Craig Turner and myself have something in common. That is, when we are seen out in public with our respective wives, the general consensus would appear to be that both Craig and I are “punching above our weight”. Given the respective nature of both our physiques, this is a significant disparity but one that I am sure that we are both happy to live with.
Craig completed a panel beating trade on the Sunshine Coast and moved to the Whitsundays in 1995. At age 20, he arrived with long hair, no job and no money. Craig’s first job was at the Airlie Beach Hotel washing dishes where he worked for a period of 7 days and says that he was never paid. I quickly advised that the Statute of Limitations had expired when Craig queried as to whether or not he might have some right of action against Mark Bell and the Airlie Beach Hotel.
Anyway, Craig then worked as a porter for 12 months on Hamilton Island. He then started his career at Fantasea Cruises. Craig says that he was working for David Hutchen with a “rag tag” group. Many of whom remain in the Whitsundays and have made good progress in their own careers and would all refer back to their “apprenticeship” with David Hutchen as being instrumental in forming them as both people and giving them skills to work in the tourism industry. Craig made the analogy that working for David Hutchen would be much the same as a rugby league player being coached by Wayne Bennett.
Whilst at Fantasea, Craig completed a degree through Monash University and became the Director of Sales and Marketing. Craig met his wife Mel on Hamilton Island. When asked how his relationship with Mel started, Craig told me that he’d hit the big time on the Island because he had a buggy. He used to co-ordinate drive-bys when Mel was walking home so that he could offer her a lift. No doubt impressed by the fact that Craig had a buggy, Mel went on to marry Craig in 2000 and have 2 children, Alyssa and Levi, who both attend high school at St. Catherine’s Catholic College in Proserpine.
Since leaving Fantasea Cruises, Craig has:-
- worked for Tourism Whitsundays where he was instrumental in establishing the first direct Virgin flights between Sydney and Proserpine Airport;
- worked as the Manager of Tourism for the Bowen Shire Council;
- established Subway franchise outlets in both Bowen and Proserpine;
- worked as an On-Site Manager at a local Caravan Park. Craig says he realised he was not suited for this job when asked by a patron to provide a bucket of ice at 11:00pm under the guise that it was an “emergency”. Craig concluded that his personality type did not lend itself to dealing with the public at this level;
- worked as a pipeline supervisor for Santos where he was responsible for supervising up to 400 people and ensuring that proper protocols and systems were adhered to in relation to the construction of a gas pipeline.
Craig and Mel, in the last couple of years, have acquired the De Boni cane farm at North Gregory which is at the start of the road to Dingo Beach. The Turner family are enjoying life living in a rural setting and indulging in some “hobby farming”.
Craig brings all of the above experience and a down to earth attitude as well as a fabulous sense of humour into his latest role as the CEO of Tourism Whitsundays (“TW”). In the 9 months since Craig took over on the 1st April 2016, membership in TW has risen from 77 to over 220.
I asked Craig to give me some feedback on his view of tourism in the Whitsundays and his role as CEO. His comments were interesting and can be summarised as follows:-
- Craig lives in the Whitsundays. He is not using his role as a TW CEO to build a profile in order to take on a role elsewhere within the industry. So rather than worrying about his own future career, Craig believes that he is concentrating on destination and product development and looking to build the traditional experiences for which the Whitsunday region is well known;
- For example, Craig believes that the Peter Faust Dam at Proserpine should be leveraged in regards to the catching of Barramundi and this experience should be promoted domestically;
- There are possible opportunities to develop agricultural tourism in Bowen and Proserpine and as CEO of TW, Craig wants to engage with this sector to explore what can be done;
- We have a wonderful indigenous community in the Whitsunday region and Craig wants to develop indigenous tourism and is working with the Giradula people in Bowen;
- In simple terms, Bowen and mainland areas need to be included in the domestic advertising program and so TW is holding workshops to teach industry members about the benefits of the wholesale distribution of their product;
- Whilst many people may wish to come to the Whitsundays, there is a perception that it is difficult to reach and is expensive. In the near future, both Jetstar and Tiger Airlines are introducing additional flights into the Proserpine Airport and there needs to be a strong domestic message that coming to the Whitsundays is now more affordable than ever and that we have a range of new flights to the area by low-cost carriers;
- TW should be run like a commercial business and it should be providing a return on investment to members and stakeholders and it is Craig’s aim for members to say “I got value for money and I am happy that I joined TW”.