A star-studded guest list attended the AHA National’s Awards for Excellence on Monday night, with the best of Australia’s hotel industry named for 2015.

Guests and veterans gathered at Jupiter’s Casino on the Gold Coast to celebrate the best hotel individuals and venues from around the country, determined from the best of every State.

ivy, George St, Sydney
ivy, George St, Sydney

While NSW took a clutch of Awards, including the highly prized Hotel of the Year and Best Entertainment Venue, Western Australia again punched above its weight with five gongs including best Redeveloped Hotel, the Cottesloe Beach Hotel, and Best Bartender, Andrew Bennett from Perth’s The Classroom.

“We had a big event on, and I got the news over the phone,” Bennett told PubTIC.

“I was just blown away! I thought someone from Melbourne or Sydney or Brisbane would take it out. I’m really humbled, and surprised I got a look in.”

Merivale’s indomitable ivy took the prize for Best Entertainment Venue – backing up taking that title at the NSW Awards for Excellence last year and the year before, and previously at the National Awards in 2012.

Furthermore, the Group’s newly appointed marketing manager, Andrew El-Bayeh, shared the Award for Hotel Industry Rising Star with The Westin’s Ana Pereira.

El-Bayeh told PubTIC has spent over a decade in hotel industry marketing, starting with Palace Group before nearly five years with Keystone, and after five years with Merivale he still revels in his work – particularly with ivy’s nightclub extravaganza, Pacha.

“We are really excited and thrilled about ivy’s win again this year.

“It really shows the emphasis on entertainment and how import that is for venues. And to continually set and look to new trends and how they influence customer behaviour and attraction.”

Beer garden
The Oaks beer garden

NSW also lay claim to major awards Hotel of the Year – Metropolitan, which went to North Shore stalwart The Oaks, and the highlight of the night, Bevan Douglas, patriarch of Tamworth’s The Pub Group, honoured into the Johnnie Walker Hall of Fame.

John Whelan, CEO of the AHA NSW, said it was a proud moment for the Association.

“Bevan has been an incredible force within the NSW hotel industry for many years and has passionately championed the rights of hoteliers.”

Entertainment provider Nightlife partnered to provide music and visuals for the evening, and guests enjoyed soulful beats and some of the industry’s latest technology throughout the Awards.

Bevan Douglas accepting his award
Bevan Douglas accepting his award

Nightlife’s Michael Hickey said the night was filled with optimism heading into Summer 2016.

“Our new PM on his first day of office said ‘There has never been a more exciting time to be alive than today, and there has never been a more exciting time to be an Australian’.

“In some ways the pub industry in summer 2016 reflects this sentiment; the explosion of craft beer, the strength of pub food offerings as people move more towards classic fresh pub fare, and the enormous investment that operators have put into their venues, means that this summer will be one of our most exciting yet.

“The challenge is that pub operators will all have to rise to a new standard, setting the right atmosphere, delivering the right product. These will be base requirements for any venue to be competitive.”

Stephen Ferguson, CEO of AHA National, says the depth of talent in the winners bodes well for Australia’s future.

Stephen Ferguson, AHA National CEO
Stephen Ferguson, AHA National CEO

“The AHA National Awards for Excellence highlighted the strength of the Australian hotel industry. Not only was there a healthy mix of international brands and independent hotels represented, but also rich geographic representation from the north west coast of Western Australia to the south of Tasmania, with CBD and regional hotels recognised along with resorts.

“The awards showed new heights of sophistication and dedication to service with judges placing major emphasis on service standards when determining the winners of the various categories.

“This is important because Australia is now well positioned to boost its inbound market thanks to a significantly lower dollar, but with intense competition for the tourist and business travel dollar, we need our hotels to be at their absolute best.

“The AHA’s recognition of excellence in hotels is an important incentive for the industry as hotels are a critical element in the Federal Government’s Tourism 2020 plan. The winners show that our industry is in a very strong position.”

