Milestone for Qld operator

Queensland operator celebrates a milestone with 30 years in the bus and coach industry

Milestone for Qld operator
Sunstate Charters assistant logistics manager Darren Rochford, logistics manager Kyall Schubert and general manager Lisa Ritchie

Queensland tour and charter operator Sunstate Charters celebrated 30 years in business recently.

The organisation celebrated its 30 year anniversary in November last year and, although the team did take a moment to reflect on the strides made over the past three decades - they have their sights firmly set on the future.

From humble beginnings in the 1980s, what started out as a three vehicle operation now has a fleet of 20 and the organisation has invested in newer vehicles with a view to increasing the focus on charter work over the last few years.

While there have been highs and lows on the journey, the future looks bright with the upswing in domestic tourism and the announcement of a new cruise ship terminal likely to lead to more work, as land excursions for cruise ship passengers is one the key services Sunstate Charters provide.

The organisation has a rich history dating back to Carah Coaches and one of Sunstate Coaches founders, the late Gordon MacNicol, an early Australian bus industry pioneer and entrepreneur.

Former Sunstate Charters driver Malcolm Hose says it was a modest sized company when he first joined as a driver, shortly after moving to Brisbane from Victoria in 1987.

"I spent 24 years as a charter tours driver for Trans Otway Travel in Geelong, before we decided to come up to Queensland," he says.

"Sunstate Charters was already running at that time and Fred Carah was running it at that stage."

Fred was also one of four directors of Carah Coaches in Sydney and the original founder of Sunstate Coaches.

Fred retired from Sunstate Coaches in 2000, leaving Gordon as the sole director.

Sadly, Gordon MacNicol passed away in January 2014, leaving his daughters Deborah MacNicol and Sandra Ainsley as the organisation’s current directors.

"Sunstate had a fleet of three and were doing a lot of day tours, mostly to the Gold and Sunshine Coast in the late 1980s," Hose says.

"We were also doing a bit of work around Toowoomba and charter work all around Queensland really.

"We didn’t even really have a depot as such, but more just a place we kept the buses in Milton back then."

The organisation moved its operation to Eagle Farm in 1990 and that’s where the fleet really started to expand.

"We had about six drivers in the early 1990s and most of the work we did was airport pickups and taking them to see the Brisbane city sights," Hose says.

"Then over the next two to three days we would take them to see the sights on the Gold Coast and to Sea World and Dream World."

Hose purchased his own 32-seat coach in 1996, and continued to do the odd job for Sunstate Charters and other bus operators on a causal basis as an owner-driver.

Around this time the organisation moved from having a team of full-time drivers, to using a team of owner-drivers it would sub-contract work out to.

At one point in the late 1990s it had about 10 owner-drivers it would call on, but as the amount of steady work increased, Sunstate Charters moved back to the more traditional model of employing full-time drivers.

After 2000, the organisation moved to a larger depot in Ascot, near the Doomben Racecourse.

Although this depot gave staff a bit more room to move, after just a few years more space was needed and the organisation moved into its current Eagle Farm premises in 2005, where its head office operates out of to this day.

The growing Queensland tourism market has given Sunstate Charters a lot of hope going forward, as it continues to cater to many growing markets.

While the ‘30 year’ milestone served as a chance to reflect on what has been, more importantly is what might be in another 30 years down the track, is now Sunstate Charters main focus. 

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