Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Me, hosting my stall at the 1986 Australian Tourism Exchange, June, 1986   (photos are a little damaged)

I'm the clown on the right

Flipping Barramundi!

The Australian Tourism Exchange (ATE) is the largest tourist exposition/convention in the Southern Hemisphere, or it was, when I was managing the resort on Hinchinbrook Island. 

The ATE is held in June each year in Sydney, New South Wales.  Back then in the Eighties it was always held in Sydney, but over the years the situation has changed.  A couple or so years ago it was held in Cairns, Tropical North Queensland.  It also has been held on the Gold Coast, as well as Melbourne, and probably in other major cities, too. The Australian Tourism Exchange 2018 is being held in Adelaide, capital of South Australia.

In my capacity as ‘sales/marketing manager’of the island resort, along with my role as “manager”, I had to attend the ATE when it came around in 1986 and 1987. 

Tour-group operators, travel agents etc., from across the world, travel to Australia to attend the five day conventions/sales/marketing exposition to learn what we have to offer in the wonderful Land Down Under.

The exposition is organized by the Australian Tourism Commission. It is a massive event.

Prior to the commencement of the exposition operators of holiday destinations such as Hinchinbrook Island, for example, had to compile a list of tour operators and travel agents they thought suited their particular product.

The Australian Tourism Commission supplied a thick booklet to operators in the Australian market – resort managers, hotels, etc., etc., et al - and upon completion of the in-depth questionnaire therein, the booklet was returned to the Commission for them to arrange the appropriate appointments between operators and marketers...matching up one with the other.
For instance, the majority of my tourists/guests who visited the resort, excluding Australian at whom the ATE wasn’t directed, were from New Zealand, America, Britain, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Sweden - with very, very little business from Japan and other Asian countries.

Therefore, the areas from where my business originated were the areas I targeted.

At that time, the majority of Japanese tourists weren’t interested in what Hinchinbrook Island had to offer, which was little, really, other than total relaxation and exploration by long walks thrown in, if so desired. And of course, the boat trips to other areas around the island, and to neighbouring islands.

The Japanese tourist preferred to travel in groups. Very few were ‘free-independent travellers’....otherwise referred to as   “FITs”.  The Japanese desired and looked for the ‘bright lights’, the hustle and bustle of the madding crowd in such as busy areas like the Gold Coast in South East Queensland, Sydney etc.  What I had to offer on the island was not their "speed".

I concentrated on ‘my market’, the market that provided guests who where suited to my ‘product’; who were in search of a relaxed, natural, laid-back, neon-light-traffic-free environment.  

Naturally, I projected some of my marketing towards new, possible horizons, but my main focus was upon those who sought what Hinchinbrook had to offer.

Before my first ATE, I had to produce a video depicting the island’s pleasures and temptations.

I had very little time to do this because I’d been given only a few week’s notice of the pending event; before I had to jump off into unknown waters.   Time was definitely of the essence.

There was no other choice.  A video had to be done for me to offer to ‘clients’ at the ATE.  The video would have to be on continuous play in my stand on a television set while I ‘sold’ my product to the clients.

Before I go any further, the daily sessions of the ATE commenced at 9am. Individual sessions last fifteen minutes; two minutes prior to the completion of the fifteen minutes limit, a bell rang alerting both the seller and the buyer that there were two minutes left before said “buyer” moved on to the next booth/appointment. Then another bell would ring at the one-minute mark. At that point, the session would be wrapped up; the “buyer” would move on to its next appointment and the next client would move into your booth, ready to listen to your spiel, and they fired off myriad questions.

This went on, non-stop except for a one hour break for lunch.  The sessions ended at 5pm each day, continuing for the duration five days.

Often - daily - of course, the hours were extended.  Also, further business was conducted in the evening.   

There were special functions held in the evenings to that one was expected to attend.    

Marketers and clients mingled, learning more about each other and the product on offer; talks were given by invited speakers, knowledgeable in all things to do with tourism.

It wasn’t all ‘beer and skittles’…by the end of each day, and in particular, by the end of the five days, thoughts in one’s mind were fused together.  Sometimes, during sessions with the visiting "shoppers" confusion would set in whether you had already said ‘that’ to that person sitting in front of you, or were they sitting there waiting for you to start your selling pitch!
I’m sure the ‘buyers’ were going through similar confusion as we, the “sellers” were. 

The ATE was full-on for the whole five days, and nights.

Returning to my story about producing the video...

I arranged for friends from the Sunshine Coast to come to Hinchinbrook Island for a week to handle the photography side of things.

Peter and his wife, Lyn, arrived the second week in May. With no time to waste, they immediately got to work. I had to be in Sydney early June, armed and ready. 

Once the filming was completed, Peter and Lyn returned to the coast, where he developed the hours and hours of film he had taken.  I then had to help him edit the film, and there was lots of it, I can assure you.  This was in 1986, before digital cameras etc.  Hours of filming had to be cut down to a take (video cassette) of only five minutes duration. 

