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Tourism Awards - Busting the Myths

Tourism Awards - Busting the Myths

State/Territory and National Tourism Awards

Busting the Perpetual Myths About This Awards Program

CAUTION! If you have strong, negative opinions about the tourism awards, you are going to be triggered by this blog post. What I am about to say is not for the faint-hearted. Only read on if you truly want to know about the awards system, and why it is of benefit to your business.


I’ve been involved in the tourism awards process for over twenty years in five different states and territories. I have been an award entrant, an award finalist, an award winner at both state/territory and national levels and a state awards judge. I’ve written submissions myself and have also paid people to write submissions on my behalf. I’ve seen the tourism awards program from all angles, and following are the common myths I hear about the awards process and why the people who perpetuate those myths are, well… wrong. Prepare to be triggered!

  • The Tourism Awards are biased. MYTH!
    • At a State/Territory level, at least three (sometimes six) independent judges review your business. All categories are judged by teams of three judges.
    • One judge will conduct the site visit, and at least three more judges will review your submission. These judges have received mentoring in how to conduct the judging process and must declare a conflict of interest in any business they have a friendship/financial relationship with.
    • All judges must sign a confidentiality form which means anything they read or see within your entry also remains within the judging team.
    • This means that only judges ‘at arm’s length’ from the businesses can judge them. Then, if you win at a State/Territory level, a further three judges re-judge the submission from the national judging panel. So there is an extra layer of accountability. To say the awards are biased is to accuse all those judges of bias, which is not correct.
  • My small business can’t compete with the big businesses who enter the awards. MYTH!
    • Out of the 25 national categories in the awards in 2018:
      • 40% of the Gold medal winners were small/family/micro/volunteer run businesses
      • 40% of the Silver medal winners were small/family/micro/volunteer run businesses
      • 35% of the Bronze medal winners were small/family/micro/volunteer run business
  • My regional/remote business can’t compete with the capital city businesses. MYTH!
    • Out of the 25 national categories in the awards, in 2018:
      • 77% of the Gold medal winners were in regional/remote destinations
      • 70% of the Silver medal winners were in regional/remote destinations
      • 76% of the Silver medal winners were in regional/remote destinations
    • I entered the tourism awards once and didn’t get an award, yet my business was the best of the lot. I therefore don’t need to enter the awards again. MYTH!
      • There’s no doubt about it – not winning can hurt. But every business needs to continuously improve. If you didn’t win an award, it’s because other businesses were better than you. The judges have five areas they judge the business on – Product, Business Planning, Marketing, Customer Service/Staff Training, and Sustainability. If you didn’t get an award, it’s because someone else did those things better than you. Don’t take it personally. Read the judge’s feedback, work out how you can address the issues they have mentioned and implement them in your business. Continuous improvement is something every business needs to do – no business can be set and forgotten, because those are the ones that lag and eventually die.
  • The feedback from the judges I used to get was useless, so I don’t need to enter again. MYTH!
    • The feedback from judges used to be opaque and non-specific. This is no longer the case. In the past few years especially, judges have been encouraged to give detailed, specific feedback. Use it to make your business better.
  • It’s always businesses from the east coast who win anyway, so there’s no point in me entering. MYTH!
    • Out of the 25 national categories in the awards in 2018:
      • 52% of the Gold medal winners were in WA, SA or the NT
      • 20% of the Silver medal winners were in WA, SA or the NT
      • 48% of the Bronze medal winners were in WA, SA or the NT
  • The tourism awards are all about the awards – there’s no other reason why I should enter the program. MYTH!
    • The reason to enter the awards is for the judge’s feedback. Most people entering for the first or second time don’t get an award. And if those businesses don’t acknowledge the feedback and improve their business based on that feedback, they are unlikely to ever get an award! You must remember that around 800 businesses enter the awards from across Australia every year, and all of them want to win. The reason to enter is to get the judge’s feedback and learn ways to improve your business. It’s great to have experienced eyes looking independently at your business and giving you ways to grow your market share. Listen and take it on board!
  • I didn’t enter the tourism awards so there’s no need for me to go to the awards dinner. MYTH!
    • Do you want to meet some of the best business owners and managers in the tourism industry and learn from them? Then go to the State/Territory and National awards dinners! The room is filled with award winners, so go along and make connections with people who can help you grow your business.
  • Only people who pay a writer to do their submission win, and I can’t afford that so there’s no need for me to enter the awards. MYTH!
    • Whilst submissions need to be well written, the main thing judges are looking for is evidence of your business excellence. Be specific, give evidence and be transparent. Making motherhood statements like ‘My business provides the best customer service in the region’ means absolutely nothing. Providing evidence of this (from your Google Reviews feedback, Facebook comments etc) means something. Judges don’t believe what you say unless you give evidence for your statements. So even people who pay to have their submissions written for them still must provide all the same information as someone who doesn’t get a paid writer. The difference between the winners and the finalists is usually that the winners have given specific, detailed, evidence-based information in their submission. They do this whether the submission is written by a paid writer or not.
  • I won a tourism award once, but it did nothing to increase my bookings, so I don’t need to bother entering again. MYTH!
    • The tourism awards shouldn’t be entered because you think it will increase your bookings. If you want this, you need to change your expectations. Enter the awards because you want to get the judge’s feedback to improve your business. What you are doing is reviewing your Business Plan when you write your submission, and then getting free advice from experienced, independent judges on how to improve. That’s why you enter the awards. And by the way, if you don’t have a Business Plan and are upset you haven’t won an award yet even though you’ve entered, then I’ll let you think about why you may not have won…
  • I just don’t have enough time to enter the awards. The submission takes too long to write. I’ve got better things to be doing. MYTH!
    • If you have a Business Plan, then all the tourism awards submission does is summarise and crystallise that document. One trick is to structure your Business Plan in a similar way to how the awards questions roll, so that each year you can simply summarise what you have already put into your Business Plan. If you don’t have time to write an awards submission, what you are saying is that you don’t have time to review your Business Plan. And that isn’t good enough if you want to run a successful business.
  • The feedback from judges often conflicts with each other, so I get confused when I receive their feedback. FACT!
    • This is a good thing. Use the feedback from the judges to benefit your business. If two judges write contradictory things, use the feedback that best suits the improvement of your business. People don’t always agree. Sometimes judges disagree, but that is a good thing. The awarding of tourism awards is an objective process, but sometimes subjectivity does creep in due to the background, experience, skills and qualifications of the various judges. So simply use the feedback that best suits your business improvement, and don’t get hung up if you read contradictory feedback. That’s what makes life interesting!

So there are a bunch of myths I have heard over the years and why I think they are wrong. Oh, and before I finish, here is a fact for you about the awards program!

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