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Wukalina Walk wins gold at national tourism awards

Callan Morse – March 21, 2024

Wukalina Walk has been awarded gold at the 2023 Qantas Australian Tourism Awards. (Image: Rob Burnett)

Tasmania’s Wukalina Walk has been acknowledged for Indigenous tourism excellence after taking out gold at the Australian Tourism Awards.

The First Nations-owned and led business won the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Tourism Experience category ahead of six state and territory nominees.

Founded by Palawa Elder, Clyde Mansell, Wukalina Walk offers four-day guided experiences on Country in Tasmania’s north-east which includes cultural activities, traditional foods and multiple days of hiking.

In accepting the award, Wukalina Walk guide, Nathan Pitchford, was taken aback by the tourism operator’s success.

“It’s the second season I’ve been with the walk. It just proves that all the effort we put in: myself, people behind the scenes, uncles and aunties that laid the path for us. Yeah, it’s pretty overwhelming to be honest,” he said.

The Tasmanian First Nations community member said it’s the tailored approach that makes Wukalina Walk different.

“It’s how we connect up. You know we say to guests on the walk: if you ever feel like you shouldn’t ask a question, that’s when you should ask it,” he said.

“So creating that sense of belonging in community. It’s a big part of what we do, interpersonal experience.”

Mr Pitchford said aside from the result, there were additional benefits in him travelling from Tasmania to Darwin for the annual awards.

“Just happy to come along for the ride, just being around other tourism operators, getting to know more people in the industry. And yeah always hope to win. Always put the effort in. It’s about what we do behind the scenes,” he said.

Wukalina Walk was selected ahead of Queensland’s Cape York Peninsula Lodge which took home the silver award and Western Australia’s Ngurrangga Tours, which received bronze.

New South Wales’ Giingan Gumbaynggirr Cultural Experience, the Northern Territory’s Wintjiri Wiru, South Australia’s Kool Tours and Victoria’s Zoos Victoria – Healesville Sanctuary were also nominated in the category.

It’s not the first time the cultural tour operator has been recognised at the national level after being awarded gold in 2022 and silver at the 2021 event.

Generally accepted as the tourism industry’s premier annual event, the Qantas Australian Tourism Awards saw more than 180 of Australia’s leading tourism operators shortlisted for awards across 26 categories.

Australian Tourism Awards chairperson, Shaun de Bruyn said the awards showcased both innovation and business excellence.

“There was an exceptional level of competition across all categories which demonstrates the dedication tourism operators have to developing extraordinary visitor experiences,” he said.

Minister for Trade and Tourism, Senator Don Farrell, paid tribute to the nominees as representative of Australia’s “world class” tourism industry.

“Tourism businesses and their staff are the backbone of our vibrant tourism industry, delivering world class experiences to visitors from across Australia and around the world,” he said.

“The bright future of the sector couldn’t be in better hands.”

2023 Qantas Australian Tourism Awards

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Tourism Experience

Gold – Wukalina Walk – Tasmania

Silver – Cape York Peninsula Lodge – Queensland

Bronze – Ngurrangga Tours – Western Australia

Also nominated – Giingan Gumbaynggirr Cultural Experience (NSW), Wintjiri Wiru (NT), Kool Tours (SA) and Zoos Victoria – Healesville Sanctuary (VIC)