2016 Speakers

Key Presenters

Marcos Ambrose

Chief Get it Done Officer, Thousand Lakes Lodge

Raised in Launceston, Marcos began racing karts at the age of 10 and won over 10 state karting titles before becoming the Australian karting champion in 1995 and commencing a career that has taken him to the heights of racing in his homeland and the United States as well. Marcos is renowned nationally as a successful Nascar and V8 Supercar racer. Having travelled the globe with his sport, Marcos returned to Australia in 2015 to race the No. 17 Ford FG X Falcon in the V8 Supercars Championship for legendary racing icons Dick Johnson and Roger Penske.

In early 2016, Marcos began working on one of Tasmania’s most exciting new tourism developments, Thousand Lakes Lodge in Tasmania’s Wilderness World Heritage Area in the Central Highlands. Marcos is looking forward to providing insights in to the lessons he has learned as an elite sportsperson and applying that to running a successful tourism business.

Garry Burns

Director of Marketing, Sovereign Hill

Garry Burns is the Director of Marketing for Sovereign Hill, one of Victoria’s key tourist attractions. Since his appointment in 2006, Garry has revitalized the Sovereign Hill tourism brand, successfully reversing declining visitation evident from 2002 – 06. He also established a foundation for future growth to mark the destination’s 40th anniversary in 2010.

More recently he has been influential in developing the Chinese market for Sovereign Hill with the recent opening of a sales office in Shanghai with 4 sales staff A major change in the product deliver at the outdoor museum to cater for the growing Chinese independent travel market is another major initiative by Garry over the last two years. He often resides in Shanghai at certain times of the year.

Prior to joining Sovereign Hill, Garry worked as Marketing Director of the award-winning Phillip Island Nature Park, and was instrumental in the development of the penguin viewing products “Penguin Plus” and Ultimate Penguin Tour” in early 2004.

Jessica Xue

International Sales and Marketing Manager, Sovereign Hill

Currently employed as the International Sales and Marketing Manager for Sovereign Hill in Victoria Australia, Jessica is achieving strong results in growing visitor arrivals for this award winning attraction from Asia, especially China.

China-born Jessica Xue is one of the leading tourism executives in Australia for the China market. She grew up in Shanghai, so has an innate understanding of the culture and relationships which are integral to successful business dealings in China.

Jessica’s industry connections, negotiation skills and travel agency networks are second to none in Australia, and she is highly skilled in developing products and services across all market segments. Her understanding of the China tourism industry and culture, coupled with a very creative mind, has resulted in many successful promotional campaigns in that market.

Born in Shanghai and having studied and worked in Australia as well, Jessica is fluent in Mandarin, Shanghainese and English.

Steve Vallas

Founder, Chunky Media

Owner, Honey Bar and Restaurant

Steve Vallas is a qualified lawyer who moved into property development and hospitality. He is co-founder of the social selling digital agency CHUNKY Media. He also owns HONEY Bar and Restaurant, the home of many successful Entrepreneur Club, Networking and Meet up events.

Fixated with tech start-ups and digital marketing he works to integrate the world of bricks and mortar with vertically integrated online businesses. An early adopter of social channels as a relationship, brand and network building tool, he lives and breathes by the motto “online all of the time”.

Steve’s true passion is building businesses that listen and rely on the social signals and the needs of the user. He is focussed on tailoring options that suit in real time.

The Hon. Will Hodgman MP

Premier of Tasmania

Will was born and educated in Hobart, Tasmania. He graduated in Arts and Law at the University of Tasmania in 1993 and was admitted as a Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Tasmania in 1994. In 1995, Will worked in the United Kingdom with the Wiltshire County Council, prosecuting cases of child abuse and neglect.

In 2002, Will was elected as a Liberal Member for Franklin in the Tasmanian House of Assembly and was appointed Deputy Leader of the Opposition.

In March 2006, Will became Leader of the Liberal Party and the State Opposition. At the 2014 State Election, Will led the Liberal Party to Government, securing the largest majority for any Government since the 25 member Parliament was established in 1998.

Will was sworn in as Tasmania’s forty-fifth Premier on March 31st 2014 and is Minister for Tourism, Hospitality and Events, Sport and Recreation and Aboriginal Affairs. Will serves as a member or patron of numerous sporting and community organisations.

Will is married to Nicky, and they have three children; William, James and Lily.

