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  • Tamara Sheward

    TropicNow writer

    Email Tamara Sheward

    Industry identities pay homage to TNQ tourism trailblazer


    Tributes are flooding in for one of the pioneers of TNQ tourism Denis Ferguson, who passed away on the weekend after a long battle with cancer.

    The tourism identity, mentor and community benefactor was the co-founder and Executive Director of Destination Cairns Marketing (DCM).

    Founded in 1986 by Mr Ferguson and Denis Donaghy, the family-owned-and-operated DCM is believed to be the first major tour desk network in Cairns.

    Originally established to provide international visitors with local, expert connections on the ground, DCM today operates a network of more than 100 tour desks and information centres throughout TNQ, servicing clients from pre-trip research to the time they fly home.

    As a Trans-Australia Airlines (TAA) manager and marketing manager for Air Queensland, Mr Ferguson organised some of the earliest promotional trips to boost visitation to TNQ.

    In conjunction with Thomas Cook, Mr Ferguson organised the ground handling for the first wave of Japanese tour groups coming to the region via Port Moresby, in the days before the opening of the Cairns International Airport or direct flights from Japan.

    AN INSPIRATION TO MANY

    Mr Ferguson’s longtime friend and business partner, DCM director Denis Donaghy, said he was an inspiration to those in the tourism industry. Scroll down to read Denis' tribute in full below.

    The two, who met when Mr Ferguson arrived in 1978 at TAA, worked together for decades on iconic tourism projects including the initial marketing of the Tjapukai Dance Theatre, Skyrail, Coral Princes Cruises, Down Under Tours, The Kuranda Commentary Train, and Dundees Restaurant.

    “Denis had a vision for what the tourism industry could achieve in Cairns and quietly stuck to the plan through good times and bad,” Mr Donaghy told TropicNow

    “Like many in the industry he survived the Pilot’s Strike, the SARS issue, the Asian and Japanese economic meltdowns, Cyclones Larry and Yasi and more recently the GFC, as well as many other trials and tribulations along the way.

    “He faced those trials and tribulations as he did his three fights with cancer, never conceding an inch when he could gain one.”

    "ONE OF THE IMMORTALS"

    Chair of Tablelands Tourism and long-time tourism operator Michael Trout said Mr Ferguson had “left behind a wonderful legacy”.

    “He was one of the immortals, one of the originals, a pioneer of tourism in our town,” he said.

    “While others came, made their money and left, he was the man that stayed.

    “He knew the industry inside and out, and he was way ahead of his time.

    “Everyone in the tourism industry knew they could rely on him, and we’re all absolutely devastated.”

    Tourism consultant Ron Livingston, who first met Mr Ferguson in 1991, said he’d lost “a good mate”.

    “He and Denis Donaghy were so important to my entry into tourism circles in this town,” Mr Livingston said.

    “Ferg became a friend, as did his family.

    “Advice, laughter, a long lunch or seven, golf both here and away in Yarrawonga are just a few things that are part of so many memories I have.

    “A go-to bloke has gone from my life and the lives of many.”


    DENIS DONAGHY: MY TRIBUTE TO FERG

    Denis’ family and mine have been business partners since 1989, and I worked with Denis from the day of his arrival in 1978 at TAA, again at Air Queensland, and again when he and Peter Miller bought the North Queensland Thrifty Car Rental franchise.

    We worked together on the initial marketing of the Tjapukai Dance Theatre and the early days of Skyrail when Gordon McKauge was at the helm, also with Coral Princes Cruises, Down Under Tours, The Kuranda Commentary Train, and Dundees Restaurant.

    As TAA manger and Marketing Manager for Air Qld, Denis assisted many in the industry with promotional trips to help grow visitation to Cairns and the region. In conjunction with Thomas Cook, Denis organised the ground handling for the first wave of Japanese groups to visit coming in via Port Moresby before the opening of the new International Airport and before direct flights from Japan.

    Denis had a vision for what the tourism industry could achieve in Cairns and quietly stuck to the plan through good times and bad. Like many in the industry he survived the pilot’s strike,the SARS issue, the Asian and Japanese economic meltdowns, Cyclones Larry and Yasi, and more recently the GFC, as well as many other trials and tribulations along the way.

    He faced those trials and tribulations as he did his three fights with Cancer, never conceding an inch when he could gain one. I heard one of his last conversations when he was letting his mates know his third battle was about to begin.

    He said “Mate, the bell has gone for round 3, and I am coming out fighting."

    Unfortunately the big C got him in a TKO in round 3….the Ultimate Referee called time…but the towel was never thrown in.

    May our mate rest in peace, and be a source of inspiration for those that follow in the industry.