BUNDABERG tourism operators have cleaned up at this year's Queensland Tourism Awards, taking home gold, silver and bronze across a range of categories.
The big winner from last night's gala dinner at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre was Lady Elliot Eco Resort, which took home gold in The Steve Irwin Award for Ecotourism.
The Southern Great Barrier Reef operator has always strived to be completely sustainable, splashing more than $1 million on a solar system to ensure they reach their target of sourcing 100% of their energy from renewables.
Earlier this year they added an extra 42 solar panels to the resort, taking the total number to 475, generating 1300kW of power and making it one of the biggest privately owned solar systems in Australia.
At the time, general manager Peter Gash said he couldn't understand why governments couldn't do something similar and said one of the advantages of what they were doing was educating and inspiring others.
Not to be outdone, the Bundaberg Rum Distillery didn't go home empty-handed either, taking home bronze in the Tourism Wineries, Distilleries and Breweries category.
In August last year, the distillery opened its new $8.5 million Visitor Experience and the accolades have been rolling in since.
In April they collected the gong for world's best rum for the second consecutive year and then a month later the Visitor Experience was named World's Best Experience and World's Best Retail Experience.
On a more sentimental note, our Hinkler Hall of Aviation was honoured with a bronze in Cultural Tourism.
The historic tourism drawcard pays homage to the late Bert Hinkler, a Bundaberg pioneering aviator who was the first person to fly solo from England to Australia and across the Southern Atlantic Ocean.
Earlier this year, the hall received a boost when the Bundaberg Regional Council agreed to donate $15,520 to the restoration of Bert's Armstrong Siddley.
The other award recipient on the night was Kellys Beach Resort, which won silver in the Standard Accommodation category.
The beach retreat in Bargara is no stranger to recognition and is often touted for its eco-friendly operations.
The Queensland tourism industry is lucrative business, bringing in $23 billion.
Queensland Tourism Industry Council Chief Executive Daniel Gschwind said the 33rd awards had attracted an outstanding array operators, with more than 160 nominations received state-wide.
"This year's entrants across 28 business, event and individual categories reflect the diverse and dynamic range of tourism operators helping Queensland's tourism industry flourish,” he said.
"Queensland's tourism industry continues to do much of the heavy lifting for the state's economy, this year growing by more than 5.5% and employing more than 225,000 people.
"International visitor numbers for Queensland have seen record grown in the 12 months to June 2017, growing 5.6% per cent. Some 2.6 million international visitors generated $5.2 billion in overnight expenditure.
"While these numbers are certainly positive, the industry faces intense global competition for market share. Queensland must continue to excel in every business to capture the attention of first-time and returning visitors from Australia and around the world.”
Tourism Minister Kate Jones said the Queensland Tourism Awards recognised excellence in the tourism industry.
"The Queensland tourism industry is growing from strength to strength thanks to the hard work of our tourism operators who deliver fantastic products and experiences.
"The Palaszczuk Government will continue working with tourism operators in the Southern Great Barrier Reef to grow the industry and deliver jobs for Queenslanders.
"Congratulations to all Southern Great Barrier Reef region nominees and winners for your dedication and showcasing the best of Queensland to visitors.”
Queensland Airports Limited CEO Chris Mills said the annual Queensland Tourism Awards provided the perfect platform to recognise the industry's leading operators.
"Our tourism industry is critical to the state's ongoing growth and prosperity, and the Queensland Tourism Awards winners are the best of the best,” he said.
"We are proud of our 11 year association as presenting partner of the Queensland Tourism Awards, which highlight the contribution Queensland businesses and individuals have made to domestic and international visitors.”
The Queensland Tourism Awards are judged by a panel of industry experts who volunteer their time to assess written submissions and travel throughout Queensland to experience the amenities and services of nominated businesses.
Queensland's Gold Business Award winners will gain automatic entry into the Qantas Australian Tourism Awards, which will be held in Perth on 23 February 2018.