Paul Donovan AM

Gold Coast tourism industry icon Paul Donovan has been inducted into the Gold Coast Business Hall of Fame.

Mr Donovan, who has held senior positions at Gold Coast airport since 2005 and was chairman of Destination Gold Coast for 17 years, was honoured for his business contribution to the city at the Gold Coast Business Excellence Awards gala held at The Star on Saturday 19th November.

More than 650 of the city’s business and political figures were on hand to give Mr Donovan a standing ovation as he accepted the award.

In his role at Gold Coast Airport he has been involved with buying Qantas’ half of the original terminal, completing the first upgrade of the terminal, extending the runway, enhancing the general aviation area, and building up the support infrastructure. He and his teams attracted international airlines including Scoot, Air Asia, JeJu, additional Japanese flights with Jetstar International, Air New Zealand and encouraged Qantas to return to the Gold Coast. He was involved in getting the first direct service with China Southern to the Gold Coast and, one he says he wants to forget, was the direct flight from Wuhan to the Gold Coast, which stopped before the Covid-19 outbreak.

During his 17 years as chairman of Destination Gold Coast he spearheaded an organisation that was the driving force behind a big portion of the Gold Coast’s economy.

Mr Donovan led the city’s tourism industry through two years of the COVID-19 pandemic. Mr Donovan said COVID-19 nearly broke him.

The Gold Coast tourism industry went from having 14.2 million annual visitors and contributing $5.9 billion to the economy to the absolute depths of despair. For 45 consecutive days, the Gold Coast Airport had zero flights.

It was during the darkest days of the pandemic that Paul met with the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Simon Birmingham and urged the government to find a way to fund businesses to pay employees. That discussion, according to senior government representatives, led to the Federal Government’s JobKeeper package.

Mr Donovan has now stepped down from his role at Destination Gold Coast but is still employed by Queensland Airports as its general manager of business relationships.

He is still chairman of the Sanctuary Cove Body Corporate and the chairman of Events Management Queensland, which runs the Gold Coast Marathon and the Pan Pacific Games.

Mr Donovan has also served on the board of the Gold Coast Titans and is now patron of the Titans. He helps the not-for-profit organisation Men Of Business, is an ambassador for the CEO Sleepout and is Adjunct Professor at Griffith University at the school of tourism. He also served on the Tourism and Events Queensland board for six years.

As for the secrets of his success, Mr Donovan believes the harder he works, the luckier he gets. But his success comes down to several things.

1.      He believes in caring about people and managing relationships. He says creating and maintaining relationships represents more than half of the effort needed for getting the deals done. Paul says you should focus on relationships that create value for the company and not for you.

2.      Take the time to think strategically.

3.      Be Very dogmatic ... never give up. Don’t take no for an answer.

4.      Integrity and Honesty.

5.      Never use the word “I”, instead talk about “we” or “us”.

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