Outback Queensland is celebrating more triumphs on the tourism stage after a number of attractions were recognised as the best in Queensland on Friday night, against stiff competition.
The included gold awards for Winton's Australian Age of Dinosaurs natural history museum, the Terry family’s Cobbold Gorge Tours and Cobbold Village at Forsayth, the Mount Isa Mines Rotary Rodeo, and for Kinnon and Co in Longreach, while the Wirrari Visitors Centre at Birdsville received a silver award, and Outback Aussie Tours and Adel’s Grove camping park received bronze awards.
The Australian Age of Dinosaurs won against the Sunshine Coast’s Australia Zoo in the Major Tourist Attraction category, which has delighted the western Queensland town of 1100.
Mayor Butch Lenton accepted the award on behalf of the attraction and delivered it to AAOD founder and chairman David Elliott with the words that it was great recognition for the work done, and for tourism in western Queensland in general.
“This attraction draws visitors through other towns and is an economic benefit to all the little towns along the way,” he said.
The win came out of the blue for the Elliotts, who were amazed that their vision had received recognition so early in the museum’s development.
“Ten or 15 years ago we were keen to do a little dinosaur museum in town to keep things going in the region,” David said.
“The project just skyrocketed – it drives us, rather than us driving it.
“I always believed we would get there some day but I didn’t think it would be this quick.”
David added that the win would inspire himself and his team to keep going and make what they had better.
Down the road at Longreach, Richard and Marisse Kinnon and their staff were rejoicing in their own recognition with a gold award in the Cultural Tourism category, against the Mossman Gorge Centre.
On the same day, the company that offers Cobb and Co coach rides, paddlewheeler cruises on the Thomson River, and the chance to sleep in a slab hut, was announcing its new Outback Pioneers brand, created to promote outback Queensland as a unique world-class experience.
A modern-day bush pioneer, Richard said they were all delighted to receive the award and to be recognised as leaders in creating tourism products with cultural significance for Queensland.
“We really want Australians and overseas visitors to put outback Queensland on their tourist map,” he said.
“The more we can do to create distinctive experiences and accommodation, the more we can attract visitors who would otherwise miss out on this iconic part of Australia.
“We want people to associate Queensland with a heritage outback experience as well as with beaches and rainforests.”
The Kinnon & Co business started a decade ago to help the family subsidise its grazing business and has grown to become a famous feature of the Longreach region, welcoming around 25,000 visitors a year.
“It means a lot to us that this award will help attract more people to Longreach where we can share our Australian outback and inspire them to help us preserve its way of life for the future,” Richard added.
The authentic outback experience is at the heart of the Terry family’s Cobbold Gorge Tours and Cobbold Village, which received gold awards in the Tourist Attraction and Hosted Accommodation categories.
They were up agains Capricorn Caves in the first section and Narrows Escape Rainforest Retreat, boutique couples pavilions at Montville on the Sunshine Coast, in the latter award.
Gold award winners gain automatic entry into the Qantas Australian Tourism Awards, which will be held in Darwin on February 24, 2017.
A total of 72 awards, including 24 gold, 23 silver, 20 bronze and five individual awards across 28 categories, were presented at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, where 900 guests gathered to celebrate Queensland’s tourism achievements.
Tourism operators in Tropical North Queensland walked away with 14 awards, while those in Brisbane, the Gold Coast and the Whitsundays each collected 12 awards.
QTIC Chief Executive Daniel Gschwind said the 32nd awards had attracted an outstanding array of tourism operators.
“Queensland’s tourism industry has emerged as a powerhouse of the state’s economy, contributing $22.8 billion in local expenditure and employing more than 233,000 Queenslanders, with enormous opportunities ahead for our regions and destinations.
“Tonight’s winners are industry champions with the passion and innovative drive that makes our industry what it is today. With that kind of commitment our tourism industry will continue to go from strength to strength.”
2016 Queensland Tourism Award Winners
Major Tourist Attractions: Gold - Australian Age of Dinosaurs, Silver - Australia Zoo, Bronze - Mossman Gorge Centre.
