The brightest stars of the tourism industry were rewarded for helping make the Blue Mountains, Lithgow and Oberon region one of the biggest drawcards in Australia at the recent regional tourism Awards of Excellence.
Hosted by Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism (BMLOT), the annual awards celebrate and acknowledge tourism businesses and individuals in the region which have demonstrated outstanding achievement and success during the year.
Winners of regional awards categories have been propelled traditionally to the NSW Tourism Awards and Qantas Australian Tourism Awards.
BMLOT awarded a record 39 gongs to tourism operators and individuals including the outstanding contribution by an individual to local tourism to Anne Elliott from Slow Food Blue Mountains, Cittaslow Blue Mountains, Greater Blue Mountains Food & Wine Development Advisory Group, Bendigo Bank, and Katoomba Chamber of Commerce and Community.
The lifetime contribution to tourism and the community was awarded to former long-time Blue Mountains Gazette editor Mick Ticehurst, who retired recently after 50 years.
BMLOT chairman Randall Walker says the region is an unashamed state leader in many aspects, a fact supported by Tourism Industry Council of NSW chairman and awards sponsor Ken Corbett who praised BMLOT for the increased number of awards entrants and categories.
‘’And that comes through the commitment of so many individual small business operators and owners who are out there seven days a week persevering no matter what the weather is, no matter what the peaks and troughs in the industry are,’’ says Walker.
Independent statistics from National Parks & Wildlife Service reveal that Blue Mountains National Park receives an annual four million visitors a year and is the most visited national park in Australia.
‘’When the NSW Government commissioned its independent report into the visitor economy, the Blue Mountains was the No. 1 region in the state for awareness among domestic consumers, and those kinds of results do not happen by accident. We have not always been in that position,’’ says Walker.
Walker outlined some of the major tourism investment projects in the region in recent times including the $150 million Emirates Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa (the first Emirates development outside Dubai), the $10 million renovation of the Fairmont Resort, the $30 million Scenic Railway, stage one of the $60 million redevelopment of the Hydro Majestic site, the introduction of Mayfield Garden at Oberon and the new Blue Mountains Cultural Centre.
‘’When those operators take a risk and have faith in the region, of course it makes sense for us to celebrate product and service quality on evenings such as this,’’ says Walker.
He also outlined the work being done by the BMLOT team and thanked tourism business owners who volunteered their time on the board, advisory groups and special task forces.
‘’All of you who participate with relentless commitment to do whatever it takes to deliver results and keep moving forward: this is a celebration for all of you,’’ he said.
Welcoming the 170 guests to the venue, a record for Scenic World, joint managing directors David and Anthea Hammon said the rewards were a great time for self-reflection and an opportunity for growth and positive change for any business which entered.
Lithgow mayor Maree Statham congratulated all finalists and reminded them that winning was not the most crucial thing, rather ‘’it’s how you play the game’’.
Regional Tourism ambassador Nick Mahoney said the role was ‘’a pleasure,’’ especially given that the region had much to be proud of and was one of the most recognised destinations in NSW.
Other ambassadors Charles Degotardi from Jenolan Caves and Josophan’s Fine Chocolates owner Jodie Van der Velden were acknowledged, too.
The three brightest stars of the evening were announced with fireworks and showered with glitter: Spa Sublime owner, Lynda Davis, who won the specialised tourism services award for the sixth consecutive year, young achiever in tourism, Miss Hammon, and outstanding contribution by an individual in to NSW winner, Mr Jarvis.
Spa Sublime received the health and well-being tourism award and staff member Laura Kay was named apprentice of the year.
National Parks and Wildlife Service took out three awards: ecotourism award for Blue Mountains Discovery; heritage & cultural tourism award for Blue Mountains Walking Tracks and the major tourist attraction award for Blue Mountains National Park.
Waradah Aboriginal Centre dancers delighted the audience with a lively performance and won two awards (indigenous tourism and tourist attraction).
Life’s An Adventure (tour operators and adventure tourism awards) was named a finalist for tourism business of the year for the upcoming Biznet Blue Mountains Business Awards.
Blue Mountains Adventure Company (young customer service employee, Brian Chey) shared with Cam Jones from Scenic World and young employee of the year, Cairo Hazell.
The local government award for tourism went to Blue Mountains City Council and visitor information & services to Lithgow City Council; hosted accommodation to Lavender Majestic; major transport operators to Blue Mountains Bus Company, and tourism wineries, distilleries & breweries to Dryridge Estate.
Businesses to win their category for the second year in a row included deluxe accommodation to the Mountain Heritage Hotel & Spa Retreat; tourist & caravan parks to Blackheath Glen Tourist Park; luxury accommodation to Mountain Whispers, tourism education & training to Blue Mountains International Management School, and unique accommodation to Silvermere Guesthouse which also received tourism restaurants & catering services for its Nineteen23 restaurant.
The newly refurbished Fairmont Hotel shone again, with Roni Hren winning employee of the year; Jessica Holmes, young employee of the year; Michaela Murray, customer service employee of the year (shared with Samantha Gothard from Eagle View Escape) and the resort, tourism business award.
Other highlights included Wild Valley Art Park (excellence in sustainable tourism) and BMLOT (destination marketing award for its bluemountainscrossings.com.au website).
Blue Mountains Ukulele Group performed an impromptu tune to celebrate its judges’ award and 17 individuals received awards for their contribution to the Blue Mountains bicentenary.
Host venue Scenic World took out a swag of awards including new tourism development for the new Scenic Railway and the festivals & events award for sculpture at Scenic World.
The BMLOT Awards of Excellence 2013 would not have been possible without the generous sponsorship of Scenic World, Blue Mountains City Council, Lithgow City Council, Oberon Council and Oberon Plateau Tourism Association, TAFE Western Sydney Institute, National Parks & Wildlife Service, Blue Mountains International Hotel Management School, BlueMountainsAustralia.com, Jenolan Caves, Biznet Blue Mountains, Blue Mountains Economic Enterprise, Blue Mountains Gazette, Lithgow Mercury, Oberon Review, Destination NSW and Tourism Industry Council NSW.
Details, visit www.visitbluemountains.com.au
Pictures: David Hill and Matthew Norris, Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism