In Awards by Clyde Mooney

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Australia’s hospitality elite gathered Monday night to celebrate the best of the best at the 2017 AHA National Awards for Excellence.

The event took place for the second year at the magnificent RACV Royal Pines Resort, facilitating an outdoor aspect to a perfect Queensland Spring evening that included flare bartenders, live music and what was likely the inaugural fireworks display at an AHA awards night.

2017 Rising Star Matt Clifton & partner

The first part of the night held the awards to hospitality individuals, before the nearly 500 guests and nominees retired into the Grand Ballroom for dinner and the broader awards.

2017’s Awards for Excellence acknowledged 288 nominees across 40 categories, with an amazing 44 entrants appearing in six categories. All nominees have graduated to the National Awards having won a respective category in their own State or Territory.

Mandating the rewarding of “new ideas, excellence and old-fashioned hard work” the National Awards inherently bring a comprehensive spread of nominees and subsequent diversity, but the final winners covered the full gamut of operations and styles, drawing the praise of the President.

“The hotel industry is one of the most dynamic in the nation and a week rarely goes by without the launch of new ideas, renovations or complete re-developments at venues right across the country,” offered AHA National President Scott Leach.

Nightlife’s Phil Brown, PubTIC editor Clyde Mooney, AHA WA President Neil Randall

Always punching above its weight, Western Australia took four wins, including key titles Overall Hotel of the Year for Perth’s State Buildings, incorporating the luxurious COMO The Treasury, which took Best Restaurant – Metropolitan, and Group Operator, going to Colonial Leisure.

“The results for Western Australia are fantastic and a reflection of the high calibre of offerings that businesses in the West have worked hard to achieve and maintain,” said AHA(WA) CEO Bradley Woods.

South Australia similarly shone, snatching prizes including Best Entertainment Venue, at the Governor Hindmarsh Hotel, and Best Tourism Initiative, at the National Wine Centre.

AHA SA general manager Ian Horne says the wins show South Australian hotels “are among the best in the country and continue to lead the Australian Hotel Industry in a range of areas”.

The all-important Hall of Fame award went to veteran of Victorian hotels and metropolitan vice-president to AHA Victoria since 2008, Mark Robertson OAM – known for his work with the State’s industry and the establishment of AHA charitable activities.

“It is both a privilege and honour to be able to contribute to the well-being of our wonderful industry for the benefit of all stakeholders, employers, suppliers, employees and of course our customers,” said Robertson on receiving the acknowledgement.

Rightfully, the State branch says it is “incredibly proud of the ongoing commitment our members make” and praised the atmosphere of the event.

“What a fabulous night it was celebrating all that is fantastic about our industry,” stated spokesperson Kimberley Malcolm.

Speaking for a strong NSW contingent of nominees and grinning winners trekking north of the border to the Gold Coast, the AHA NSW CEO spoke highly of both the night and his State’s 11 gongs.

“As a New-South-Welshman who has had to sit through one too many Origin losses, I am proud to say that venues and staff from our State were some of the night’s biggest winners,” said John Whelan.

“I would like to congratulate all the winners from the night and all the nominees who achieved so much just to get there. I am continually impressed by the depth of talent and will to succeed in our industry.”

National CEO Stephen Ferguson reports the RACV, which has itself been the recipient of many awards with the QHA, were a pleasure to work with for the 2017 Awards.

Speaking to PubTIC of the night, it was agreed the gunpowder display was likely a first for such an event.

“There’s been plenty of fireworks, but maybe not the ones that you like,” joked Ferguson.

“We’ve been lucky to have been able to host part of the awards outside; it coincides well, as a lot of our venues have an outdoor element to them.

“It was a good night. Good as gold.”

National President Scott Leach with Hall of Fame winner Mark Robertson and partner, presented by Diageo CEO David Smith

Group Operator Colonial Leisure Group, presented by CUB with AHA CEO Stephen Ferguson

Overall Hotel of Year – Perth’s State Buildings, presented by Lion’s Doug May accepted by AHA WA President Neil Randall