Nightlife's Phil Brown, Stuart Watters, Sebastien Lepoittevin, David O’Rourke, Peter Geale and the effervescent Tina Smith-Roberts
Nightlife’s Phil Brown, Stuart Watters, Sebastien Lepoittevin, David O’Rourke, Peter Geale and the effervescent Tina Smith-Roberts


Best Tourism Initiative: Jamala Wildlife Lodge, Weston, ACT

Best Gaming Venue –Metropolitan: Royal Oak Hotel, North Adelaide, SA

Best Bistro – Metropolitan: The Moseley Bar & Kitchen, Glenelg, SA

Best Restaurant – Metropolitan: The Stirling Hotel, Stirling, SA

Best Bar Presentation & Service – Metropolitan: Matisse Beach Club, Scarborough, WA

Best Restaurant – Accommodation Division: Lilianfels Resort & Spa, Darley’s, Katoomba, NSW

Best Redeveloped Hotel – Accommodation Division: RACV Royal Pines Resort, Benowa, QLD

Best Marketed Hotel – Accommodation Division: Grand Hyatt Melbourne, Melbourne, VIC

Best Pub-Style Accommodation: Flinders Hotel Flinders, VIC

Best Mid-Range Accommodation: Quality Hotel Gateway, Devonport, TAS

Best Resort-Style Accommodation: Crown Metropol Perth, Burswood, WA

Best Suite/Apartment Hotel, Fraser Suites Sydney, Sydney, NSW

Best Deluxe Accommodation: Saffire Freycinet, Coles Bay, TAS

Bartender of the Year: The Classroom (Andrew Bennett), North Perth, WA

Chef of the Year: Lilianfels Resort & Spa, Darley’s (Lee Kwicz), Katoomba, NSW and The Star (Chase Kojima), Pyrmont, NSW

Front of House Employee of the Year: Crown Towers Melbourne (Tom Stewart), Southbank, VIC

Employee Excellence in Service: Mon Komo Hotel (Amanda Melville), Redcliffe, QLD and Rydges Melbourne (Joseph Ancora), Melbourne, VIC

Outstanding Achievement in Training: Spirit Hotels, Upper Mount Gravatt, QLD

Best Meeting and Events Venue: Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley, Lovedale, NSW

Best Superior Accommodation: Four Points by Sheraton Brisbane, Brisbane, QLD

Best Retail Liquor Outlet: Dan Murphy’s The Gap, Bulimba, QLD

Best Bistro – Regional: Huon Hill, Wodonga, VIC

Best Restaurant – Regional: Frogmore Creek, Cambridge, TAS

Best Bar Presentation & Service – Regional: Port Lincoln Hotel, Port Lincoln, SA

Best Gaming Venue – Regional: Country Club Tasmania, Launceston, TAS

Best TAB Licensed Venue: The Bridge Inn Hotel, Mernda, NSW

Best Keno Venue: Mildura Gateway Tavern, Mildura, VIC

Best Entertainment Venue: ivy, Sydney, NSW

Best Outdoor/Non Enclosed Area: The Gully Public House & Garden, Tea Tree Gully, SA

Best Sporting Entertainment Venue: Palmerston Sports Club, Palmerston, NT and Tall Timbers, Smithton, TAS

Best Marketed Hotel – General Division: Monsoons, Darwin, NT

Best Redeveloped Hotel – General Division: Cottesloe Beach Hotel, Cottesloe, WA

Hotel Industry Rising Star: Andrew El-Bayeh, Merivale, Sydney, NSW and Ana Pereira, The Westin, Sydney, NSW

Best Environmental & Energy Efficiency Practice: Emirates One&Only, Wolgan Valley, Wolgan Valley, NSW

Outstanding Community Service & Achievement: Vine Inn, Barossa, Nuriootpa, SA

Overall Hotel of the Year – Regional: Grand View Hotel, Bowen, QLD

Overall Hotel of the Year – Accommodation Division: Berkeley River Lodge, Kimberley, WA

Overall Hotel of the Year – Metropolitan: The Oaks, Neutral Bay, NSW

Johnnie Walker Hall of Fame: Bevan Douglas, NSW

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