Media Releases

Tropical North Queensland celebrates tourism excellence

The Tropical North Queensland tourism industry celebrated a year of record achievement at the 2023 Expedia Group TNQ Tourism Industry Excellence Awards at the Cairns Convention Centre on last night (27 October).

Tourism Tropical North Queensland Chief Executive Officer Mark Olsen said the record number of 30 entries and a new award category highlighted the growing significance of the awards which were attended by more than 180 guests.

“We celebrate a year of recovery with tourism delivering a record $4.3 billion domestic visitor expenditure to our regional economy in the past financial year,” he said.

“It is fitting that we further acknowledge the hard work of our members with the addition of the Outstanding Commitment to the Industry award recognising businesses, groups or organisations who go above and beyond to contribute to the Tropical North Queensland tourism industry.

“I congratulate each of the winners and Life Members who have helped the Tropical North Queensland tourism industry to excel.”

Life Member – Pip Woodward, founder of the CaPTA Group
Pip and her late husband Charlie Woodward pioneered rainforest tourism in Tropical North Queensland with the founding of Rainforestation Nature Park and expanded the family business over 50 years to become one of the largest tourism operators in the region. Pip is also well known for her philanthropic work through the charity COUCH founded by the Woodward family.

Life Member – Ken Chapman Chair, of Skyrail Rainforest Cableway
As TTNQ’s immediate past Chair, Ken Chapman was instrumental in securing a record $10 million in Federal funding through the Recovery for Regional Tourism program for domestic marketing during the pandemic and $15 million under the International Tourism Recovery Program administered by Austrade. His family business Skyrail Rainforest Cableway is an iconic attraction that plays a key role in marketing Tropical North Queensland.

Outstanding Commitment to the Industry – Cairns Airport Ambassadors
The Cairns Airport Ambassadors are the friendly faces greeting visitors arriving in Tropical North Queensland at the airport and this year have greeted 55 vessels at the Cairns Cruise Liner Terminal. Each of the 30 volunteers commits to working two five-hour shifts a week providing travel advice and assisting people to have a positive travel experience.

Outstanding Contribution by an Individual – AJ Hackett, Skypark by AJ Hackett
AJ Hackett helped to put Tropical North Queensland on the map for adventure tourism when he opened his first Australian bungy site in Cairns in 1990. The business transformed into Skypark by AJ Hackett and recently held its first Opera in the Rainforest event.

Chair’s Award for Excellence – Silky Oaks Lodge
Silky Oaks Lodge is an iconic Tropical North Queensland property and its $20 million redevelopment by Baillie Lodges during the pandemic captured the imagination of the public. It was a PR dream for the destination as the travel media clamoured to experience an extraordinary rainforest retreat overlooking the Mossman River.

Young Achiever Excellence Award – Jamie Binder, Marketing and Social Media Executive, Crystalbrook Collection
Jamie Binder has been a young achiever at the Crystalbrook Collection since starting there two years ago, progressing from assisting the marketing team to her current role driving awareness of the brand and its commitment to responsible luxury. She is a member of Young ATEC and has shared her passion for the industry while speaking at a recent Cairns Young Chamber of Commerce event.
Jasmyn Tureia, People & Culture Business Partner, Crystalbrook Bailey
Justin Baume, Guide, Cairns Adventure Group

Customer Service Excellence Award – Cedric Lootvoet, Luxury Concierge, The Reef House
Cedric Lootvoet’s relationship with guests at The Reef House starts before they arrive when he calls to get to know them so that he can make each guest’s holiday a personal VIP experience. His positive and enduring relationship with guests is the essence of The Reef House and he is a role model in customer service for the whole team.
Cairns Airport Ambassadors
Phoebe Urquhart Kereru, Trip Director, Passions of Paradise

Sustainable Tourism Excellence Award – Small World Journeys
Small World Journeys has a strong connection to Traditional Owners and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Sustainability has been part of the business since day one and has included offsetting their carbon emissions and being audited each year by EcoBiz. Small World Journeys encourage their young guests to be advocates for Tropical North Queensland and for sustainable solutions within their own lives.
Sheraton Grand Mirage Resort Port Douglas
CaPTA Group

Best of Queensland Experiences Excellence Award – FNQ Nature Tours
FNQ Nature Tours is a small group experience with expert guides who help guests to understand the unique rainforest environment and its wildlife. James Boettcher and his team have been bringing the rainforest to life for visitors since 2016.

The awards are sponsored by the Expedia Group, Cairns Regional Council and our Corporate Partners Cairns Airport and Avis.