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

The Weekend Post - - Business -

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

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