By Vanessa Cavasinni, editor Australian Hotelier
The AHA NSW Awards for Excellence 2016 had a massive night last night, with 1200 guests in attendance at the ceremony at The Star.
The Watson's Bay Boutique Hotel team celebrate their Hotel of the Year – City award
The huge crowd was just one of the large figures on the night, with more than 600 nominations spread across a record 42 categories.
The accolades were shared pretty evenly across the state, with no single group or venue dominating the awards this year. John Whelan, CEO of AHA NSW, said the nominees were representative of the high quality of the state’s operators and venues.
“The nominees are a ‘who’s who’ of the hotel industry in NSW and the awards honour the best in the business. My congratulations go to all the winners on the night.”
One such stalwart of the industry that was honoured at the awards was Patrick Gallagher, who was surprised to be honoured with the Cyril Maloney Medal, which he accepted with signature humility.
“I’m extremely honoured and extremely flattered – I’m very embarrassed – and I think there are so many more people out here deserving of this sort of accolade.”
Gallagher, also made note of the generous nature of the industry.
“I’d just like to say that I often think back to the days when the publican was up there with the local preacher and the local bank manager. We’ve lost a little bit of that over the years – I’m not sure how that happened. But it’s a wonderful industry, it’s a resilient industry, it’s an industry that gives and does not necessarily get recognised for that.”
AHA's National and NSW President Scott Leach addresses those gathered at the AHA NSW Awards
Hotel of the Year – Country was awarded to The Sunken Monkey in Erina, which also won Best Nightclub/Nightlife Venue for its Proud Mary Club. Hotel of the Year – City was taken out by Sydney Collective’s Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel. The hotel was also recognised for Best Social Media Activity.
"It makes me very proud that our staff and management have been recognised for the hard work, passion and dedication they have given in reinventing this lady of the sea – Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel," stated Sydney Collective director, Fraser Short. "It's a real honour to be recognised by industry peers and this trophy has gone 'straight to the pool room' for all the team to enjoy."
"Furthermore, the awards night was a superb event and Scott and the AHA team should be congratulated on bringing together the industry and government on such a large scale and celebrating the wins the hotel industry constantly delivers to the broader community."
In the other two major awards, Single Hotel Operator of the Year was awarded to Des Kennedy of the Oriental Hotel in Mudgee, and Group Hotel Operator of the Year was awarded to Public House Management Group, which won three other awards on the night.
“Public House Management Group are ecstatic to be awarded Best Hotel Group Operator – we owe this award to every single one of our dedicated staff and team members who work across the PHMG portfolio. We look forward to another great year in 2017,” commented Mitchell Waugh, managing director.
A $20,000 scholarship was awarded on the night to Hayley Melhuish, a young woman from Salamander Bay. The scholarship, provided by the AHA NSW and the Blue Mountains International Hotel Management School, will subsidise a two-and-a-half year Bachelor of Business (International Resorts and Hotel Management) degree.
Melhuish was very grateful for the scholarship, telling Australian Hotelier: “I’m really excited to be able to enter into the industry and to be able to learn about so many amazing things. Thank you to AHA NSW and to the Blue Mountains International Hotel Management School.”
Later on in the night, it was announced that AHA NSW had decided to grant $20,000 to the two other finalists for the scholarship.