John Fitzgerald

CEO, Tourism Tasmania

John Fitzgerald is CEO of Tourism Tasmania. He has had an extensive career in senior executive management positions in the tourism industry in Australia, having held positions at national, state and territory, and regional levels. Previous to his current position, John was CEO at Tourism NT.

John has also held the position of Chief Operating Officer at the Sustainable Tourism Cooperative Research Centre (STCRC), where he managed the successful completion of the seven- year STCRC program. Before then, John was CEO at Tourism Sunshine Coast, one of Queensland’s major regional tourism organisations.

John has held numerous board, committee memberships and directorships and is currently a director of the Australian Tourism Data Warehouse and Business Events Tasmania. Former directorships have included the NT Major Events Company, the Darwin Waterfront Corporation, the national Indigenous Tourism Working Group and the Queensland Tourism Industry Council.

John holds a Bachelor of Arts degree and is married with two children.


Dr Anne Hardy

Senior Lecturer

University of Tasmania

Dr. Anne Hardy is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Tasmania and the Director of the Tourism Research and Education Network (TRENd). She is a specialist in tribal marketing,  the drive tourism and recreational vehicle market and issues related to sustainability. Her research has been conducted both in Australia and overseas, including in Canada, the United Kingdom and New Zealand. Anne is particularly interested in collaborative research that forms two way linkages between the university and the broader tourism industry.

Richard Eccleston

Professor of Political Science

University of Tasmania

Richard Eccleston is Professor of Political Science and founding Director of the Institute for the Study of Social Change at the University of Tasmania. He is a specialist in comparative political economy.

Richard takes a keen interest in Tasmanian politics and is a respected commentator on local and national political affairs. He is especially interested in research and strategies that can contribute to a more prosperous and sustainable community.

Tim Parsons

Owner, Curringa Farm

Tim Parsons is a sixth generation Tasmanian farmer and owner of Curringa Farm – a beautiful 750 acre sheep and cropping farm at Hamilton in Tasmania’s Derwent Valley.

In recent years Tim , and his wife Jane, have become significant players in the Tasmanian tourism industry, offering hosted accommodation and farm tours at this beautiful property. The farm tours are extremely popular with visitors from South East Asia, partly as a result of Tim’s extensive travels to Asia over the past eight years. This success has led to Curringa Farm winning State Tourism Awards in 2014 and 2015, and a gold award at the 2015 Australian Tourism Awards.

Curringa Farm’s success has led to a major expansion of the farm this year with five new luxury cottages being built and a new visitors reception centre underway to cope with the growing demand.

Ian Rankine

Chief Executive, Innkeepers

Ian Rankine is Chief Executive of Innkeepers Tasmania, Tasmania’s largest group of individually owned properties around Tasmania.

Ian’s career spans just over 40 years involvement in the Tasmania tourism industry having spent the first ten years working in a range of sales and marketing roles with Tourism Tasmania – as it is now known – in Hobart, Adelaide and Sydney.

Returning to Tasmania in mid 1980’s Ian has held senior marketing roles with Avis Tasmania and subsequently Innkeepers/TasVillas before being appointed to his current role in 2001.

Ian has been an active participant in developing most major international tourism markets and has attended numerous international trade events around the world, and has been involved in SE Asian markets for over 20 years and since 2013 has participated in all three China/Asia Trade Missions with Tourism Tasmania.

Sharon Raguse

Director, Brisbane and Fraser Coast Partnerships, Tourism and Events Queensland

With over 15 years’ experience in the tourism industry Sharon’s depth and breadth of knowledge is extensive. She is a strong advocate for small business operators and has a passion for improving the visitor experience through industry capacity building, innovation and growing partnerships.

Previous appointments include Integrated Resort Management, Visitor Servicing, Tourism Industry Development and Marketing, and Economic Development. A former judge for both State and National Tourism Awards, Sharon has for the past 7 years been Tourism and Events Queensland’s Destination Director and oversees the Brisbane and Fraser Coast region portfolios.

Originally from Melbourne , Sharon and her husband were drawn to Southern Queensland by the irresistible lifestyle it offered. It’s been over 11 years now and she hasn’t looked back.

Lisa Stephenson

Executive Manager, Community and Culture Fraser Coast Regional Council

Lisa worked in the Queensland tourism industry for several decades before stepping into the word of local government and the business of making a community more vibrant and liveable. During her time with Tourism Queensland, she was thrown the challenge of seeing if the “word wide web” could be a useful marketing tool and training travel agents how to use a mouse and the internet to book their client’s holidays (yes, we are talking last century!). These days, she continues to seek new opportunities and thrives on motivating her team and community to be inspired to share their story in creative and engaging ways.

