A copy of an article written for Scania about TERRY’S TOURSTravel agent, host, entertainer, guide, chief cook & bottle washer, problem solver, cleaner, fountain of knowledge, medico. It takes a special person to be a tour coach driver and Terry Sullivan owner of Terry’s Tours is just that. Buses have been Terry’s career all his working life since moving to Tweed Heads on the NSW Queensland border at age 19. Meeting Lynne, who was an apprentice Hairdresser. Soon after and they married at the young age of 18 and 21, starting a family and eventually buying there first home. Which they are still in today and that is where they run the Office from. As Lynne says, ‘I live in an Office not a Home’.
Terry started cleaning coaches at the Surfside and Greyhound Bus Depot in Tweed Heads at age 19 and by 21 he got his Bus Licence and was behind the wheel, driving one of the fleet of buses on service runs up and down the Gold Coast for years and then onto the regular Greyhound services from Gold Coast to Brisbane.
After many years driving the ‘hound he joined Deluxe Coaches, this gave him the experience of Long Distant driving but after a few years away from a young family he then followed that with a stint at a division of the Tweed Bus Company known as Coastliner Tours, where his tour coach driving career began. His first trip was from Brisbane to Cairns. He gained experience and a huge knowledge of Australia and became their number one driver.
Coastliner Tours sold up in 1997 and after safely carrying thousands of passengers and covering hundreds of thousands of kilometres over many years, his brother-in-law suggested Terry buy his own coach, reasoning that he’d spent his life doing all the work for someone else, so why not do it for yourself. From very humble beginnings, a note pad & pen on their kitchen bench, a few ads in local papers, Terry’s Tours began. Not even a computer in site. Lynne, not only a Hairdresser became a Secretary! It was a tough transition as neither had any experience in running a business.
Terry’s main asset was his huge following of local people, so it didn’t take long for the word to get around. They registered the Business name in January 1998 and did their first Day Tour on 10th February 1998. They had to hire a Coach for a few months before purchasing the old Scania Coach. This did its job but was getting a little tied so then in 1999 had there first Scania Coach built. This was with P & D Coaches in Murwillumbah. This served them very well for a few years. However, with the clientele they were attracting it wasn’t up to scratch, so they then went to Scania and then Coach Design in Brisbane to order the second new coach and they have both looked after me since. Terry made the decision to replace his coaches every three to three and half years and is now on his seventh. Including that first ‘old girl’.
Not all his coaches have been Scania, having once bought a Mercedes but when an issue arose after 14 months of ownership and he was dissatisfied with their lack of customer service, he sold it and has never looked at one since. Also, one of his Scania Coaches was an Irizar but Terry soon went back to Coach Design as he liked the input in to designing the Coach the way he wanted it. Terry came back to Scania adding, “I’ve never had a problem with Scania and the same goes for Coach Design. I am a very loyal person provided I get looked after and both have done a good job for me.” What sets Terry’s Tours apart from other operators, apart from his superb bronze Scania coach is their unique service. Catering to retirees, on the Tweed and Gold Coast, Terry’s Tours provides a door-to-door inclusive price tours on all his extended tours. They have been lucky not to have to rely on tourism what so ever as it is so unpredictable.
Using two or three small buses Terry collects each guest as Terry calls them, (not passenger) from their home to meet up with the coach and at the end of the tour the small bus takes them back home. “It’s all part of the Terry’s Tours experience, just like only needing money for a postcard, as breakfast, lunch, dinner, morning and afternoon teas are all included in the price of the tour. The people I carry have got lovely homes you want to travel in style, stay in four and five-star motels and travel in something like my coach”, Terry says. “That’s the difference we provide, and our loyal travellers appreciate it.”
According to Terry the most enjoyable part of the job are the people he meets. “Having someone say, ‘I remember when we went to Cairns or went across to Darwin’, “it’s nice to think that of all the things they’ve done, they remember something they have done with me. It makes my job very worthwhile and makes life very special.”
While Terry’s wheel tracks can be found in most roads in Australia, some rough outback ones like the Strzelecki Track are not for him, as he doesn’t want to ruin his three quarter of a million-dollar coach. “Two weeks ago, I was in Cradle Mountain in Tasmania in the snow and last week I was in Longreach and it was 35 degrees. This job takes me everywhere. It’s wonderful.”
Having seen so much of this vast island some of Terry’s favourite destinations include Perth and Darwin where travelling through the centre of the country there is so much to see and the Gulf of Carpentaria at the top of Australia. “I also love Tasmania” he says. “Tasmania is a wonderful destination you can drive all the way around it. We go over on the Spirit of Tasmania which adds a bit of fun to the trip.” There would be very few places he hasn’t been too on his travels and never gets sick of visiting the same places over and over.
