'Top bloke' wins
COFFS Coast tourism stalwart George Cecato has carried off the major gong at the 2011 Countrylink North Coast Tourism Awards for Outstanding Contribution to Regional Tourism.
Mr Cecato, who operates Thrifty Car Rental in Coffs Harbour, has just stepped down as the chairman of the Coffs Coast Tourism Association, which has merged with Tourism Bellinger to become Tourism Coffs Coast.
Coffs Harbour Butterfly House principal Fiona Bardon, who is now vice-chairman of Tourism Coffs Coast, said Mr Cecato was a worthy winner.
“His perspective is not just local but regional, and he has used the relationships he has built up with with people and governments,” Ms Bardon said.
More than 300 tourism industry representatives attended the gala presentation ceremony at Grafton Showground on Saturday night hosted by television personality Andrew Daddo.
Mr Cecato, a sponsor of the awards, was unable to attend due to illness.
Forty-one North Coast tourism businesses celebrated victories as winners (gold), silver and bronze award recipients.
The region was split into 11 areas, including Coffs Coast, Nambucca Valley, Clarence Valley and Macleay Valley Coast for the awards.
Businesses taking home the honours were:
Coffs Coast: Winner Tourist Attraction: Tabatinga Entertainment Centre and Café; Bronze Tourist Attractions: Coffs Harbour Butterfly House; Winner Ecotourism: Dorrigo Rainforest Centre; Winner Indigenous Tourism: National Parks Coffs Coast Aboriginal Discovery Program; Winner Tour and or Transport: Precision Helicopters; Winner Tourism Education: North Coast Institute of TAFE.
Nambucca Valley: Silver Tourist and Caravan Parks: Nambucca River Tourist Park.
Mr Cecato said for the Coffs Coast tourism industry to reach new heights, people in the industry needed not only to work together and with governments but to invest in and upgrade their own operations.
He said the major achievement of his 15 years in the Tourism Association had been the recognition of the association by different levels of government.
Others had been $300,000 for advertising provided to the region to compensate for the loss of flights to Coffs Harbour; the coming together of the Coffs Harbour, Sawtell and Woolgoolga chambers of commerce with the association to campaign (unsuccessfully) for a tourism levy; the amalgamation of the Bellingen and Coffs Harbour tourism bodies and the full sign writing of Tourism Drive 18.