The winners of the Queensland Hotels Association’s (QHA) best regional hotel put their success down to strong support from their patrons in the aftermath of the pandemic. 

Noel and Jane Jesberg run the Rix Hotel in Charters Towers and told Australian Hotelier they couldn’t be prouder of their team and the loyal support of the local community. 

The couple won three prizes at the QHA Awards held at Brisbane’s Convention and Exhibition Centre this week, including Best Regional Bar and Best Regional Restaurant and Best Overall Hotel (Regional).

“From the outset our driving force was to bring an energy to dining in the bush that replicated restaurants in [Brisbane],” Ms Jesberg said.

“Winning best regional hotel proves to us we are doing just that and more.

“We are setting the benchmark.”

Mr Jesberg said their business had to adapt to a post-pandemic world but the local community embraced the venue with Friday and Saturday nights booked out months in advance.

“As life has returned to our new normal we continue to book out,” he said.

“We are a destination and an experience and we are that because we continue to mix it up.

“This year we embarked on dry-ageing our own beef and it’s flying out the door.”

Another regional publican won Hotelier of the Year, with Tracy Hatch (pictured left) running a pub in small outback town about 27km east of Longreach.

Hatch owns the Wellshot Hotel in Ilfracombe, which has been in the same location since 1890, and is a favourite among locals and tourists for offering an outback experience in a traditional pub.

“The hotel is just a building, it’s the people, the amazing staff – both past and present – and everything that is Ilfracombe that makes The Wellshot,” Ms Hatch said.

The Best Overall Hotel (Metropolitan) was won by Tilley & Wills for the multi-venue The Prince Consort in Fortitude Valley. 

Tilley & Wills CEO, Nick Wills, said he is absolutely thrilled about the award.

“Our group is more than just a collection of hotels, but is really more a large family so this award is a credit to the whole group and especially our Queensland team led by Jason Hirt,” he told Australian Hotelier.

“They all work tirelessly but all manage to have a lot of fun along the way too which is really important for our culture and the hotel’s energy levels.”

The team behind The Prince Consort celebrate its win as Best Overall Hotel – Metropolitan.

The Comiskey Group capped off a massive night by winning four awards including Group Operator of the Year, Best Entertainment Venue for the Sandstone Point Hotel, Best Mid-Range Accommodation for the BIG4 Sandstone Point and Best Retail Liquor Outlet for Harry Brown Eatons Hill Hotel. While the group has won multiple awards over the last decade, it’s the first time its won Hotel Group Operator of the Year.

“As always the Queensland Hotels Association put on a great awards night! It was extra special for us this year having won ‘Best Hotel Group Operator’ for the first time. Over the last 3-4 years we’ve made a significant investment in our company culture and training programs. It’s nice to be recognised for our continual efforts to improve on a group-level,” stated managing director Rob Comiskey.

“We took home four awards total and it’s all a credit to our incredible team. We thank our management and staff for all their work!”

QHA CEO, Bernie Hogan, said the awards show that in almost every corner of Queensland there is a world-class experience.

“Whether it is a deluxe stay in one of our iconic tourist destinations or simply a visit to your local, Queensland is leading the way in Australian hospitality,” he said.

“We couldn’t be more pleased how our members continue to provide jobs, training, entertainment and above all, a sense of community to locals and visitors alike.”

The full list of winners at the 2023 QHA Awards for Excellence is available on the QHA website.

Major award winners Rob Comiskey, MD of Comiskey Group; and Nick Wills, CEO of Tilley & Wills, will both be speaking at the 2023 Pub Leaders Summit on Monday 24 July at Eatons Hill Hotel. Purchase your tickets now to hear these industry leaders share their insights on topics such as F&B and live music and entertainment.

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