Four Eden businesses are finalists in the 20th annual South Coast Tourism Awards.
Launched in 1996 and run by South Coast Regional Tourism Organisation, the awards aim to celebrate ‘innovation and outstanding operations in the visitor-based economy’ and is the principal tourism industry event on the South Coast.
Kiah Wilderness Tours is a finalist in three categories – Adventure, Ecotourism and Small Business – with director Jenny Robb “thrilled to get this far” in a category with “stiff competition”.
“I feel more confident about the Ecotourism category than the others, because I think my tours are the epitome of ecotourism; we have virtually no negative impact on the environment, but are able to showcase the beautiful environment we live in on every tour,” Ms Robb said on Monday.
Established in December 2014, Kiah Wilderness Tours offers guided kayaking missions along the Kiah river. Ms Robb said business more than doubled last year and she hopes for a 100 percent increase again this year.
“Our catch phrase is ‘nature at your own pace’, and the pace is very very slow,” Ms Robb laughed.
Meanwhile Eden’s ever-popular Sprout Cafe is one of four finalists in the Tourism Cafes’ category, and owner Karen Lott said she believes the cafe got the nod for catering to both locals and tourists alike.
“We’re open longer hours, seven days a week, and we have tourist information in the cafe,” Ms Lott said on Monday. “So that’s what it’s all about; attracting tourism.”
Ms Lott said reviewer feed-back on Trip Advisor and social media is always positive about the cafe’s “brilliant food” courtesy of head chef Elaine O’Rourke.
“We get great feedback about how we’re catering for different culinary desires and dietary needs, with really tasty options for those needs,” Ms Lott said.
“A lot of people are blown away that in a small town like Eden they can get those needs met,” Ms Lott said.
Sister business, the Nethercote Markets – now managed by president of Nethercote Produce Market Inc Amanda Stroud – is one of six finalists in the Festivals and Events’ category.
“It’s great that local food experiences are high on the agenda of tourists and locals alike,” Ms Stroud said on Tuesday.
“Being a finalist recognises the fabulous local produce on offer every market, and the experience of enjoying it in a stunning location.”
Stall-holders and volunteers “should feel so chuffed” by this recognition, Ms Stroud said.
Finally, the Eden Killer Whale Museum is a finalist in the Heritage and Cultural Tourism category, with EKWM business manager Bob Sykes saying the museum won the category last year and was runner-up in 2013.
“It’s great recognition for all the hard work the committee and volunteers have done, building the museum into one of the prime tourist attractions on the Sapphire Coast,” Mr Sykes said on Monday, adding that last year the museum was frequented with 48,000 visitors.
The awards’ ceremony will be held on October 26 at the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society Aviation Museum in Albion Park.