Asher and Julie Telford, owners of Red Cat Adventures, with their three sons.
Asher and Julie Telford, owners of Red Cat Adventures, with their three sons.

Tourism operator forced to stand down staff and boats

WE all know how quickly things are changing at the moment but, for one family, things have changed at a lightning pace.

Just four weeks ago, Julie and Asher Telford were getting ready to attend the Qantas Australian Tourism Awards, where they won a gold and silver award for their business Red Cat Adventures.

Now, they have no business – it has been shut down due to the coronavirus restrictions on travelling, and thus visitors, with 29 of the 32 staff having been stood down and their four vessels sidelined.

But far from letting it destroy them, the couple is taking the opportunity to carry out maintenance work on its mainland resort and they are looking forward to when it is all over and they can go back to ‘normal’.

“It’s a tough gig going from No.1 Major Tour and Transport Operator in Australia, to having limited staff and tied-up boats,” Mrs Telford said.

“The business has been stood down and we have needed to let the majority of our staff go, due to lack of passengers and income.

“We have unfortunately laid off 29 amazing staff members that we would have loved to have kept working for Red Cat Adventures.

“We still have three full-time staff, who are making sure things are ticking along and preparing for when we can relaunch. This includes reservations, operations and accounts.

“Everyone has been extremely understanding, patient and kind. We’ve made sure we do the right thing by our staff, customers and agents.

“In times like these, it’s really important to do the right thing for the integrity and reputation of the business. We also want travellers to visit the Whitsundays when it is safe to do so.”

Red Cat Adventures is taking forward-bookings – “just in case we are able to depart and the travellers that remain in Australia begin to move again” – and has relaxed its booking terms and conditions, so refunds are possible.

The company’s mainland resort, Paradise Cove, is closed until June 1, 2020.

“We’re taking the opportunity to project-manage large maintenance jobs and give her a much-needed spring clean,” Mrs Telford said.

“The resort runs seven days each week and it’s hard to schedule maintenance when guests are there.”

In the meantime, the couple are taking a break and going sailing with their three sons on one of their own boats.

“We’re taking some time out with our beautiful boys and going sailing on Tongarra,” Mrs Telford said.

“This is the first boat we bought, on April 1, 2011 - it’s our nine-year anniversary and we thought it would be nice to celebrate on board. When we get back, we will both be back into work and strategically getting prepared for when our boats can depart again.”