Perry wins Gardiner award

WINNING the most prestigious accolade of this year's tourism awards in Hervey Bay on Saturday night has put a spring in Jill Perry's step.

I'm flabbergasted,” she said. “I thought you had to be older to win an award like that.

After being in business for 24 years and nearing her 50th birthday, the whale watch operator was feeling quite young yesterday after being awarded the John Craig Gardiner Memorial Award for her passion and long-term commitment to tourism.

“I certainly love what I do – it's not just a job, it's a joy,” she said. “We live and work in a great part of the world.”

Fraser Coast South Burnett Tourism's General Manager Damien Massingham said the awards categories were highly contested and Ms Perry was extremely deserving of the top gong.

The Equathon took out the Best Tourism Business award as well as winning the Adventure Tourism category. The Kingfisher Bay Group's Tanya Young was recognised as the Young Tourism Achiever of the Year.

Whalesong Cruises won Best Whale Watch Operator and Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort was also successful on the night, winning two awards in the Environmental Tourism and Best Submission categories.

The gala presentation, at the Bayswater Hotel, Hervey Bay, was attended by more than 250 tourism and industry professionals.

Mr Massingham said the annual tourism awards were a chance to recognise individual tourism operators for their hard work and dedication to the industry.

The tourism industry works 365 days a year and contributes over $600 million into the local economy annually.

The awards give operators an opportunity to let their hair down and network with their peers, as well as recognising the efforts of the industry throughout the year.