Driven by his love of FNQ
FROM HUMBLE BEGINNINGS JAMES DIXON HAS BUILT ONE OF AUSTRALIA’S BEST TOUR COMPANIES. HE TOOK SOME TIME THIS WEEK TO SHARE HIS PASSION FOR THE REGION AND WHAT MAKES THE TOURISM STALWART TICK
GROWING up in the Riverina region of western New South Wales, the local winner at the 2018 Australian Tourism Export Council (ATEC) awards vowed never to get into the tourism industry.
Now James Dixon sits on the board of Tourism Events Queensland as the deputy chairman after also being on the board of Tropical North Queensland for 10 years.
He was recognised at last month’s ATEC awards by winning the Trevor Howard award for outstanding contribution by an individual to the tourism and export industry.
“I was absolutely humbled to receive the award but there are a lot of other people out there far more worthy than me,” he said.
“But it’s very nice to be recognised by your peers in what they consider to be a great contribution to the industry.”
Mr Dixon’s tourism journey had the unlikeliest of beginnings after he was born into the family bus business in West Wyalong.
His brother Phil took over the family bus company and started doing extended bus tours all over Australia.
“I was a builder by trade and swore I would never get involved in tourism or buses but when the building industry fell in a slump Phil got me to go to Brisbane and that is when I started driving for him,” he said.
In 1989 the business went into receivership and Mr Dixon with his brother Gordon acquired the Down Under Tours business from the receivers.
“And that is when Down Under Tours really came to the fore,” he said.
“Gordon and his wife Helen and my wife Jann then set up operation and went from there.”
That was 29 years ago – today the company is one of Queensland’s premier touring bus lines.
Mr Dixon and Jann met in West Wyalong and were childhood sweethearts before get- ting married and swapping the dry heat of outback New South Wales for the humidity of Far North Queensland.
Together they have two children, Brianna, who now works from Canada in the film industry and Sam, who works in IT for Down Under Tours.
Originally planning to make the move north for three years, Mr Dixon never left after falling in love with FNQ.
“For us it was heaven on Earth and loved everything about it.
“We fell in love with the industry, it has been very kind to us,” he said.
JAMES DIXON HAS BEEN IN THE TOURISM INDUSTRY FOR ALMOST THREE DECADES AND IS TOURISM EVENTS QUEENSLAND DEPUTY CHAIRMAN
“We love the passion of the industry in this town. It is very infectious and that is what really got hold of us, Cairns now will always be our home.”
Mr Dixon said Tropical North Queensland is well placed to take advantage of expected increased visitation off the back of the new Edge Lookout being built by Skyrail and the proposed KUR-World development at Kuranda.
However, he said visitation in Far Northern world heritage listed reefs and forests needed to be managed correctly.
“I think there are good signs ahead however our industry has challenges and not just Tropical North Queensland but Australia as a destination is in a unique position to get it right,” he said.
“Tourism … is growing at a rapid rate and there is a terminology used currently called ‘over tourism’.
“(Which refers to) volumes of people in popular destinations just being too great for the destinations to handle it.
“It’s not all about the numbers, it’s about the yield and our ability to deliver a top quality product,” he said.
Also flagged as a challenge facing the industry is the control of negative media reports following natural disasters and deaths at popular destinations.
“As we know bad news stories sell better than good news stories, but also with the reach of social media one of our greatest challenges is making sure the good news stories get out there and making sure our authorities are all delivering the same consistent message,” he said.
Mr Dixon expressed great gratitude to the team at Down Under Tours – his brother Gordon and his wife Helen and his sister Bev and partner Rob – who in the early days were instrumental in making the business a success.
The company has recently been sold to the Travel Corporation, parent company of the Bondi-based AAT Kings.
FOR US IT WAS HEAVEN ON EARTH AND LOVED EVERYTHING ABOUT IT. WE FELL IN LOVE WITH THE INDUSTRY, IT HAS BEEN VERY KIND TO US
WINNING FORMULA: Owner of Down Under Tours James Dixon has been recognised for his service to the Queensland tourism industry at the Australian Tourism Export Council Excellence Awards.