2021 Tourism Symposium & Awards

2021 Local Tourism Hero Award Winners

With co-hosts Bellingen Shire Council, Destination North Coast held the 2021 Awards Gala Dinner in Urunga on 24 June, 2021.

This year, the regional tourism awards ceremony was a one-off celebration of the region’s Local Tourism Heroes and was reimagined to suit the current environment.

There was no formal application process however, the evening gave us a chance to single out those in our industry who go above and beyond, that lead from the front and always put themselves forward to support their team, peers, guests, and our industry.

As the Awards were held in Bellingen Shire, on Gumbaynggirr Country which is also koala country and in keeping with the Regenerative and Nature Based Tourism theme from the day’s Tourism Symposium, we presented each recipient with a beautiful Koala and feedstock tree.

Koalas are a fitting symbol for this year’s Tourism Awards. They represent the very real hardship our Region endured through the Bush Fires and they hold immense value both from an ecological and tourism perspective. The Australian Made Koalas, were sourced from the Australian Koala Foundation who have provided them at cost and we thank them for contributing to our Events.

Along with their very special Koala, each Award recipient received a koala feedstock tree. This gives our Award Winners a real chance to be active in the regenerative tourism mission. Our trees include a variety of Grey Gum, Mahogany, Flooded Gum and Sydney Blue Gum.

A huge thank you to the Great Koala National Park Visitor Centre in Urunga for supplying the trees as prizes for our Award recipients.

This year’s North Coast’s Local Tourism Heroes are:

Thank you to all North Coast visitor economy stakeholders who attended the 2021 North Coast Tourism Symposium and Awards Gala Dinner in Urunga, 24 June 2021. Destination North Coast thanks you for your support of these important regional Events.

Thanks also to Bellingen Shire Council as host destination for great local support and the Event team at C.ex Urunga and Coffs Harbour along with many other local suppliers and our amazing Event Sponsors who helped make the Events a success.

Feedback for the Symposium Program and speakers/presentations has been very positive and similarly for our 2021 Local Tourism Hero Awards program and Gala Dinner.

Congratulations again to our region’s Local Tourism Heroes. We salute your endeavours and commitment to supporting the North Coast visitor economy and we hope you all had a wonderful night.

As was announced at last week’s Events, the 2022 Tourism Symposium will be held in Grafton. This comes on the back of DNC receiving two outstanding applications to host the cancelled 2019 Event with Bellingen just edging ahead of the Clarence Valley as we rolled their applications on to this year. With next year’s Event bring brought forward to May, we are pleased to have a perfect candidate in place and look forward to working with the Clarence Valley team in the lead-up to next year’s Event.

Save the date for the 2022 North Coast Tourism Symposium to be held on Thursday 28 July 2022 in Grafton.

Steve and Denise have been the proprietors of Anchors Wharf Restaurant for over twenty years serving thousands of locals and visitors during that time. They are well known for supporting and sponsoring numerous community and sports groups and as they have employed many locals and mentored many apprentice chefs. They also support the local creative industries by providing a venue for live performances.

On the 3rd May Steve and Denise endured their own disaster when their restaurant caught on fire resulting in a large part of the property being destroyed.

Bellingen Shire Council and the local community would very much like to see Steve and Denise recognised as Local Tourism Heroes for their significant contribution to tourism in the area and in recognition of the loss and tragedy they have suffered.

Aymon Gow is a true stalwart of the Tweed region’s tourism industry with 25 years at Tropical Fruit World being celebrated this year. He started as a casual on the farm working his way up to General Manager. The diversification under Aymon’s leadership has included developing Plantation House into one of the Tweed’s premier wedding and events venues, significantly investing in an onsite dehydration program, developing a range of skincare products and increased emphasis placed on selling produce direct to the local community.  As a business with a significant eastern markets strategy, Aymon has successfully led the team during the COVID period, continuing to tackle challenges with enthusiasm, a positive attitude and resilience

Aymon has been on numerous advisory boards in the Tweed community including time as the Chair of Destination Tweed, and participation in the Tweed Tourism Company’s Strategic ThinkTank Advisory.  Aymon has led Tropical Fruit World to support the community through donating surplus fruit and veg each week to be used for those most vulnerable within the Tweed and Byron shires. These donations typically support up to 400 people each week.

