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AUSTRALIA ZOO TAKES TOURISM HONOUR
News Source: The Sunday Mail (12th November 2007)

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JUST five days before the inaugural Steve Irwin Day, the Crocodile Hunter's beloved Australia Zoo has snared top honours at the Queensland Tourism Awards.

The Sunshine Coast wildlife park last night won the major tourist attraction gong, with Tourism Minister Desley Boyle describing the zoo as "an inspiration to everyone in the industry".

"Australia Zoo has become an iconic attraction that has always looked to the future by incorporating new attractions. I warmly congratulate Terri Irwin and her team," Ms Boyle said.

Steve's wife, Terri, was not among the crowd of 700 industry leaders who attended the awards ceremony at the Townsville Entertainment Centre.

The zoo, which has collected a swag of tourism awards over the years, is preparing for Steve Irwin Day, to be held on Thursday, celebrating the life of the wildlife campaigner, who died off Port Douglas in September last year.

The state's reef and rainforest jewel was again the biggest winner during tourism's night-of-nights, with the far north taking out six of the 26 award categories.

The Daintree Discovery Centre won the Steve Irwin Ecotourism Award, while the Torres Strait Regional Authority's Gab Titui Cultural Centre earned itself a place in the Hall of Fame after winning best Indigenous Tourism for the third consecutive year.

The Sunshine Coast Spirit House Restaurant and Cooking School picked up the award for Best Tourism Restaurant and Catering Service for the third year running.

In a rare setback, the Gold Coast's major theme parks missed out.

However, Warner Village Theme Parks chief executive John Menzies was honoured with the Marie Watson-Blake Award for outstanding contribution by an individual.

Ms Boyle said Mr Menzies was a deserving winner, having made an "amazing contribution" to the industry.

Mr Menzies' award was one of five picked up by the Gold Coast tourism region.

Townsville matched the effort with five of its own, including the Best Tourist Attraction award going to the Billabong Sanctuary; the Tourism and Education and Training award won by James Cook University; and Best Back-packer Accommodation awarded to the Bungalow Bay Koala Village.

All winners will vie for the Australian Tourism Awards to be held in Canberra on February 29.


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