DAINTREE RIVER CRUISE CENTRE
Advanced Ecotourism | Certified since 2000
EA: Twenty years is a long time. What is something you’ve learnt over the years that you wish you had known 20 years ago?
DRCC: We have been in business for 34 years this year! We commenced operations in the 1980’s so public perception and expectations have changed greatly in that time. When we first started operating, my parents were considered rather strange for caring so much about the environment and our impact on it. Now there has been a shift in the public coconsciousness; these days people want to know that they are working with an operator that respects and invests in protecting the wilderness.
It is hard to say what is the most important thing I’ve learned since we started the business; I grew up in it, so it has been a continued learning experience for me. I wish we had been a bit quicker to jump onto the internet and social media trend. My parents were older and were slow to embrace that technology – also we didn’t have very fast internet here in the Daintree until about five years ago and it still crashes pretty quick to this day! The internet has proven to be an incredible tool for reaching out to people, engaging, and spreading the ecotourism message.
I often think when we are posting images that there could be someone sitting in an office in a big city and when they scroll through their newsfeed they will see a stunning bird, frog or crocodile in the world’s oldest rainforest and it will keep them engaged about how important it is and that is very cool.
EA: What piece of advice would you give to operators entering the ecotourism market today? Top 3 things you think new operators entering to ecotourism market should do?
DRCC: There is so much good information regarding staff training, policies and procedures that have been developed over the years. I would recommend anyone going down the ecotourism path to embrace what is already there to utilise in their own business.
As the saying goes: success leaves footprints. There is no need to reinvent the wheel; in most circumstances there will be another operator who has overcome the challenge you are facing. One of the great things about our network is that you can reach out to other operators and they are very generous about sharing their knowledge and incredibly willing to help – make use of that!
To me the most important aspect of your business will always be your team. You must hire people that are genuine and have a real passion for nature. When you are working in tourism there will inevitably be challenges so if your team’s heart isn’t in it that will show. Your people are your biggest asset so invest in them, train them, appreciate them and lead by example. Never ask someone to do something you wouldn’t do yourself.
EA: What importance do you place in your ECO Certification?
DRCC: While profit margin is essential to the success of any business, there are times when we have to make decisions that will have minimal impact on the environment and though that isn’t always the cheapest or easiest option, I do believe it is the best. We are committed to environmental research and involved in a number of projects working with universities, Earth Watch and Mangrove Watch. To me, being an ecotourism operator means doing everything you can to improve the future prospects of the ecosystem you operate in.
EA: What’s next for your business and what are you hoping to achieve over the next 12 months?
DRCC: COVID has thrown a lot of challenges our way this year and everyone’s business plans got tossed out the window! Though we were forced to close in March we were very excited to be one of the first businesses to reopen in North Queensland on the 1st of June. I knew there wouldn’t be a lot of people around, but it wasn’t about making money; it was about announcing to the public that Far North Queensland was ready to roll and they could visit knowing there would be experiences for them to enjoy.
With the borders reopening we will be aiming to attract many Australian travellers to the region and use this as an opportunity to rebuild our business and showcase our area until international travel kicks back in. Hopefully they will leave loving it as much as we do.
EA: Over the past 20 years have you ever had any high profile/celebrity guests of note?
DRCC: Yes, we have had quite a few, however as I have never owned a TV I often don’t realise until someone else points it out! Harry Connick Jr and quite a few of the cast from the movie they filmed at Rocky Point visited. Bec Hewitt has cruised with us – she was very lovely to deal with. We had a contingent of the Australian Paralympic team here (before the Sydney Olympics if memory serves me correctly) they were great fun. Allan Bond visited during his heyday and went out on a tour with my Dad, they got on well having a lot to discuss about boats and racing. Roger Steene the renowned coral reef photographer used to visit a lot and I still have the books he gave my parents.
EA: What has been your funniest/most enjoyable experience?
DRCC: There have been so many! I think any operator that has been in business for as long as we have would have a book full of interesting stories.
During the floods last year, I ended up with about 18 backpackers that got stranded here and had nowhere to go, so the Cruise Centre ended up as a temporary hostel. Many two-minute noodles were eaten and a lot of cast wine drunk.
In the late 1990’s my pony somehow managed to fall down the bank from is paddock (how he managed to do so without breaking his leg is still a mystery to me) but it was definitely not a case of what goes down must go back up. The only way I could get him back to the paddock was to jump on and swim him upstream to our slipway, my dad drove the boat beside me with his shotgun. Another operator’s boat went by with a bunch of tourists and I saw some of them just gaping in shock – I don’t think that is what they were expecting to see – and I know a couple of them had cameras and took photos. I still wish I had a copy of that photo. The pony, Rusty, lived for until his mid 30’s which is pretty remarkable for a horse.