EARLY DAYS: Porter’s Travel, founded by the late Bob Porter, helped drive tourism in the Whitsundays for decades.
EARLY DAYS: Porter’s Travel, founded by the late Bob Porter, helped drive tourism in the Whitsundays for decades.

Tourism pioneer honoured at awards

A TRIBUTE to Whitsundays tourism stalwart, the late Bob Porter, was one of the highlights of the tourism awards on Saturday night.

The tribute was presented by Mr Porter's long-time friend and former Whitsunday mayor Mario Demartini.

Mr Porter was a pioneer for tourism in the Whitsundays and is arguably one of the greatest contributors to tourism and development in the Whitsundays.

His contribution was, and is still evidenced in many ways through his development, marketing and vision. His life in the Whitsundays started when parents George and Thelma Porter, along with sister Lane, arrived in 1947 and bought a newsagency in Proserpine.

Later, the business expanded to include a tourist agency and local agent for T.A.A, known as Porters Travel.

During that time, the Proserpine Airport, which had opened in 1951, operated a daily DC3 service between Brisbane and Proserpine.

Porters Travel were the local travel agency that drove the success of the inaugural flights into the Whitsunday region and maintained that daily service.

Mr Porter's increasing interest in tourism resulted in expanding the Proserpine travel and jewellery business to a larger store and selling off the newsagency section.

The Porter family became very involved in the establishment of the port at Shute Harbour.

After the construction of the terminal in 1967, the family obtained the first lease and built the first kiosk on the jetty, called Porters Travel and Information Centre.

They sold cruise tickets, island bookings and souvenirs.

By 1968, Porters were also the T.A.A. agents for the Shute Harbour Airport, understanding the value of commencing regional tourism by feeder planes carrying passengers to and from Mackay and Townsville.

In 1970, a turning point for tourism in the Whitsundays, Bob and the Porter family built the first tourist resort on the mainland - known as the Whitsunday Village Resort.

It was a 150 bed accommodation tropical lifestyle village, and remains prominent on the Airlie Beach landscape and is now known as Magnums.

Bob was the driver behind and instrumental in having the cruise ship industry call in at the Whitsundays, anchoring in Cid Harbour.

He arranged for local tourist operators to take boats and guests on day trips to the outer reef and local islands.

Ten years later there were 25 ships and in 2013 this has increased to 43 ships with 42,000 passengers choosing to visit our shores.

The Airlie Beach Fun Race commenced in 1976 out of a friendly duel between Bob Porter and the Southwood family.

The following year their boats Dahlia and Torres Herald resumed their rivalry and a few more boats also entered the race.

To add interest the Torres Herald fixed a locally carved wooden female figure to the front of their boat while Bob, having no time to do likewise, decided to use a live figurehead on the Dahlia and so the fun race was born.

With the expansion of the tourist industry Bob and the Porter Family bought land in Golden Orchard Drive and built five terraced buildings consisting of 62 units.

A grand scale restaurant, two pools, disco and gym all with great views was magic for its time and the Whitsunday Terraces Resort was officially opened in December 1982.

As time went on Bob relocated to Brisbane where he operated Porters Travel, still continuing to promote the Whitsundays.

The Whitsunday region is indebted to Bob and his family for his many achievements during the 70's and 80's.

He was a true pioneering legend and the Queensland tourism industry lost one of its most passionate Whitsunday supporters with his passing in 2007.


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