It’s small in number but the McKinlay shire was one of the shining lights at the Outback Queensland Tourism Awards ceremony held in Barcaldine on Saturday.
Their tourism policy brought them three awards on the night – for Visitor Information and Services, the Local Government award for tourism, and for cultural tourism.
In addition, Georgia Fleming received the Young Achiever award.
Mayor Belinda Murphy said there had been a real shift by council in recognising that tourism was a driver for their shire’s economy.
“It’s great to have a council that doesn’t question a substantial budget for tourism but recognises its value,” she said.
Visitor numbers increased by about 4000 to the At the Creek VIC this year.
In a year many in primary production would rather forget, the tourism industry took every opportunity to push its message of value as an alternative industry at the awards and preceding tourism symposium that attracted well over 100 attendees.
The only politician present on the night was ALP Senator Chris Ketter, who said he wasn’t sure everyone understood the vital role tourism was playing in keeping communities alive at the moment.
“I’m so in awe of the courage, dedication and community spirit of outback people,” he said.
“I’m adding my voice to those saying, come out here. If you’re watching in New York tonight, forget the Statue of Liberty, come to the Tree of Knowledge.”
For the first time, this year’s awards were live streamed over the internet, allowing people to tune in and celebrate outback Queensland from anywhere in the world.
Senator Ketter said a visit to the outback was important not just for the landscape but for the history.
“I firmly believe the history of the outback is part of our heritage and coming here should be part of every school curriculum.”
One of the early adopters of tourism was Winton’s Charlie Phillott, who was presented with the Vince Evert award for lifetime achievement.
Mr Phillott, who will be resuming his tours at Carisbrooke, west of Winton next year, said it had been at the instigation of fellow Winton enthusiast that he got involved in the industry in 1967.
The awards presented on Saturday recognised the attractions, services, tours, restaurants, accommodation providers, events, pubs, local government, marketing campaigns and individuals that go above and beyond to contribute to the region’s tourism industry.
The team managing the Birdsville Races was presented with the Festival and Events award for the third year in a row. Spokeswoman Prue Fargher said the event provided a lot of exposure to outback Queensland, which they were very proud of.
Outback Queensland Tourism Association general manager Peter Homan congratulated all the finalists and winners and acknowledged the industry’s efforts over the past 12 months.
“The past year has been tough for the outback but despite this, the tourism industry has rallied together and made it the biggest year on record in terms of visitation to the region – an extraordinary result,” he said.
“The award winners are shining examples of what can be achieved when passion, hard work and teamwork come together. Outback Queensland is home to many unique, exciting, beautiful and historically significant attractions and experiences, and the 2015 winners represent some of the best.
“The live stream coverage that we introduced this year meant that anyone could be part of the awards, from anywhere in the world.
“Technology plays a big role in the lives of people who live in the outback, and the live stream was a way that we could use technology to bring the outback to the people, invite them in to our world and encourage them to come and see what we have to offer,” he said.
- Visitor Information & Services: At the Creek, Julia Creek VIC
- Tour and/or Transport Operators: Adels Grove
- Destination Marketing: Longreach Regional Council
- Tourism Restaurants and Catering Services: McGinness’ Restaurant, Qantas Founders Outback Museum
- Caravan and Holiday Parks: Lakeview Caravan Park, Richmond
- Standard Accommodation: Barcaldine Country Motor Inn
- Hosted Accommodation: Adels Grove
- Best Outback Queensland Pub: Western Star Hotel, Windorah
- Local Government Award for Tourism: McKinlay Shire Council
- Young Achiever Award: Georgia Fleming, McKinlay shire
- Tourist Attraction: Cobbold Gorge
- Festivals and Events: Birdsville Races
- Outstanding Contribution by a Volunteer or Group: Allan Regeling (Mount Isa Entertainment and Tourism Venues)
- Major Tourist Attraction: Qantas Founders Museum
- Cultural Tourism: McKinlay Shire Council
- Vince Evert Award for Outstanding Contribution by an Individual: Charlie Phillott
- Lifetime membership recipients: Robyn Stephens, Lance Smith, Jane Morgan, Peter Evert
- Hall of Fame inductees: Outback Aussie Tours, Overlander’s Way