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'Service and friendliness': 91yo reflects on 30 years at visitor information centre

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A Sunshine Coast 91-year-old has been recognised and celebrated for his lengthy service at a hinterland tourism hub.

Rodger Thomson has shared his knowledge of the region with people from all over the world as a volunteer at the Glass House Mountains Visitor Information Centre.

When he started in 1994, he had no idea he’d still be “on duty” 30 years later.

“I’m the longest serving and also the eldest,” he said.

“We’ve had a few famous faces come in over the years.

“I remember Bob Katter the politician from up north came in one day. He was going to a meeting and needed directions.

“I said, ‘Hello Bob’, and he said, ‘How did you know it was me?’ He’s very recognisable – and he had his hat on.”

A celebration party was held at the centre this month for Mr Thompson.

He said he loved ‘going to work’ every Wednesday and said technology could not beat ‘face-to-face service’.

“You’re telling them from personal experience,” he said.

“People still like to eyeball you and get some information that’s not on a computer.

“The favourite thing for me is talking with people and hoping that I’ve given them a nice thing to do in the time that they have at their disposal.”

Celebrations for long-serving tourism advocate Roger Thompson.

Mr Thomson said his favourite locations on the Coast are at the “top and bottom”.

“Everyone should go to Noosa and everyone should go to Caloundra, too,” he said.

“They are the nicest places on the coast with the headland, bays, beaches and walks to do.

“Mind you, in between has a lot of nice places, too, and everywhere you go on the Coast has great beaches.”

Tourism is in Mr Thomson’s blood.

He brought to his volunteering role a rich background in tourism (from working for Ansett and the Orient Line, to a shipping agent for P&O Cruises and a travel agent in Melbourne), as well as personal heroics that involved driving a Morris Major all around the UK, and a deep knowledge of the Sunshine Coast through owning and operating a Caloundra coffee shop.

He is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to the landmarks, attractions, stories and history of the Sunshine Coast, including the rich Indigenous and European history of the region, because the visitor centre provides a powerful interpretive history of the impact of European settlement on the local Kabi Kabi people.

Visit Sunshine Coast CEO Matt Stoeckel praised Mr Thomson for his efforts at the centre.

“Volunteers like Rodger Thomson make an enormous contribution to our local economy,” he said.

“You really can’t underestimate the importance of an authentic experience of meeting a local who can share the secret spots as well as simpler but critical information such as advising what time the bus leaves or the opening hours and best directions for a tourism attraction.

“It is this service and friendliness that adds to their overall impression and holiday experience.

“At Visit Sunshine Coast, we refer to our volunteers as ambassadors because they really are the best representatives for the region.

“We truly thank Rodger for his ongoing commitment to ensuring visitors have an enjoyable experience and create special ‘Sunshine Moments’ while they are here.”

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