As well as being a pillar of the community, Aymon’s value is best described by the Tropical Fruit World team:
Shona Fuller: “Personally to me Aymon is a great mentor, supportive and approachable manager and very highly respected in the Tweed region. He is a collaborator and mentor to many”. 

Paul is the upcoming manager of Flat Rock Tent Park

Paul is a mentor to those willing to participate. He has some great ideas but is willing to listen to his mentees. Paul is respectful, patient and generous with his time.

Paul is working with the Yaegl community in the Clarence Valley – the Yaegl Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation, to establish a business that they will own. Paul is providing his expertise and mentoring the community to build Aboriginal tourism experiences.

Tanya Watts is Group Business Development Manager, Pacific Bay Resort

Tanya is a recognisable Tourism Hero of the Coffs Coast. She consistently supports industry campaigns, rallies industry participation, and encourages collaboration between individual businesses. Tanya keeps herself up-to-date with new activities and business offerings in the region, along with reminding others of the importance of being part of the industry and acting collectively.

Tanya is always happy to organise events and activities, represent the destination in out of area marketing, and play host to visiting media and stakeholders. She combines attending all activities that support local tourism businesses, with working in the industry, running her own small business and studying a Diploma of Event Management.

Tanya supports Council through representation in the Tourism Industry Engagement working group, adding ideas, questioning processes and delivering input to encourage operators to connect with each other and serve visitors.

There are many examples of how Tanya has gone above and beyond to represent the tourism industry of the Coffs Coast and she has consistently been active across a variety of support activities Council provides to the industry. This was especially evident during the uncertain times of bush fires and COVID. She often provided advice, ideas and a helpful, friendly face.

Tanya’s desire to enrich the opportunities for operators is an outstanding testament to her love for the industry, visitors and the Coffs Coast region. Tanya is a vital part of the tourism industry of the Coffs Coast.

Sue Ashton is a volunteer on the Koala Conservation Australia committee and a Tourism Hero.  Sue started as a volunteer at the Koala Hospital, then stepped into the Media role and is now the President.  Sue’s calm and considered leadership has been instrumental at the Koala Hospital, navigating the horrific Black Summer bushfires and resulting local, national and international media attention and financial support.

Sue’s dedication and passion for the organisation and its mission is clear. She tirelessly supports the staff and volunteers, has been central to guiding Koala Conservation Australia to its next stage and is part of the team responsible for securing a $5 million state government grant for redevelopment of the current site.  She also lead the strategy and master planning required to maximise outcomes for the nearly $8 million raised during the bushfires to bring the world’s first Wild Koala Breeding Centre to reality.

Sue has actively connected and collaborated with tourism operators, the Tourism Association, Council, conservation bodies, media and many other organisations to share information and work together. She led a comprehensive and collaborative strategic process to provide a clear vision for the Koala Hospital now and into the future with koala care and conservation at its core.

Sue is a true tourism industry leader and is focused on delivering great outcomes for conservation and education through tourism experiences.

Stevie is a true local tourism ambassador who is generous with his time in supporting tourism on Lord Howe Island.  Stevie goes above and beyond. Some examples are:

He is the Treasurer of the Lord Howe Island Tourism Association and a Executive Committee member (a volunteer position) and generously gives his time to the Association and Staff

He is the proprietor of the Coral Café and Manager of the Post Office on the island

He mans the Visitor Centre desk when there is a staff shortage.

He is always willing to give his time even though he already has so much on his plate. Stevie makes time for the tourism industry and for visitors.

Stevie also champions reasonable causes to the Government for a better outcome for the Lord Howe Island Tourism Association.  All of the help he gives goes unrecognised and is unpaid.  He does it for the love of tourism and for the island.  Stevie is a true local tourism ambassador.

Luke Sutton is Manager and Owner of Drifta Camping & 4WD in Gloucester.

