Grant Hunt – An outstanding contribution to Australian tourism and hospitality

Grant Hunt
Grant Hunt

Grant Hunt, one of the leaders of Australian tourism over the past 20 years, has announced his retirement.  Grant’s passion for tourism and Australian tourism in particular comes as no surprise, we spoke with Grant recently and it was unusual to note his heartfelt and humble appreciation to the industry for the opportunities he was provided with throughout his career.

Having grown up in Dubbo, a country town in New South Wales, Australia, Grant’s career began with a degree in Physical Education and Health from Wollongong University, South of Sydney.

Grant displayed an enthusiasm for ‘having a crack’ at any opportunity that passed his way and this found him moving through roles in local government leisure centres, where his entrepreneurial spirit stood out, not least of all to Christopher Skase.

Grant moved to the Gold Coast in 1988 to work for Skase on the development of the Mirage Resorts, and this was the beginning of his career in tourism and hospitality.  Grant spent a year in North Borneo before returning to Australia where he accepted a role with the Ayers Rock Resort Company, under the leadership of Wayne Kirkpatrick, who became a significant role model to Grant.

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 At the helm of Voyages

During Grant’s 10 years as CEO and Managing Director, Grant was instrumental in the acquisition of Alice Springs and King’s Canyon, before General Property Trust purchased the company and change the name to Voyages in 2000.  Under Grant’s leadership, Voyages significantly expanded and upgraded Ayers Rock Resort, acquired Odyssey Tours and Safaris, Coconut Beach Rainforest Lodge and Ferntree Rainforest Lodge. In 2004, Voyages acquired P&O Australian Resorts, and opened Wrotham Park Lodge and acquired El Questro Homestead in 2005.

Developing Longitude 131 and Qualia

During his tenure at Voyages, Grant conceived and developed the award winning Longitude 131 at Uluru. In 2006 Grant left Voyages and established a consulting firm, to assist companies to develop luxury, environmentally-conscious resorts, including Qualia on Hamilton Island as well as assisting Marilynne Paspaley with various tourism developments.

In 2008, Grant founded Anthology – the travellers’ collection, to allowed him to fulfill his personal vision. Anthology was developed with a vision to provide guests with an opportunity to ‘ímmerse themselves in nature and heritage in rare and interesting locations’.

Having acquired property in the remote Top End of Australia while CEO of Voyages with a vision to create a sister property to the prestigious Longitude 131, Grant’s vision became a reality with the development of Wildman Wilderness Lodge in 2011 for IBA.  Subsequently, Anthology was awarded the management contract for the Lodge.

We spoke with Grant and asked him some questions about his long and illustrious career in hospitality.

Who have been your mentors throughout your career?

Rick Allert has been an inspiration throughout my career, particularly during our time together at Ayers Rock Resort and Voyages as well as on the board of Tourism Australia. I also learned to be financially disciplined through several large acquisitions as well as the process of taking Ayers Rock Resort through a parallel trade sale and public offering in 1997.  Wayne Kirkpatrick also played a significant role, encouraging me to focus on the Big Picture, daring to believe and the need to make brave decisions.

What advice would you provide to future leaders?

Australia is not a cheap place to operate or visit – therefore we have to be very good at what we do and offer value for money as opposed to a cheap holiday. We  need to be creative and innovative.  We need to stop copying others and embrace our own heritage, environment and culture.  The industry has given me so much that I am grateful for.  Remote areas, with high costs and difficult logistics provide challenging conditions, however I am proud of the people, places and destinations I have been associated with and grateful to the industry for the opportunities afforded to me.

Still providing a wealth of experience

While Grant has announced his retirement as a full time member of the workforce, he will continue to perform various Non-Executive Director Board roles, no doubt continuing to provide a wealth of invaluable knowledge and experience to the Australian tourism industry.

Grant has been instrumental in the development of a number of community initiatives, particularly supporting indigenous Australians.   In 2004, Grant also established the Mutujulu Foundation to benefit the local Aboriginal community at the base of Uluru.

Ín 2006 Grant was named one of Travel+Leisure magazine’s Top Tourism Innovators and in 2012 the Australian tourism industry bestowed one of it’s highest honours on Grant – an award for Outstanding Contribution by an Individual. In 2012 he was inducted into the HM Awards Hall of Fame.

In addition to Grant’s role on the board of Tourism Australia, Grant has also served as Director for the Australian Tourism Export Council, Chairman of Tourism Northern Territory Advisory Board, Member – CSIRO/Department of Climate Change Stakeholder Group, Chairman of the Commonwealth Iconic Sites Taskforce and Chairman of Tourism Tasmania. He is currently a non-executive director at Discovery Holiday Parks.

 

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