Kathryn Mackenzie

Executive Manager Tourism, City of Greater Bendigo

Kathryn is Executive Manager of Tourism with the City of Greater Bendigo and has been in this role since 2001.  She has responsibility for destination management and the development of tourism across Greater Bendigo, including Visitor Services, Industry Development and Marketing of the region.

Kathryn works closely with her operators and the broader tourism industry to brand and market the destination as a leading regional cultural heritage destination, building a range of  enriched visitor experiences across Greater Bendigo.  One of her first roles was the re-development the Bendigo Visitor Centre located in the former historic post office building – one of the City’s most beautiful buildings.  At the same time, she established the Visitor Centre in nearby Heathcote.  Bendigo has won both the 2010 and 2011 State and National Tourism Awards for Visitor Services.

Kathie Bolitho

Owner, Tough Cookie Marketing

Kathie has spent 20 years working in all areas of the tourism industry – hospitality, restaurants and event management.  Kathie launched Tough Cookie Marketing in 2012.  With a desire to work specifically with small service-based businesses, Kathie regularly liaises with a variety of businesses across hospitality, retail and the events sector.  She has also served on the Food Fossicker Board and is currently a Board member of Bendigo Tourism.

David Gunton

Owner, Hotel Bruny and Bruny Island Cider

Dave has always had hospitality in his blood, carrying his first restaurant plate at aged 14 at Quigley’s in Launceston.  In 1993, Dave worked for the Sheraton Corporation after leaving school but it was not long before he owned his own business.  He ran his first hotel as licensee at the age of 20 and purchased is first hotel in 1999.  Dave’s passion for the tourism sector saw him move to Bruny Island in 2005 where he set up the award winning Explorers Cottages.  He purchased Hotel Bruny in 2011, with the restaurant expanding to a thriving hub for visitors and local community members.

Dave most recently developed Bruny Island Cider, the first and only commercial cider to showcase Bruny Island apples. His Bruny Island Café opened in late July, and he is soon to launch Bruny Island Lodge.

Shannon Wells

Managing Director, Par Avion

Shannon is Managing Director of Tasmanian aviation institution and national award winner, Par Avion. He has a commercial pilot licence and has been flying since 1996.

Holding a Masters of Applied Finance, Shannon left his career in finance seven years ago to return to head up the family business, a role which enables him to share his passion about Southwest Tasmania and the opportunities for tourism in Tasmania.

His entrepreneurship and commitment to progressing Tasmanian tourism was rewarded in 2015 as the winner of Tourism Minister Young Achiever award.

Shannon is married with three children.

Myfanwy Kernke

Owner/Manager, Shene Distillery

Myf and her family began restoring and conserving Shene Estate in 2006. Today, the property is open to the public, offering a variety of experiences from weddings and events, to tastings of their now famous Poltergeist Gin. With a background in event management and creative industries, Myf wears many hats at Shene, including Brand and Marketing Manager for Poltergeist Gin, Event Manager and Tour Guide.

She is also a member of the Narranya board.


Will Barbour

Marketing & Sales Manager – Trade and Digital, RACT Destinations

Will’s previous roles include working in tourism marketing for a Destination Marketing Organisation in the British Columbian Rockies as well as marketing with Tasmanian Air Adventures and Webpire Marketing. Will’s experience includes involvement in promotions, event management, media relations and industry advocacy, digital marketing and sales.

Holding a double degree in Marketing and International Business and Geography and Environmental Studies (Hons), Will is passionate about Tasmania’s tourism industry and excited to bring his knowledge, experience and humour to the 2016 DST Summit!

Tom Wootton

Marketing Consultant, Pumphouse Point

Tom is a Tasmanian-born Marketing Consultant, working across various facets of the Tourism Industry. Despite being a qualified lawyer, he pursued a career in marketing and has since worked in London and Melbourne with some of the biggest brands in the world.

Tom returned home in 2014 with a view to marketing something he feels passionately about: Tasmania.  He has worked with Pumphouse Point, Tourism Industry Council Tasmania, RACT Destinations, Spring Bay Distillery and many more. Tom is also a director on the board of Destination Southern Tasmania and has promised to MC the house down at this year’s DST Summit!

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