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Joint managing directors and siblings David and Anthea Hammon. Joint managing directors and siblings David and Anthea Hammon. Featured


How the Hammon dynasty succeeds

By Keiasha Naidoo

AS Australia’s most visited “privately-owned” tourist attraction, the Scenic World in the Blue Mountains is also one of the country’s longest-running family-owned businesses, being owned and operated by the same family since it was established 70 years ago.

The business was establish by Harry Hammon in 1945. Harry and his sister, Isobel Fahey, bought the lease of the Katoomba Colliery LTD which in 1945 was operating a working coal and shale mine at Katoomba, and supplemented the mining income by carrying passengers on weekends and public holidays.

Harry’s grandson, David, is the current joint managing director and he says it was his grandfather’s quick thinking that led to the establishment of the family business.

“He was always an entrepreneur - running a small transport company and was the local electrician. Three soldiers came in on a weekday to ride the railway down the mountain and he told them it was only open on weekends. He immediately saw an opportunity and got the lease.”

Harry ran the business for 50 years, handing it over to his son, Phil in 1995, and since 2011 Scenic World is now under the helm of two of Phil’s five children - the brother and sister team of David and Anthea who work as joint managing directors.

In the last 14 years the Hammon family has spent more than $75 million to develop the attraction as one of the top tourist attractions and an enviable family-operated business. With Phil still on the board, the Hammon family has set up structures in place to manage the business with the right leaders in place, and the family business ethos at the core of their management.

The joint managing directors are both experts in their own fields, Anthea is a mechanical engineer and David is an accountant.

“We work well together and we complement each other. When we took over the business we knew our limitations. At the same time we realised that customer service was a priority in tourism, and that marketing and social media were areas we needed to focus on. We brought in people with skills in these fields to work with us,” explains David.

Dad, Phil, is still involved in the business on the Board of Directors which include both the MDs and an external chairman. Both Anthea and David are involved in the day-to-day operations of the business and report to the board.

The board in turn is run by the Hammon Family Council which is made up of all five siblings, Anthea, David and their other three sisters, Emily, Arabella and Lydia; as well as parents Phil and mum, Peta.

David says: “We also have a family constitution which we set up 10 years ago, that we review every three to four years. We put things in place for our generation and the future generations so we can continue to operate successfully as a family-owned business.”

He says while Scenic World has the unique location as a fundamental point of difference to other tourist tractions, it is the family’s business planning and its value-based approach that really sets the business apart from others.

“The foundation our family has built this business is what differentiates us from others. We ensure that we are not just about the unique location, we are get the best stuff in, make sure our guests have the best customer experience so they can tell their family and friends about us,” said David.

He said some of the challenges the business faced in the past were transport issues. With road upgrades and with an airport at Badgerys Creek, these problems may thankfully soon disappear.

“One of my biggest challenges in the business is to get good multi-lingual staff, especially with the visitors from Asia growing.

“For us it’s about making the customer experience special and about engaging with the clientele. We have seen the shift from guests coming from Japan and Korea to India and China now.”

David says the special ingredient about working in a family business is the value you bring into the business.

“Staff see how the passion we have and the value we place on safety, how we engage with people, how we as MDs still work in the gift shop or pick up rubbish. This is the personal value we bring with us.”

David says the Scenic World business is based on the principle that it creates memories for people.

“The formula for a really great business we believe is the importance on human interaction and making people have that special bonding experience.”

Scenic World’s Fast Facts:

* Welcomes in excess of 861,000 guests per year.
* Has 570,000 Facebook fans.
* Weibo fans (Chinese social media site) of 56,700.


Michael Walls
0407 783 413

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