Meet the Turn­ers

Tourism’s power cou­ple talk busi­ness

The Australian - The Deal - - Front Page - By Katrina Beikoff

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

THE DEAL Apri l 2015

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