2022 Tourism Symposium & Awards

Tourism Symposium & Awards Gala Dinner 2022

2022 Local Tourism Hero Award Winners

With co-hosts Clarence Valley Council, Destination North Coast held the 2022 Awards Gala Dinner in Grafton on 28 July 2022.

As we did at the 2021 Awards Gala Dinner, this year we again celebrated the region’s Local Tourism Heroes, calling out and saluting some leaders within our industry that go above and beyond especially in times of crisis.

Award winners were presented with a certificate, a trophy and the gift of a Sanctus Brewery Tour voucher for 4 people. Importantly, from co-hosts Clarence Valley Council, each winner also received a framed print of the region’s Three Mobs, One River Artwork, which is a visual representation of the regions’ three nations, Bundjalung, Gumbaynggirr and Yaegl, unveiled by Clarence Valley Council as part of the NAIDOC celebrations in July 2021.

First Nations artists Frances Belle Parker, Uncle Joe Walker and Deborah Taylor were selected to work collaboratively to create a design that reflects the rich Yaegl, Bundjalung, and Gumbaynggirr cultural heritage. The design features totems from each Nation and blended stories of common themes like meeting places, journeys, nature, landscape, and how Biirrinba, the Clarence River, connects us all.

General Manager Laura Black says Clarence Valley Council’s inclusion of representation from the First Nations people within the corporate brand is one of respect and acknowledgement

Thank you to all North Coast visitor economy stakeholders who attended the 2022 North Coast Tourism Symposium and Awards Gala Dinner in Grafton on 28 July 2022. Destination North Coast thanks you for your support of these important regional Events.

Thanks also to Clarence Valley Council as host destination for great local support; Mark Blackadder, Jacaranda Festival Manager who helped coordinate the events; and thanks to the many other local suppliers and our amazing Event Sponsors who helped make the Events a success.

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

Watch this space to find our where the 2023 events will be held.

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

Donna is a key driver for creating change in our local community as well as from a Tourism perspective. Her dedication to education and supporting other local entities is one of the reasons we have recognised her as a local Hero. Donna is a busy business owner however always has time to support her peers and provide advise, expertise and assistance to anyone who is ambitious to succeed.

Ian and his family have built one of the region’s most popular attractions, Bago Maze & Winery, from the ground up. He is a Landscape Architect by trade, and has developed one of the world’s largest and most beautiful hedge mazes which continues to draw visitors from all over. He is always striving to improve the visitor experience, assisted by his commitment to his own professional development (including the NSW First program).

Bago was originally a small winery started by Ian’s parents in the 1980’s, and Ian has been a driving influence in the growth and diversification of the property into the key attraction it is today, which has charming cellar door and partnerships with other operators such as Baba Lila Chocolates, and The Other Chef. Bago is a working family farm with a vineyard and winery, pastures, crops and beef cattle and is very much invested into developing its green space for the future. Bago Maze is the first and central element of the planned Bago Gardens, which will be developing and growing over the next few years.

Ian readily gives his time to others in both the tourism and agricultural industries, and has become somewhat of an unofficial spokesperson! Every time we talk to Ian, he is developing new products or experiences out at Bago. The sophistication of their offering has also grown over the years, with a fabulous, bookable on-line presence. We continue to hold up Ian’s journey as a benchmark for other operators in the market.

Brenda Armfield is a well-known identity in the Casino area. She is a life member of both the Casino Beef Week Festival and Casino Show Society, and volunteers at COW FM community radio station with her great shows where anything goes, including the popular ‘down memory lane’ segment. The much-loved ‘Town Crier’ of Casino has spent the past 35 years using her balloon-bedecked lime green Moke and personality to promote the town’s activities.

A performer and entertainer who was singing, dancing and performing comedy at the age of four, and who cut her teeth in vaudeville shows, Brenda became involved in promoting the Casino Beef Week Festival after attending a committee meeting in the 1980s. Her promotions schedule has grown to include all local events. She is an absolute treasure to her family, husband Warren, and her many friends. We all love and cherish this woman and we are proud to nominate her as our Local Tourism Hero.

Clarence Distillery are great collaborators and often work with other local businesses within the Clarence Valley to showcase products from the region. They throw themselves into regional events such as Festival of Flavours. They often team with other small businesses such as Nicholson Fine Foods, Bowens Deli and Karrikin to create unique and exciting events and are a firm favourate at the Yamba Farmers Market each week. They also support local musicians and hold laid back events featuring local artists.

They are planning to further develop the venue and space to attract larger numbers of visitors and they grow their product line regularly. They actively support and promote other businesses on their social media platforms and encourage sharing ideas, opportunities and services throughout the Clarence Valley. They use local farmers and producers for production and use local history in the naming of thier products, for example The Duke, named after the Duke of the Clarence. This celebrates our region. They love all things local.

