‘Safety is our No.1 priority,’ new Dreamworld chief
DREAMWORLD'S new boss will "bring back the wow factor" along with airline-style safety as part of a $40 million makeover to return the theme park to its former glory.
Speaking exclusively to The Courier-Mail, new chief executive officer John Osborne said the 2016 Thunder River Rapids tragedy reduced him to tears.
The park's owner, Ardent Leisure, has been under siege since the 2016 tragedy and the harrowing coronial inquest that followed.
Mr Osborne, the former head of hotel and resort chains over a 25-year career in the tourism industry, said he already had high hopes for Dreamworld's ability to return to the glory years he remembered as a frequent visitor over the past 30 years.
A new state-of-the-art flying theatre simulator ride will open within weeks as part of a $40 million expansion designed to bring back crowds.
He said his personal affinity with the park meant the accident in which Kate Goodchild, Luke Dorsett, Roozi Araghi and Cindy Low were killed reduced him to tears.
"I, like I guess everybody else in Australia, shed a tear when I saw it on television on the evening news," he said.
"Some of the great times we had as a young family were here … I always thought it was the biggest and the best theme park in Australia.
"I was thinking of the families (of the victims) and of the first responders and what a terrible tragedy it was."
He said he also felt compelled to help - an opportunity which eventually came knocking, replacing acting chief executive Nicole Noye, who had filled the role since the shock departure of long-term boss Craig Davidson in July.
Mr Osborne, who quietly started his new role just over a month ago, said he had great faith that Dreamworld could reverse its fortunes.
"I pick up the vibe that everybody that I have spoken to really wants to see Dreamworld recover," he said.
He said winning over the public with Dreamworld's safety standards and bringing back "the wow factor" would be key elements to the revival.
"Safety is obviously the No.1 thing - that is our No.1 priority," he said. "We need to demonstrate to the public that Dreamworld is an extremely safe place."
Dreamworld has already moved to raise standards, looking to the aviation industry for inspiration.
"Aviation is considered by most people to be the benchmark for safety and I think there is a lot of similarities with what we do here," said Mr Osborne. "We are adopting many of the things that the aviation industry does in terms of safety."
Geoff Sartori, a former safety adviser at Qantas, has been appointed as an independent external safety adviser.
Mr Osborne said millions of dollars were also being spent on a revamp.
In addition to the new flying theatre, a concept all the rage in other parts of the world, a massive expansion is under way at neighbouring WhiteWater World which will add a tropical oasis-themed precinct featuring rides, beaches, a river system and wildlife-watching.