That, apparently, is about the limit of one’s concentration when you’re trying to ‘sell’ a product...longer than that, and you’ve lost them.  Experts say it’s even less than ‘five minutes’, but I ignored the ‘experts’, and produced a five- minute video tape of the island’s beauty; of what it and the resort had to offer.

In the short time we had to put it together, I wrote the script, chose suitable background music, and then, I had to go in search for a ‘voice-over’ expert.
All of this I had to do from the confines of the island, from a distance, by telephone between Peter and me.   It was all done by remote control, really.

Fortunately, from my 14 years spent within the fashion industry in Brisbane, I had contacts in the media – radio and television.  I called upon those I knew in search of a suitable ‘voice-over’ person.  Fortunately, I found one who could fit into his schedule the job I asked of him. 

Unfortunately, He did stuff up by pronouncing "foliage"...."foiliage", but there was no time to correct his error.  So I compromised in a very innovative way.  When that segment of the video cassette appeared, I purposely talked a little louder each time.   I doubt anyone noticed my ploy, other than wondering why I was suddenly shouting!

I had a few hundred copies of the video produced.  I still have one amongst my archives here at home.

Being a latent/closeted movie director, I planned a few ‘staged’ scenes in the making of the video.

One such scene was me admiring the ‘catch of the day’ – a large barramundi - “caught” by one of my male guests.  I organised for him to stand, gloating, proudly holding up the large fish that he'd "caught".  

Barramundi is a prized Aussie fish for you all up there in the Northern Hemisphere.  The annual barramundi closed season in Queensland starts begins annually 1st November running through to 1st February.  Possession size limits.....Minimum size....58cm....Maximum size limit....120cm.

With tricks of natural lighting, and sleight of hand, I pulled a big, whole, frozen barramundi out of one of my freezers.  It was the one my chuffed guest held.    

Those who viewed the cassette was any the wiser, as they “ohhhed, and ahhhed” when sighting the beautiful marine creature.  

My deception lives to this day…or did, until I revealed all here!

On the video, I also wanted to depict weary, but happy guests arriving back to the resort from one of the boat trips to the outer reef or elsewhere around the island waters at day’s end.

Once again donning my director’s cap, tossing aside my director’s chair, I grabbed my ‘clapboard’.  I barked orders (not quite ‘barked’ – it was done politely); arranged my “cast” on their invisibly-marked spots.

 Count-down was about to commence!

Mark (the lad I wrote about in a previous post) arrived down to the restaurant to prepare for his evening bar shift.

Immediately, seizing the moment, I commandeered him.  I told him I wanted him to help set the scene; for him to pretend he was a guest.  I wanted him to nonchalantly stroll up along the path in the background. The path led up an ever so slight incline to the guest cabins.  

In his role as a resort guest, I asked Mark to pretend to act natural - to ignore the fact the camera was rolling; for him to keep walking until I called out for him to stop.  There was no script.  He had no dialogue to learn...he just had to stroll leisurely, admiring his surroundings...happy to be alive.

The guests, excited they were to feature in the island video; copies of which would eventually go throughout the world, eagerly awaited my order for them to begin their part in the mini-Cecil Lee. De Mille production!

Each handled their roles with the expertise of seasoned stars.

Meanwhile, Mark had disappeared out of sight!  He was still walking, back to Sydney from whence he came, I think.

Lost in my own directorial prowess, in the process, I forgot to yell out to him to stop! 

I believe if I hadn’t finally realised what was happening unnoticed in the background, he would have disappeared forever.

The island is 245 square-miles in area, with the resort situated on the far north-eastern tip of the island at Cape Richards on a mere 22 acres.

To this day, I am certain he would never have been seen again, or at least, not for a couple of months or so. And then, if he was found, he’d be completely unrecognizable!  
Tarzan lives!

The scene still causes me to smile when I remember that particular afternoon.   Poor Mark...he caused much humour...good-natured humour...no mockery directed his way.


  1. That sounds like far more work that I'm accustomed to, kudos to you Lee for doing it so well.
    I like barramundi, crumbed and fried with a lemon wedge on the side.

    1. You raised a family, River...that takes a hell of a lot of work. Don't sell yourself short, my dear. :)

      There's nothing quite like a good feed of fresh fish...no matter what the fish is, I reckon. If it's fresh...it's good. There was a barra farm in the Hinchinbrook Channel (on the western side of the island)....just south of Cardwell. It was affected greatly by Cyclone Yasi back in 2011, and, unfortunately, no longer operates, as far as I am aware.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

  2. I am smiling widely at your memories. So funny about the barramundi. Of course I won't be the first to ask, but have you transferred the video to digital and WE WANT TO SEE IT.

    1. Hi Andrew....I should rig up my VCR player again one of these days...or better still have someone do the transferring of the video to digital on my behalf. The latter seems the better option.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

  3. What a fun job you had and we can tell you enjoyed every minute of it. Andrew is right, you should have the movie digitized.

    1. Yes, I really should look into having that done, Arleen. It runs for 5 minutes only as I said in my post...it's like a television commercial, showing the island resort's attributes to its prospective customers.

      I loved my time on Hinchinbrook, that is for sure!

