payoffs are worth it.

And you're really talking about moving beyond this idea of clicks and views and things like that to real community building. You're not just looking at viewers and audience by the numbers you're trying to say about engagement. How did you find that difference and why are you trying to build a community?

To me, the ultimate difference is you have to think about why you want views and clicks. Like, why do you want the numbers, right? There's it's perfectly fine getting millions and millions of views and clicks and monetizing off the back of those views and clicks alone, right? YouTube, TikTok, like they'll all pay you out.

A certain fraction for views and clicks, but it's typically not a hugely significant fraction. You'd really need serious numbers like in the millions to make any, money off just views and clicks that can sustain you. And really it's about, if you're, if you're serious about getting into this, I'd like to think that you'd like to build some kind of sustainable venture, right?

Whether it's just for yourself something that you can live off of. Of something you're passionate about right in terms of a creative pursuit compared to Doing something else or something that that's bigger than yourself. That, eventually has the brand to it, has a team behind it, along the lines of the journey I've taken, both of those paths will require.

An audience that is. engaged, bought into what you're doing and who's, becoming whom you're cultivating into true fans and delivering on both an emotional journey for them and actually tangible value, right? So they have to be offering them some kind of tangible value for them to Yeah, develop that long term relationship.

And then once you introduce, whether it's, branded content or affiliate marketing or products of your own that that are available, then that's where you are able to monetize, right? So the clicks and views are a great kind of leading indicator of that, but ultimately it's not going to basically not going to feed you right.

Unless you've got an audience that actually likes the content and that's coming back to click and watch.

That's right. Thanks for sharing your experience with that. I'd like to talk to you more about trends and travel, but first, since we've been talking about your brand and your videos and your content and your company, I'd love to let the listeners know where to find you where are the best channels to find you.

Oh, yeah. Yeah, for sure.

We've got two YouTube channels. So one is called Prince of Travel. It's where you can go to find all the latest tips on traveling the world at a fraction of the cost. I'm the sole presenter there, but we'll be introducing new faces shortly from the team. And my channel is just Ricky Chang.

It's It's where, I share my travel experiences and lately I'm, taking the direction in a channel where I share with you my travel experiences, but also share with you some of my perspectives from the entrepreneurial journey that I've picked up along the way.

And great learnings, I bet it is.

I can't wait to find out more about the other team members in the future. Because will there be more princes and princesses? Or will they have other titles? All to come, I'm sure.

We try not to give ourselves a title, but more of a lot of lines of, you too can travel like a prince. And that's the whole idea.

Let's look forward then and talk about the where your views of travel. You've been deeply involved in travel for so long, and I love to travel and I really see it as a global citizen a mission, not just am I enjoying the sights and sounds. What have you learned from your travels?

Yeah I'm definitely I'd echo that.

Like I mentioned, I've been I've had an upbringing that really lends itself well to being a global citizen. And I've held that close to my heart ever since. And that's definitely a spirit that I, look to transmit through our content and try to, get across this idea that what we're doing here isn't just about going on a trip once a year, and then calling it a day, right?

It's about cultivating a lifestyle of being curious about the world and understanding that there's, Other perspectives on the other side of the globe, and that it would serve you best to understand those and to explore them and to spend time on the ground and absorb them rather than, dismiss them and treat it as just people from another part of the world.

Like I think many people are it's tempting, it's easy to just have your own worldview and dismiss the rest. But I've found a lot of joy and meaning in connecting with others and building those bridges and helping others build them as well. Anytime I'm traveling, I'm looking to expand my worldview.

I'm looking to get on the ground in a new place, not just look at the sights and sounds, but ask myself what are the people here going through? What are the opportunities on the horizon? What what's, what about that might be interesting for me to be involved in the future? How can I transmit these values and some of the learnings I'm picking up in the content that I'm creating and such,


And there's some obstacles, obviously, in global travel while we went through a pandemic. There's so many world conflicts going on right now that maybe limit our access to some places. But how does one really think about getting to know people? I loved the way you described it. You're on the ground, you're talking to the people, not reading the news or thinking about the politics.

