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Skål International Hobart History

Skål Club Hobart was founded on 12 March 1966 and held its inaugural meeting in the form of a dinner at Hadley’s Hotel on Wednesday 1st June, 1966 after receiving its charter from the Association des Skål Clubs in that month under the sponsorship of John Minehan, Secretary of Skål International Sydney.

That first dinner was hosted by Skål Hobart’s foundation president Lloyd Hargraves and was attended by representatives of Skål clubs from Melbourne, Sydney, Newcastle, Adelaide and Perth along with 18 foundation members.

Since 1966 the Club has seen a few different personas. In 1979 it changed its name to Skål Club of Tasmania so as to allow the induction of new members from other regions of the State. Then, following the inauguration of the Skål International Launceston Club 21 on November 1989, it changed its name back to Skål Club Hobart in that year.

Since 1966 the club has grown to be one of the strongest in Australia. It currently has approximately 95 members, raising money to support tourism students, contributing annually to charities like Loui’s Van and is actively involved in projects to help promote sustainable tourism.

Many of the pioneers of Tasmania’s modern tourism industry are among the past (and current) membership of Skål Hobart and the changes in the membership of the club – and the venues used for its dinners and lunches – parallel the changes to the State tourism industry.

In the early days of Skål Hobart its membership was drawn largely from travel agents, airlines, shipping companies, rent-a-car business and the bigger hotels. Reading the names of companies from which members were drawn is akin to reading a history of tourism in the State. Names like Trans Australian Airlines, Qantas, A.G. Webster & Woolgrowers, Wrest Point Hotel, Hadley’s Hotel, Gibbs Bright & Coy, RACT, W.M. Holyman & Sons, Ansett Pioneer, RACT, H.C. Sleigh Ltd, Bini & Robertson Travel and Avis Rent-a-Car. Even British Airways’ Tasmanian manager was a member. There were also members from banks that, in those days, had active travel departments in Tasmania such as ANZ Travel Centre, Thomas Cook, American Express and Bank of NSW.

These days, reflecting the changing nature of the industry, supplementing the traditional membership base are more members from hotels, tourism attractions and experiences and event managers. We even boast membership of Tasmania’s Premier and Tourism Minister Will Hodgman and a former Lord Mayor of Hobart Damon Thomas.

Women members now make up a large proportion of Skål Hobart’s membership but that has not always been the case. When well-known Hobart travel agent Bev Wills of Dickenson’s Travel became the Club’s first female member it caused quite a stir. Bev later became Treasurer and, in the aftermath of the infamous pilots’ strike, is credited with instigating a policy to put away money to ensure the club could continue to operate during events which impact heavily on tourism.

Lunch and dinner venues of the day are also icons of the industry. Some are still here, despite a number of facelifts and changes – such as Wrest Point, Hadley’s, the Black Buffalo, Lenna Motor Inn, the Westside Motor Inn, Four Seasons Townhouse and the Oyster Cove Inn at Kettering. Others have faded away but remain in our memories as “the” places to go – Dirty Dicks, Stucki’s in New Town, Cleggy’s Beef’n Reef, the Bavarian Tavern, JC’s Seafood Restaurant and the Red Fox in Hampton Road. In the late 1980s other venues started to appear more strongly – Mures Upper Deck, Mona Lisa, the Paris, Siscos, the Aegean, Prospect House, and the Sheraton Hotel to name a few.

Drysdale House and Elwick Racecourse also featured strongly and once (1981) – when we were the Skål Club of “Tasmania” – Ansett and TAA stumped up seats on flights to Launceston to get members to lunch.

Lunches were then held on the first Tuesday of each month and the Club always celebrated Melbourne Cup day at Elwick. Skal Hobart now holds it monthly lunch on third Wednesday of each month.

The club hasn’t always been as strong as it is today. The records show there was great concern in the early years about low attendances at lunches and meetings and there was a continual need to reinforce the message that members needed to attend 60% of events or face removal from the membership list!

The style and nature of Skål lunches has also changed over the years. From the start all Skal clubs have contributed to its international fund to help Skålleagues facing hardship, but the idea of using lunches to raise money for charities is a relatively new innovation.

Now all members are encouraged to bring guests to every function but in the early years they were discouraged from bringing guests when a new member was to be inducted – perhaps to save guests from having to listen to speeches.

Skål International Hobart continues to reshape itself to keep pace with changes to the tourism industry but its core never changes. Skål remains a professional organisation of tourism leaders promoting global tourism and friendship. It is the only international group uniting all branches of the travel and tourism industry in the pursuit of goodwill and friendship.