It’s been 21 years since the Chapman family launched Skyrail, which has turned out to be one of the most visited attractions in all of Queensland.
George Chapman, an entrepreneur by nature, launched the venture with a group of investors. He was last man standing after his original investors decided not to proceed.
He stuck with the project because he always knew it was a good idea, but it came with huge challenges.
“We’d spent a million dollars without even being sure the development would be approved,” he says. “We could never have forecast how strongly environmental groups would have opposed it.”
Reaching for the sky
From the moment the project was conceived in 1987 to the day it welcomed the first passengers on board in 1995, the Chapmans faced intense pressure from environmentalists who believed the cable car development would destroy precious rainforest.
But the Chapmans were extremely careful to protect the environment. They brought in the cable towers and built a station at Red Peak by helicopter. They did not clear land apart from small areas for each tower, which were later revegetated using plants propagated from seeds collected at each site.
They knew the moment they opened the doors on that first day that they had been right to stick with the idea.
“We expected business to grow gradually but as it happened, we were busy from day one. We had to double our staffing numbers within weeks and we worked until midnight every day for months,” George says.
Only up from here
The $35 million cableway opened to the public on August 31, 1995 with 47 gondolas. Less than two years later, the Chapmans had invested another $2.5 million to increase the number of gondolas to 114, enabling it to carry over 600 passengers an hour in each direction. More recently, Skyrail launched 11 Diamond View glass floor gondolas, and the Canopy Glider, an open-air gondola.
Many of those who originally protested at the site have gone on to acknowledge it as a world leader in environmental tourism. In 2012, Skyrail was the first tourism attraction in the world to receive Platinum Earth Check Accreditation.
“World Heritage Listing means you have to preserve, protect and present,” George says. “Sharing this place with the world is an important part of upholding the aims of the World Heritage Listing. We’ve always known we have to do that with the least possible impact, and there just is no better way than a cableway.”
Whatever your business venture may be, the key to success may be to take some risk where appropriate, and persevere through the tough times.
As the family reflects on more than 20 years of Skyrail, George credits its success to their unwavering resolve.
“I always say that persistence and determination are omnipotent.”
To find out more about how we can help your regional business persevere and succeed, visit our website or call us on 1300 772 968 to discuss how we can work with your business.