Meet the Turners
Tourism’s power couple talk business
J UDE Turner casts her eye around the wide veranda at her Spicers Balfour Hotel in Brisbane. The classic Queenslander house, converted into a luxury retreat that is an oasis of charm tucked behind the redbrick heat of Brisbane’s Brunswick Street, is a signature property in her portfolio of 10 boutique hotels in Queensland and NSW. We’re waiting for her husband, Flight Centre founder and managing director Graham “Skroo” Turner, to arrive.
The lunch clientele at Balfour sits comfortably at whiteclothed tables. Diners are shaded by black blinds that anchor the decor, perfectly positioned so they capture glimpses of the outside greenery while enjoying ever-so-light breezes.
Turner, suddenly bounds up the stairs. The 65-year-old is marathon fit and tanned with still-sandy hair. He walks to the table and pulls up the blinds. “Too hot,” he says. Jude starts to object. A cooler wind does drift in, but she’s worried about the glare from a silver roof next door. She jumps up and pulls the blinds back down. Lunch begins glare-free, in cool comfort.
Meet Mr and Mrs Turner – the killer couple of the Australian travel industry. The Turners do things their own way. Each operates a business in a different space of the travel market, both at the helm of growing businesses that have the unmistakeable Turner touch. The Queensland-born couple have been together since their 20s. They had known each other in Brisbane but bumped into each other when they were both in London in 1976. Graham Turner and some friends had founded bus-tour business Topdeck, offering cheap travel for young people in Europe by bus. Jude took up a temporary job in the Topdeck office before leaving for a planned European trip.
Turner was so smitten with Jude that he took over as the bus driver for the trip. Three months later he proposed and they
Apri l 2015