Max’s chance to play tourist
AFTER DECADES INVOLVED IN THE FAR NORTH’S TOURISM INDUSTRY, INCLUDING THREE YEARS AS THE PEAK BODY’S CHAIRMAN, STALWART MAX SHEPHERD IS RIDING OFF INTO THE SUNSET, WRITES HAYDEN SMITH
HE retired for the first time in early 2014, but the allure of a new challenge has always been hard to resist for Far North tourism leader Max Shepherd.
Now, the 65-year-old is riding into the sunset after serving as Tourism Tropical North Queensland chairman for the past three years.
“I’ve personally gotten a lot out of the tourism industry. It’s very much a people industry, and I’ve learned plenty over the years,” Mr Shepherd said.
“But where I go to now is new experiences.”
Cairns has changed immeasurably since 1967, when he started working at the government’s local tourism bureau on Abbott St as an enthusiastic 14-year-old.
His tenure with the organisation included stints in Melbourne, Adelaide, Mackay and Brisbane, before he returned to Cairns in 1986.
“One of the best things I did in my early days was move out of Cairns,” Mr Shepherd said.
“When you travel, go into a big city, you soon realise that things will change.
“The important thing, if you can be involved, is to be there to ensure it changes for the better.”
Since his Far North homecoming, Mr Shepherd has overseen two of Queensland’s most iconic tourism companies, Quicksilver and Skyrail.
Looking back, the Freshwater resident said his return to Cairns was timed perfectly.
“I think the most exciting part of my career was the late 1980s and early 1990s, when we saw the results of Cairns having an international airport with flights coming in from Japan, Malaysia, the US, Singapore and Thailand,” Mr Shepherd said.
“Quicksilver had two vessels when I started and within two years four boats were operating. Many things were happening at that time.”
He described then US president Bill Clinton’s 1996 trip to the Reef with Quicksilver as an “amazing project”.
“He was a gentleman who communicated with anybody and everybody very well,” Mr Shepherd said.
“In 2000, we took the Olympic flame under water on the Barrier Reef – that was another real highlight.”
He “retired” from the industry in early 2014 after spending almost a decade with Skyrail.
Mr Shepherd said he was “cautious” when, several months later, he was then approached to take over from Stephen Gregg as TTNQ chairman.
But he described his tenure as “very rewarding”.
SINCE HIS FAR NORTH HOMECOMING, MAX SHEPHERD HAS OVERSEEN TWO OF QUEENSLAND’S MOST ICONIC TOURISM COMPANIES, QUICKSILVER AND SKYRAIL