Chrissie Thomas has been with Twin Towns Since October 1996. Over the ensuing years she has coaxed thousands to the Tweed, generated millions in revenue, and made sure everyone left with a special memory of their time at both Twin Towns and the Tweed. Chrissie is a champion of Tourism because she understood early the value of contacts, networking and sharing. Being available, before, during and after, in fact anytime, is what sets Chrissie apart and gives her the edge on many in our industry.

You don’t just get to create that trust, you have to earn it and garner the support and trust in your team that your product is every bit as good as you are selling. You do that and you get happy, repeat customers who promote you, your services, your team, your contacts and your region to others. That’s what makes a Tourism Champion. Congratulations Chrissie.

Given the challenges of the past two years with COVID and floods, Out of the Blue Adventures has continued to grow and thrive. Rated #1 on trip advisor for water sports and boat tours, the whale watching tours are a massive draw card for Ballina.

The inclusion of a marine biologist on all of Out of the Blue Adventures tours is an important point of difference. Visitors are able to learn about Ballina’s incredible marine life and ecosystems and how they can help protect them.

Jody and Daniel run a nature-based tourism business in the form of Bellingen Canoe Adventures. With a keenness to understand and keep up to date with what is happening in the tourism space, they are regular participants in tourism and business forums. Having had to contend with their own crisis during the floods, they are also committed to supporting others where they can. Jody and Daniel are also generous with their time and willingness to support the local tourism sector.

Jody and Daniel live and breathe the environment recognising the importance of limiting their impact in what they do to ensure sustainability over the long-term. This is evidence in their willingness to become a nature-based Eco Certified business. They are often the first to put up their hand to contribute and respond to requests for support with regards to tourism.

For tirelessly supporting the local community and for developing and committing to a spectacular Tourism Strategy in the face of regional adversity. Michelle continues to look for ways to support community, to sensitively build business opportunity and marketing initiatives during a difficult time, and drives a strong, exciting strategic vision for the area.

Tara is a future leader! In 2020, Tara engaged with Ecotourism Australia’s ECO Certification program where Jetty Dive Centre became the first Advanced ECO Certified dive operator in NSW. Jetty Dive were heavily impacted by both COVID and floods bookings completely stopped. During this period, Tara won a grant to re-build the business website and completed ECO Certification in record time.

Since becoming ECO Certified, the business has improved its commitment to reducing waste as much as possible. From ordering through eco-friendly suppliers and reusing equipment parts to investing in a new boat to improve fuel efficiency – big and small actions all creating impact. Through Tara’s leadership, Jetty Dive Centre are currently engaged in Take 3 For The Sea’s ‘Ground Swell’ program – https://www.take3.org/programs/. Tara’s leadership in sustainable tourism has had a positive influence on other tourism operators – she has become a mentor & leader of the Coffs Coast ECO Certification program. for other businesses.

In 2022, Tara spoke at Ecotourism Australia’s ECO think Forum, sharing her experiences and learnings as a sustainable tourism operator. Council’s ID&D team coordinate’s a Sustainable Business Working Group where Tara is the tourism industry representative.

Heléna is nominated for the Nambucca Valley’s Local Tourism Hero award in recognition of her extraordinary dedication, passion, and commitment to the local tourism industry. Heléna constantly goes above and beyond, leads from the front, and always supports her team, peers, guests, community and the tourism industry. Nothing is too much, too hard, or too out there for Heléna and most of the time you don’t even need to ask – it was all her idea to begin with.

Like most on the North Coast, Heléna and her husband Grant have been directly impacted both personally and in their business by the numerous natural disasters over the past few years along with the constant Covid-19 pandemic. This has not deterred Heléna’s positive, can-do attitude and has only highlighted her generous and resourceful persona. Heléna made news earlier this year after she opened the doors of the Jabiru Motel indefinitely to a woman and her two cats left stranded and unable to return to their home in Western Australia due to the strict state border closures.

Heléna is well known in the community, especially in the tourism sector, as a dedicated, generous energetic and enthusiastic woman. With an extensive background in corporate advertising and media, Heléna is never shy to share her knowledge with her peers and fellow business owners. Heléna demonstrates that by sharing her expertise, perspective and skills, all parties involved and our local tourism industry are better able to innovate and grow.

In her own time, you will often see Heléna zipping around the Nambucca Valley in the Tourism Association’s van, stopping at popular destinations to welcome visitors and share hidden treasures from our beautiful Valley. We sincerely thank Heléna for her hard work and dedication, year after year and congratulate Heléna on being Nambucca Valley’s Local Tourism Hero for 2022.

2022 North Coast Tourism Symposium

The annual North Coast Tourism Symposium & Awards Gala Dinner was held in Grafton on 28 July 2022.

The presentations delivered by our expert speakers are available here.

2022 Symposium Photo Gallery

2022 Local Tourism Hero Awards Photo Gallery