There is little downtime for Terry and his team with Brochures sent out three times a year to there over 1500 members of their Touring Club. His team lead by Lynne (who has retired from Hairdressing after 35 Years) do all their own bookings, confirmations, research and writing of all the tours, from day tours around the local area to extended tour from 3 days to up to 4 weeks. Their year usually kicks off with a trip to Sydney for Australia Day with an all-inclusive Harbour Lunch Cruise. From then it is just full on crazy for the rest of the year.
February 10 is Terry’s birthday so each year he takes 50 people away. “If I stay home I have to give the kids money to buy me a present but if I take 50 people away they’ll buy me a present,” he laughs. Terry also runs trips to Brisbane with little mini-getaways to see a theatre show, have dinner and stay overnight before heading home the next day.
A tight-knit team of long term employees, Terry credits his wife Lynne with keeping the business together. “I’ve got the easy bit, driving the coach and I guess being the face of the business, but if it wasn’t for Lynne, we wouldn’t be where we are today.” Lynne’s sister, Susan, has worked in the business for the whole 20 years. Well it was her husband Lindsay who started the whole idea. Sue is the one who keeps Lynne sain, as she quits on a regular basis and of course Terry ignores her. Not forgetting Cheryl, who recently retired and was with them for 14 years. New to the team is Nikki who co-ordinates the extended tours and has the knowledge of a younger generation so they are looking forward to her expertise.
Another long termer for Terry is Scania, who has been with him since he started the business. His first Scania coach came about as a result of it being available, but before acquiring it he asked around and heard nothing but good things, so he bought it. “Scania has been with me all the way and they are a beautiful product. Having the other coach for a period reinforced not only the Scania brand but the excellent customer service they provide, which is why I have had them ever since,” say Terry.
His newest coach, a 50-seater, was delivered early February 2018, just in time for his birthday tour. Inside it’s more like a luxury aircraft and features super comfortable leather reclining seats, overhead lockers and drop-down TV screens. A year of touring racks up between 80-100,000 kilometres and Terry took advantage of the Scania Maintenance Program with his coach serviced by Scania at Pinkenba in Brisbane. Terry declares the staff are fantastic, very helpful and knowledgeable. “They do a great job and it’s the little things that I appreciate, like putting down floor coverings so they don’t dirty or mark the carpet. You can tell they really care about their customers.” Terry believes that maintenance is better than repairing the coach and is a stickler when it comes to servicing the coach and keeping it in pristine condition. “If it’s going to go wrong it’s going to happen in the middle of nowhere so I do everything I can to prevent that,” adds Terry.
Having been a long time Scania owner Terry claims the best thing about his coach is the magnificent way it drives, making touring a real pleasure. But he points out that his passengers are the most important judges and they tell him that riding in his coach is like sitting in a lounge chair going down the highway. Terry adds his coach is more like a luxury car to drive than a 50-seat coach. “When I drive into a town the coach turns heads because it just looks fabulous and is something special. Even my guests sometimes tell me about all the people looking at the coach, which makes me very proud.” Terry says that people often take photos of the coach and anyone with the name Terry love having their photo taken with it.
“The performance is terrific with the 480-horsepower turbo diesel makes for effortless cruising even when we are full of guests, luggage and fuel, which takes us to around 21 tonnes.”
But looks and comments aside Terry’s Tours is a business and has to make money and the Scania has never cost him more than he has estimated in diesel, consumables and maintenance. “I’ve never had any major problems with a Scania and I don’t skimp on anything, says Terry The fuel consumption is excellent. The only downside is that we have to carry about 80 litres of Ad-blue because, regardless of what people say, it isn’t available everywhere. I get it from my local station for a dollar a litre out of the pump. If I had to buy by the bottle it would cost me $27 for 10 litres, so I carry the extra weight, having saved on the cost of Ad Blue.” In addition to the Scania Maintenance Program, he also availed himself of the driver training program, that he calls an ‘Education program’ and found it beneficial even with 45 years of experience under his belt. “The instructor came to see me and the first thing he said was I have more experience than he did, which we laughed about. “However I did learn a lot about all new technology in the coach, how it works and how it benefits you as a driver. It’s more driver education than training and I think it’s a good thing to do, especially for inexperienced drivers or those moving into a Scania for the first time.”
Lynne has said, “this is the last Coach”, but she has said that about the last three!! We will just have to see…