Tourism Australia’s managing director, John O’Sullivan, has resigned to run Experience Co, a diverse ASX-listed adventure tourism company; while Susan Coghill has taken over as Tourism Australia’s chief marketing officer, a role vacated by Lisa Ronson, who moved to Coles Group.

O’Sullivan, who headed Tourism Australia for five years, will become Experience Co’s chief executive and executive director.

Founded in 1999, Experience Co aims to become “the largest and most respected adventure tourism company in the world”. It offers tandem skydiving, hot air ballooning, white water rafting, canyoning, sea kayaking, and tours to the Great Barrier Reef.

The company, which has numerous locations throughout Australia and New Zealand, has achieved a phenomenal rate of growth, completing a series of quality acquisitions, including Australia Skydive (March 2015), NZone Skydive, NZ (October 2015), Skydive Wanaka, NZ (July 2016), Raging Thunder Adventures (October 2016), Reef Magic Cruises (May 2017), Byron Bay Balloons (August 2017), Great Barrier Reef Helicopters (November 2017), and Big Cat Green Island Reef Cruises and Tropical Journeys (December 2017).

O’Sullivan will depart Tourism Australia next month, handing over to Tourism Australia’s regional general manager international, Phillipa Harrison, who will act as interim managing director until a permanent replacement is found.

“It’s with mixed emotions that I now move on, but I feel I’m leaving the organisation in a really good position,” O’Sullivan said in a statement on Monday.

“Australian tourism is performing well, with international arrivals and spending both at record levels. We’ve reshaped our marketing narrative.”

Australia’s Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham thanked O’Sullivan for his “immense contribution to Australia’s tourism industry over the past five years”, saying he was leaving the organisation “at a time when Australian tourism continues to go from strength-to-strength, with international arrivals and spending both at record levels.

“He has been instrumental in leading our efforts to promote Australia to the world and creating cutting-edge campaigns such as Dundee and Undiscover aimed at attracting more high value overseas travellers to Australia as well as ramping up efforts to promote Australia as a business event destination.”

Birmingham said he had consulted with the Shadow Minister for Tourism, Anthony Albanese, regarding O’Sullivan’s departure.

“The board of Tourism Australia will begin processes to select a new managing director, which will be concluded sometime following the swearing in of the next ministry.”

Written by Peter Needham