By Ellen Hill – Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism
Blue Mountains, Lithgow and Oberon tourism businesses took home a record eight gold awards at the NSW Tourism Awards on Thursday, November 28.
Held this year at Royal Randwick Racecourse, the glittering annual awards celebrate the diverse and significant achievements of tourism operators, who collectively contribute billions of dollars to the state economy.
Spanning 32 categories, the awards are a major program of the Tourism Industry Council NSW and are supported by Destination NSW.
After scoring three silver awards last year, outdoor experiences business Life’s An Adventure galloped home with a golden trifecta, winning the Ecotourism, Tour and/or Transport Operators and Adventure Tourism categories.
Owners Mark and Vicky Norek said they were shocked at their wins: “It’s amazing. We can’t believe it.’’
Jenolan Caves, which received the triple gold mantel last year, received a gold gong for its Written in Stone program in the Heritage and Cultural Tourism category. As a third-time winner of that category, the treasured natural attraction was also inducted into the awards Hall of Fame.
Assistant general manager Dan Cove attributed the success of the first genuine tourist attraction in NSW to the passion and dedication of the staff who have worked there through the decades.
Continuing to win industry respect, Fairmont Resort MGallery took out the Business Tourism and Deluxe Accommodation categories.
General manager Bernie Boller said the awards were “even more fabulous’’ because of the enormous investment in restoring the resort to glory during the past few years: “There’s been a lot of hard work gone into it by many people.’’
After being a finalist for seven years in a row, Spa Sublime owner Lynda Davis was “excited and thrilled’’ at finally winning gold in the Specialised Tourism Services category.
“With the difficult times we have suffered in the past couple of months, it helps to showcase our region as a destination of excellence.’’
Blue Mountains International Hotel Management School was the other major regional winner, picking up the Tourism Education and Training award.
Sales and marketing director Jerome Casteigt said the award validated the enormous investment that the owners of the business had put into the 600 student campus.
“It’s also a reflection on the students and what they are achieving, and when you are recognised by your peers, that’s really special.’’
Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism chairman Randall Walker congratulated all the region’s winners and finalists.
“To have had a record number of finalists is a major achievement.
“To take home eight gold awards is an extraordinary independent validation of the quality of tourism businesses and experiences across the region and a reward of the passion of business owners and their dedicated staff.
“And what a fantastic irony for Life’s An Adventure to win a trifecta at Royal Randwick Racecourse.’’
State Tourism and Major Events Minister George Souris congratulated the winners and spoke of the key role the tourism industry plays in the NSW economy.
“Tourism currently contributes more than $50,000 every minute to the NSW economy, reflecting an increase of over 6 per cent since 2011.
“Tourism is the lifeblood of many of our State’s regional towns, and we are committed to promoting tourism in the regions, as well as supporting events that create local jobs, providing a boost to regional economies even further.’’
NSW Tourism Award winners automatically become finalists in the Qantas Australian Tourism Awards in Sydney in February 2014.
All winners were selected by a judging panel of experienced tourism professionals and checked and verified by specialised auditors Bell Partners.
Gold award winners from the Blue Mountains, Lithgow and Oberon region are:
- Life’s An Adventure – Ecotourism
- Jenolan Caves: Written in Stone – Heritage and Cultural Tourism
- Spa Sublime – Specialised Tourism Services
- Fairmont Resort MGallery – Business Tourism
- Life’s An Adventure – Tour and/or Transport Operators
- Life’s An Adventure – Adventure Tourism
- Blue Mountains International Hotel Management School – Tourism Education and Training
- Fairmont Resort MGallery – Deluxe Accommodation