When Julie Telford first stepped aboard the sailing catamaran ‘Tongarra’ as a young British backpacker in 2005, little did she know how far that step would lead.
She had no idea she would eventually marry the skipper and that together they would buy the boat they fell in love on, develop a multi-award-winning business encompassing a fleet of vessels and an exclusive Whitsundays resort, and ultimately win an Australian Tourism Award.
Walking away with Gold in the Major Tour and Transport Operators category at the 2018 Qantas Australian Tourism Awards in Tasmania on Friday night, was the crowning glory in Red Cat Adventures’ rollercoaster ride to success.
The family-owned business, run by Asher and Julie Telford and their 24 staff, gives guests the experience of a lifetime around the world-famous Whitsunday islands and at idyllic Paradise Cove Resort.
Day-trippers enjoy exhilarating runs to the fringing reefs and Whitehaven Beach on the high speed yet ultra-stable ‘Thundercat’.
Intrepid travellers take a ‘Ride to Paradise’ on Thundercat’s sister-ship in an all-inclusive resort-stay package that also showcases the Whitsundays’ highlights.
Meanwhile backpackers on a budget can still cast away on a two-day, two-night sailing adventure aboard the mighty ‘Tongarra’, where Asher and Julie’s journey to personal and professional fulfilment began.
Caught up in the magnitude of the moment when the winners were announced on Friday night, Julie almost felt like the cat had got her tongue.
“I always knew that together we were quite dynamic but I never would have thought we’d be standing where we are right now,” she said.
“When we started this journey I couldn’t have imagined winning gold at the Australian Tourism Awards – it was just a pipe dream – but now it’s one of the milestone moments of our lives and the pinnacle of our achievements in an industry we’re passionate about and a region we’re so proud to represent.”
Having a strong, resilient business model, based around complementary products with a broad appeal is one of the attributes Asher credits for the company’s national success.
‘We have a fleet of innovative, custom-built boats and a high standard of operations with a focus on ‘best practice’ in everything we do, from our environmental initiatives to our internal culture of investment in our staff,” he said.
“Our core values revolve around providing outstanding customer service with passion and integrity,” Julie added.
“Our guests arrive seeking fun, adventure, stunning backdrops and a tick on their bucket list, and they leave with lifetime memories, new friends, newfound confidence and a big grin on their face.
Guests have described their time with Red Cat Adventures as: “the highlight of our trip”, “an unforgettable experience”, “one of the best tours of my life” and “a must-do if visiting the Whitsundays”.
For Asher, these accolades and the national trophy that will now adorn the Red Cat Adventures shopfront on the main street of Airlie Beach are recognition for years of sacrifice, determination and sheer hard work.
“It’s also recognition for our awesome staff,” he said.
“They work hard, love their jobs and do the best they possibly can to give people the adventure of a lifetime in a postcard perfect place.”
As well as their staff and three sons – Kai (six), Brody (four), and Tyde (eight months) – Asher and Julie thanked their suppliers, agents, regional and state tourism organisations, and industry peers for their support.
“We have a large network of people we choose to help us run and support Red Cat Adventures, and we wouldn’t be here without all of them,” Asher said.
“We’d also like to acknowledge the other state finalists in our category and congratulate them on their achievements,” Julie added.
Red Cat Adventures’ previous successes include four gold wins at the 2018 Whitsunday Tourism Awards, two at the 2018 Queensland Tourism Awards and a finalist position in the Queensland Telstra Business Awards.
The company was also a finalist in the Adventure Tourism category at the 2018 Qantas Australian Tourism Awards on Friday night.
For more information visit www.redcatadventures.com.au or follow Red Cat Adventures on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.