Yeah the people is where, I've always found that there tends to be a lot more in common than you think, right? Because if you just read the news and follow the headlines and whatnot, you could end up thinking like, this is a completely different world to what I'm used to, right?

Completely different people. But, people have all their hopes and dreams tend to be Pretty similar. Their aspirations in life tend to be like I said, more in common than different. And that's where, there's that mutual understanding, that common ground that once it's built, the differences are not like scary or intimidating.

They're just interesting to think about and talk about and exchange perspectives. I remember, just speaking to whether it's sitting down for a local a very spicy fish and Jollof rice. This was in Ghana and West Africa, and just getting a sense of, the market that we're in the stories of the people who work there and what their hopes and struggles were.

I was with a friend at the time who was from Ghana and he was sharing with me like his journey from, as a international student kind of pursuing some jobs abroad and just, you know, finding similarities in my own journey, but also realizing that, okay, somebody from West Africa may not like in the past, maybe perhaps like the U S and Canada was where they aspire to go to.

But these days they also, had dreams. Lots of them had dreams to go to the UAE or China for advancing their careers and just realizing that, okay, the world's becoming more connected, right? There's more lands of opportunities out there. So that was like just one interesting. Snapshot in time of just sitting there, letting new perspectives flow through me as I was eating this extremely spicy plate of fish.

Yeah. It's a big world. And thanks for giving us some tips on how to get out there and enjoy it more. My guest has been Ricky Zhang, Prince of Travel is his company. Ricky, thanks for sharing your experiences and your brand, by the way. Thank you, Mark. It's been a it's been a fun conversation.

Yes, and I'll put all the links folks where you can find Ricky and his great content and great company. And as we've said, I was almost said digital brand, but we've deleted digital now and it's just a brand because we're living in a big digital world. There you go, Mark. Sooner

you get used to it, the better.

That's right. I love that. And listeners thanks for coming by. I'm so grateful for your support of the podcast. Ricky was just asking me, how long we'd been doing this. We're over 300 episodes, four years now. And we continue to grow and we continue to want to get better. And Ricky and other guests have encouraged us.

Build our brand, build our community. It's great. We've been rated by listen notes is one of the top 0. 5 percent of podcasts. I just got a note. We were charted number five in the design category in Hong Kong. So if you're listening from Hong Kong, we appreciate your support. And come back again next time.

We'll continue our around the world travels. We've stopped off in Vancouver, British Columbia and Canada today, but we'll continue our around the world travels to learn from Creative practitioners everywhere about how to get inspired, how to organize ideas, and most of all, gain the confidence and the connections to launch our work out into the world.

So until next time, I'm Mark Stenson, and we'll keep unlocking your world of creativity. See you next time.

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About the Podcast

Your World of Creativity
Catalyst of Inspiration, Stories, and Tools to Get Your Work Out Into the World
On YOUR WORLD OF CREATIVITY, best-selling author and global brand innovator, Mark Stinson introduces you to some of the world’s leading creative talent from publishing, film, animation, music, restaurants, medical research, and more.

In every episode, you'll discover:
- How to tap into your most original thinking.
- Inspiration from the experts’ own experience.
- Specific tools, exercises, and formulas to organize your ideas.
- And most of all, you’ll learn how to make connections

 and create opportunities to publish, post, record, display, sell, market, and promote
 your creative work.

Listen for the latest insights for creative people who want to stop questioning themselves and overcome obstacles to launch their creative endeavors out into the world.

Connect with Mark at www.Mark-Stinson.com

About your host

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Mark Stinson

Mark Stinson has earned the reputation as a “brand innovator” -- an experienced marketer, persuasive writer, dynamic presenter, and skilled facilitator. His work includes brand strategy and creative workshops. He has contributed to the launches of more than 150 brands, with a focus on health, science, and technology companies. Mark has worked with clients ranging from global corporations to entrepreneurial start-ups. He is a recipient of the Brand Leadership Award from the Asia Brand Congress and was included in the PharmaVoice 100 Most Inspiring People in the Life-Sciences Industry.