      Thanks for coming by. :)

  4. Gosh your life is so incredible - you have done every thing every where. You have had a blessed life.

    1. Hi Sandie...I'm not sure about that. That was then...this is now and now I live a very quiet, reclusive existence, mostly by choice.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

  5. Oh my goodness you do tell your memories well. Mark was doing what he was told, walk until stop...the fish, just priceless - my favourite fish when I'm up north..

    1. Hi, Margaret. Yes, that he was, even when he'd disappeared out of sight and range of the camera! An afternoon stroll is good for the soul! :)

      My favourite fish when up north is Red Emperor. I love Red Emperor. I've not had any for a long time, unfortunately.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

  6. You were lucky to work in the tourism field. It's where one usually meets happy people looking for fun, recreation, and good life. I often encourage the younger ones to choose tourism as a carreer as you have the chance to see the good part of life not the toxic one as in other professions.

    1. Hi, DUTA....I met many interesting people from all walks of life and from a variety of areas; from this country and from overseas. Many good, happy memories linger.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

    2. That story has kept me amused for nearly 25 minutes. What a busy Lizzie you have been and it would have been very enjoyable. it is great to be able to recall the nicer times during our lifetime. Far from the Madding crowd. BY TH , Yes I read that too; long ago.

    3. Hi Vest...I'm glad it amused you. I still smile and have a bit of a giggle when I recall that time, and others of the halcyon island days...and nights.

      I was busy...but it was a thoroughly enjoyable busy.

      Yes...I read "Far From the Madding Crowd" many years ago, too...and also saw the movie. Loved both.

      Thanks for coming by, Vest. :)

  7. On reflection you should have done the voice-over yourself. In spite of your Gympie accent, the words would have been pronounced correctly. I didn't realise that Hinchinbrook Island was as big as 245 square miles. Previously I have thought of it as being perhaps a dozen square miles. I must check out a map.

    1. On reflection, Yorkie, I could have done the voice-over myself, if I had the suitable equipment on the island, that is; and if I'd had the time, but as I mentioned in my post above, time was of the essence. Much had to be done, while also trying to manage the resort....take care of guests and staff alike.

      Just as an aside, I do speak well. I'm not aware there is such a thing as a "Gympie accent".

      And, not at all, as you may imagine from my intended fun, Aussie-Ocker-slang Aussie Day posts on my blog, do I speak that way. Those posts, as I know you are aware, have been written in fun and tongue-in-cheek. We Aussies enjoy sending ourselves up...making fun of ourselves.

      As children my late brother and I were taught to speak well by our Mum and our Nana. We were taught not to not drop "g" off the end of certain words etc., etc; not to talk through our nose; to speak with a modulated voice/tone. We were taught to breathe from our diaphragm to give our voice depth and resonance.

      Nasal,high-pitched laser-beam voices really annoy me. I don't have a "broad" accent.

      My memory may have failed me in the area department (of the island)...but that is the figure that is stuck in my mind; and the area that was on all the data I worked from. I could be wrong, of course (I often am), and the area has expanded in my mind over the years, if the below dimensions are, in fact, correct.

      Area 393 km2 (152 sq mi)
      Length 52 km (32.3 mi)
      Width 10 km (6 mi)


      Thanks for coming by. 'Tis always a pleasure to "see" you. :)

  8. Oh how I enjoy coming to your kitchen table to read a very interesting post. Thanks for sharing now for my Tarzan yell. As a child I was very good at the Tarzan yell. Peace

    1. Hey there, Lady Di. Oh! Didn't we have fun when we were kids playing Tarzan. I loved the Tarzan movies, starring Johnny Weissmuller. The joys of playing outside...a joy lots of kids today don't experience, unfortunately.

      You are always welcome at my kitchen table...thanks for dropping by. :)

  9. Good fun is always nice to look back on. That's why we like people who can make us laugh. :)
    Happy weekend!

    1. That is for sure, Lux.

      Thanks for coming by...I hope you had a very enjoyable weekend. :)

  10. You've done so many different things - I'm in awe!

    1. They were fun, interesting times, Lynn...and I was much younger then. Time sure does slip away! :)

      Thanks for coming by. :)

  11. It sounds like an interesting job you had, Lee.

    I think the Australian accent is ok. We English don’t have an accent, of course. I’m trying to think what I was doing in 1986. I was only 26.

    1. Hey Terry...it was a terrific job...I loved it. Through it, I met some very interesting people from all walks of life and countries. And I had fun doing it...I enjoyed it immensely.

      I was in my early 40s at the time. A great age to be, I reckon.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

  12. What a fascinating post. Who knew one of your 'hats' was that of a movie producer. I'd think the days spent at the ATE would be absolutely exhausting, chatting in 15 minute intervals all day long.
    Sounds like you really loved your job and that it was a wonderful experience.
    YOU have a great week.

    1. Hi Sandra. A Cloak of Many Colours, one that has now worn wafer thin and faded! :)

      The ATE was exhausting, but at the same time it was exhilarating. Ir was very interesting, meeting with interesting people from throughout the world. The adrenaline was flowing rapidly, so the exhaustion was dealt with when the five days were over. It was lots of fun.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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