A year ago Luke and Drifta Camping created a campaign to Respect the Bush in response to some of the 4WD community leaving their rubbish in the bush. They provided their Respect the Bush bags free of charge to all P platers and sold bags for $5 to anyone else. All proceeds went to producing more bags for distribution. The Respect the Bush bags were then also used as sandbags to protect the Gloucester businesses from the flood waters.

Luke and the Drifta staff took the lead in sandbagging other shops on the main street when the floodwaters got to the Gloucester CBD, even when their own shopfront was not unaffected by rising waters.

Plus they’re a business that sits wholly within the camping/adventure market, and Luke and the team are great ambassadors for tourism and worthy LOCAL TOURISM HEROES.

Mark Blackadder leads a massive team of dedicated, passionate, and obsessed people and businesses that make the Grafton Jacaranda Festival a phenomenal success. Mark is community minded with a focus on inclusiveness including our First Nations People, Clarence Valley Youth and those who identify as LGBTQI.

Mark has successfully grown and changed the face of the Jacaranda Festival held in Grafton each October/November. In his first year as manager, he produced the most successful Jacaranda Festival in many years and secured one of the highest achievements in sponsorship funding which in turn supports the local business community of the Clarence Valley, and particularly Grafton.

Rather than focussing on the negative impacts of COVID during last year’s Jacaranda Festival, Mark took the circumstance of the enforced break to get out in the community and talk to the businesses; and gain commitment from 68 business who contributed to a Go Purple campaign in 2020 to keep the festival alive in Grafton visitors minds after it was closed due to COVID restrictions.

Mark also took the time to assess how to better market the festival, with a new online focus to draw both national and international visitors in 2021. Mark and his committee also successfully applied for grants that will hold the festival in good stead for the coming year.  

John Wright is Executive Officer and Treasurer of the Evans Head Business & Community Chamber.

John’s dedication to tourism has resulted in several tourism initiatives being established and delivered in the small town of Evans Head. John was recognized for his contribution to the community when he was awarded citizen of the year at the Richmond Valley Australia Day celebrations in 2016.

It is important to note all of John’s time and dedication towards tourism has been in a voluntary role. John’s successful projects include:
– Establishing the Evans Head Tourist Guide (currently in its fifth year of production) in both hard-copy and e-magazine format.
– Acquiring and maintaining the Experience Evans Head Facebook page and website.
– John was heavily involved in the local events committee of Beef Meets Reef for four years, including securing financial support and sponsorship to fund the event.
– He’s arranged industry trade days for local tourism operators with the support of Business NSW and other government organisations.

Bec & Tiffany are a tourism dynamic duo supporting and advocating for tourism in South West Rocks.

Bec diversified her business which was a take-away pizza joint and set up a beautiful new dine-in restaurant at Costa Rica Motel in South West Rocks. Both have worked together to build the profile of South West Rocks as a key tourist destination and have worked tirelessly through bushfires, COVID-19 and the recent floods to achieve this.

In a time when hospitality staff are one of the hardest to find, these two businesses have created a model that makes staff want to work with them and in turn developed an amazing tourism experience. They are both engaged within the tourism industry and advocators of tourism and hospitality within the Kempsey Shire.

Through the disasters that has continued to plague the Mid-North Coast both Bec and Tiffany have been pillars of support and lead by example. They have continually kept relevant and promoted not only their business but the whole region on social media all the while making sure to support locally wherever they can.

Leanne is Events and Facilities Coordinator at Lismore Shire Council.

Leanne has worked tirelessly over the past twelve months to coordinate tourism in the Lismore Local Government Area with limited resources due to budget cuts and restructure. Her ability to manage the flow of emails, enquiries and website content has been a massive task.

The restructure saw a previous team of 7fulltime and 2 casual staff looking after tourism and visitor servicing which has been managed, almost exclusively by Leanne…even to the point of hand delivering Visitor Information Guides to local businesses across the Shire.

Jen goes beyond her duties as a volunteer to assist visitors and her fellow ambassadors. Jen represents the collective group of volunteers – without formal nomination but just through generosity with her time.

Jen always puts her hand up and is super organised. She supports the planning of product tours and site inspections and takes time to gather information from operators to keep local knowledge up to date. Jen also organises social catch ups for all volunteers so they can get to know each other outside of work.

