Happy wanderers

Sunshine Coast couple's travel service for seniors back on the road.

Norfolk Island is Di Sinclair’s “happy place”.

It’s a combination of the laid-back lifestyle, the island’s history and the friendliness of the locals.

She loves it so much that she takes groups of between eight and 20 people to the speck in the Pacific Ocean, about 1500km east of Brisbane, every year to share the experience.

Mrs Sinclair and her husband Peter run a travel business, Sinclair Tour And Travel, from their Glenview home on the Sunshine Coast.

They specialise in taking groups of seniors on guided tours that range from day trips around south-east Queensland to extended overseas holidays.

Their target market is the 60-plus age group with their oldest customer a 94-year-old who joined them on a trip to Lord Howe Island last year.

Sunset on Norfolk Island

They began their unique lifestyle 15 years ago when Mrs Sinclair came across an opportunity she could not refuse.

“I was working as a business broker when this business came up for sale,” Mrs Sinclair said.

“I said, ‘Stop, don’t show this to anyone’– I bought it and quit work and we’ve been travelling ever since. We’ve got the bug.

“We love what we do. It’s work, but it’s a holiday as well. It’s generally relaxing and you don’t often have any problems.”

The RACQ members now have four buses – the biggest being a 21-seater and all are fitted with comfortable coach seating – which they use to take their loyal customer base on small-group tours.

Sinclairs tour group on Lord Howe Island

“We take local seniors from the Sunshine Coast away on holidays – from day trips to the theatre and to see shows, to trips all over Australia and all over the world,” Mrs Sinclair said.

“We hold their hand all the way.”

The Sinclairs choose the destinations and make the travel arrangements themselves.

“My husband plans it all, I price it up, we advertise it and then off we go,” Mrs Sinclair said.

The secret to the Sinclairs’ success has been the relationships they have built with their loyal customers over 15 years.

Many come back time and again. Mrs Sinclair said their annual Christmas trip generally saw three-quarters of the total group returning year after year.  

Tangalooma Island

The small size of the tour groups adds to the experience.

“We like to keep it in the 20s, which is a good manageable group and much more personal,” Mrs Sinclair said.

“We would never like to treat our customers like a number. By morning tea on the first day we know everybody.”

Like all tourism operators across Queensland, the Sinclairs were hit hard by the impacts of COVID-19.

“We went from being a successful business one day to zero, overnight,” Mrs Sinclair said.

Sydney Vivid Festival

“We did not work from 12 March and the only calls we were getting were for cancellations and refunds.”

By early June things were looking better and although there was still some trepidation among their customers, the Sinclairs are back in business.

A trip to Africa with a group of 11 planned for this year had to be cancelled but trips around Queensland and other parts of Australia are back on the calendar.

“Most people were desperate to get out of the house, but some were still quite nervous,” Mrs Sinclair said.

“We are saying, ‘We have looked after you for 15 years and we will keep looking after you’.”

Mystery tours

The Sinclair’s visit destinations as varied as King Island in the Bass Strait to Thursday Island in the Torres Strait.

But one of the most popular attractions for their customers are the twice-yearly “mystery tours”.

“The people don’t have a clue where they are going,” Mrs Sinclair said.

“We pick them up, drive them to an airport – Brisbane or Maroochydore – and until they check in at the counter and get their boarding pass, they don’t know where they are going.”

Mrs Sinclair said the tours reflected the adventurous spirit of their clientele.

Top picks

Di Sinclair’s favourite destinations:

  1. Norfolk Island
  2. Torres Strait (Thursday Island)
  3. O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat
  4. Vivid Sydney festival
  5. Tangalooma Island