Tourist Attractions: Gold - Cobbold Gorge Tours, Silver - Capricorn Caves, Bronze - Sarina Sugar Shed.
Major Festivals and Events: Gold - Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers, Silver - Blues on Broadbeach Music Festival, Bronze - World Science Festival Brisbane 2016.
Festivals and Events: Gold - Mount Isa Mines Rotary Rodeo, Silver - Broadbeach Country Music Festival, Bronze - Noosa Food & Wine Festival.
The Steve Irwin Award for Ecotourism: Gold - Fun Over Fifty, Silver - Tall Ship Adventures, Bronze - Ocean Safari.
Cultural Tourism: Gold - Kinnon & Co, Silver - Mossman Gorge Centre.
Qantas Award for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Tourism: Gold - Mossman Gorge Centre.
Specialised Tourism Services: Gold - Tourism Lounge at Harbour Town Outlet Shopping Centre Gold Coast, Silver - Fun Over Fifty, Bronze - Small World Journeys.
Visitor Information and Services: Gold - Hervey Bay Visitor Information Centre, Silver - Wirrarri Visitors Centre, Birdsville, Bronze - Kuranda Visitor Information Centre.
Business Event Venues: Silver - Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre.
Major Tour and/or Transport Operators: Gold - Ocean Rafting, Silver - Cruise Whitsundays, Bronze - Reef Magic Cruises.
Tour and/or Transport Operators: Gold - Fun Over Fifty Pty Ltd, Silver - Whitsunday Jetski Tours, Bronze - Outback Aussie Tours.
Adventure Tourism: Gold - Tangatours, Silver - Reef Magic Cruises, Bronze - Whitsunday Jetski Tours.
Destination Marketing: Gold - Moreton Bay Region Industry and Tourism, Silver - Tourism Noosa, Bronze - Southern Great Barrier Reef.
Tourism Restaurants and Catering Services: Gold - Ochre Restaurant & Catering, Bronze - O'Reilly's Canungra Valley Vineyards.
Tourism Wineries, Distilleries and Breweries: Gold - Sarina Sugar Shed, Silver - O'Reilly's Canungra Valley Vineyards.
Caravan and Holiday Parks: Gold - BIG4 Adventure Whitsunday Resort, Silver - NRMA Treasure Island Holiday Park, Bronze - Killarney View Cabins and Caravan park.
Hosted Accommodation: Gold - Cobbold Village, Silver - Narrows Escape Rainforest Retreat, Bronze - Adels Grove Camping Park.
Unique Accommodation: Gold - Cruise Whitsundays - Reefsleep, Silver - Whitsunday Escape Bareboat Holidays, Bronze - Cumberland Charter Yachts.
Self-Contained Accommodation: Gold - Pinnacles Resort, Silver - O'Reilly's Rainforest Retreat.
Standard Accommodation: Gold - Ibis Mackay, Silver - Grand Hotel and Apartments Townsville, Bronze - Cape Trib Beach House.
Deluxe Accommodation: Gold - NEXT Hotel Brisbane, Silver - Empire Apartment Hotel Rockhampton, Bronze - Mirage Whitsundays.
Luxury Accommodation: Gold - RACV Royal Pines Resort, Silver - Spicers Peak Lodge, Bronze - Pullman Palm Cove Sea Temple Resort & Spa.
New Tourism Business: Silver - iFLY Gold Coast, Bronze - ibis Styles Brisbane Elizabeth Street.
Excellence in Food Tourism: Gold - Sarina Sugar Shed.
Outstanding Contribution by a Volunteer or Volunteer Group: Gold - Moreton Bay Region - Tourism and Events Volunteers, Silver - Brisbane Greeters, Bronze - Townsville Enterprise Welcome Program Volunteers.
Young Achievers Award: Gold - Nikki Dudley of Nikki Dudley Freelancing.
The Marie Watson-Blake Award for Outstanding Contribution by an Individual: Gold - Oatley Family.