Lyndall involves herself in everything to do with tourism on the Coffs Coast. This ranges from running her food tourism business and promoting the destination through her national workshops, to being an active member in the local Destination Coffs Coast Committee (a committee of Council that combines industry and Council staff to set strategic direction) and hosting a variety of stakeholders, media and famil tours to promote and develop knowledge of the area.

Lyndall’s willingness to give of her time, expertise and passion, help drive opportunities for local businesses to collaborate, and visitors to experience the tastes of the Coffs Coast.

Lyndall’s vivacious personality, infectious energy and extensive local knowledge contribute to a positive view of the Coffs Coast. She is always willing and curious to understand more about the local area and businesses, and engages in numerous activities to build her knowledge. Because of this Lyndall is always able to share the latest information about the destination with visitors, other industry members and locals.

Lyndall played a key role in pivoting tourism experiences on the Coffs Coast during lockdown periods for business and disruption to regional travel caused by COVID. While her business was able to remain open as a food supplier, she was unable to conduct workshops, which are her real passion and a defining feature of her business. During this time Lyndall embraced technology and continued to promote her workshops, but took the leap to deliver them over Zoom.

Her audience was able to pre-register and have kits of necessary supplies delivered ahead of the workshop. Excited by the opportunity to share her passion for home cheesemaking and sustainability, Lyndall was also able to produce videos of each of her workshops which could be accessed online and on-demand – creating a new way to reach customers and generating new customers from around the world. Lyndall’s passion to work with people who were not able to travel led her to set up several online workshops specifically for medical staff, giving them something else to do and think about in their downtime.

She sent kits and workshop material to hospital staff in Melbourne – and of course included a Coffs Coast destination magazine to inspire them to visit when travel restrictions lifted.

This nomination sees a reversal of the normal roles with Cassandra Jones, Manager of the Visitor information Centre, nominating the President of the Tourism Association, Jane Smith, as the region’s LOCAL TOURISM HERO!

Destination North Coast couldn’t agree more and have been amazed at the energy and passion Jane has bought to the role and region since moving to the area and taking on the volunteer role as President of the Nambucca Tourism Association.

Jane gives freely of her time and is always looking for ways to improve the visitor experience and grow the visitor economy of the Nambucca region. She has been instrumental in putting in place the building blocks to improve the Nambucca Valley tourism offering, is a strong advocate for collaboration and a great mentor for the Visitor Information Centre staff and volunteers of which they now have a solid and engaged cohort.

Jane is a very worthy LOCAL TOURISM HERO.

Under Rebecca’s stewardship, Riverside Holiday Resort Urunga has invested over $3m in the development of 8 new units at the resort – two of which are fully accessible. Over the last few years, the property has won Gold at the State Tourism Awards for best Self-Contained Accommodation and Excellence Awards for Inclusive Tourism.

Rebecca has been passionate in supporting indigenous business and developed an Indigenous Employment Policy for her parent organisation. She has been proactive in collaborating with local tourism operators to ensure her guests have the best possible experience while visiting the Shire. A champion for innovation and continuous improvement, Rebecca has introduced new systems to improve marketing and communication across the organisation. She has carved out a role for herself as Group Marketing Manager on top of her Resort Manager function. Rebecca leads by example and this is reflected by the loyalty and retention of her staff. Riverside Resort continues to enhance facilities and services.

During the Bushfires and COVID-19 – Rebecca ensured the Resort played a major role in supporting the local community and displaced travellers which included offering shelter for victims of domestic violence, providing free accommodation for staff during the bush fires, offering accommodation for health workers needing to separate themselves from family during the height of COVID and providing free or discounted accommodation for travellers blocked by border closures or that had transport routes cut off.

Rebecca is an industry champion in the way she has built the Resort’s capability and reputation around inclusive tourism.

2021 Tourism Symposium

With co-hosts Bellingen Shire Council, Destination North Coast held the 2021 Symposium in Urunga on 24 June, 2021.

View presentations from the symposium speakers here.

2021 Local Tourism Hero Awards Photo Gallery