Awards night awesome

SHE has been involved in whale watching since she was just three months old; now 23 years later Hervey Bay's Sarah Perry has taken out Young Tourism Achiever of the Year at the 2009 Fraser Coast South Burnett Tourism Awards for Excellence.

Queensland's youngest whale watch boat skipper could not be contacted yesterday because she was back to work whisking locals and tourists around on Hervey Bay Whale Watch charter boat That's Awesome.

However, mum Jill Perry could not hide her pride the morning after the awards presentation at the Brolga Theatre.

“As the youngest female skipper in Queensland I think she's achieved quite a lot,” Ms Perry said. “She was born into it.”

It was a big night of celebration for the Perry family, which also won the Whale Watch Operator category and was inducted into the Hall of Fame for winning the Transport Operator category for the third year in a row. Previously the company has won awards for access tourism and best whale watch operator.

Asked what the secret to success was Ms Perry replied: “I think the thing is we don't stay the same.”

She said innovation and changing business strategies were the keys to ongoing success.

Other big winners at the gala presentation were Hervey Bay's John and Sally Bush. The pair was honoured with the most prestigious accolade, the John Craig-Gardiner Memorial Award, for their passion and long-term commitment to tourism.

Mr and Ms Bush have been market leaders in the backpacker industry. In 1982 they turned their motel and caravan park on Torquay Terrace into Beaches Backpackers. They have also expanded into camping and self-drive tours of Fraser Island.

Other businesses that were recognised for their contribution to regional tourism included Fraser Explorer Tours, which won Best Tourism Business and the Tour Operators category. Aussie Trax 4x4 Rentals took out Best Website and Best Submission and was a finalist in the Adventure Tourism category.

Fraser Coast South Burnett Tourism general manager Damien Massingham said the annual awards gave operators the chance to let their hair down and network with peers while recognising the efforts of the industry throughout the year.

Nearly 300 tourism and industry professionals attended the 2009 event.

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