Rather than build a dream world, outback Queensland tourism delegates were told on Saturday they had a real world to use to their advantage.
Barcaldine’s Rob Chandler, a longtime OQTA chairman, who last week stepped down from the board to concentrate on boosting tourism on the state local government agenda, spoke about the birth of the modern western Queensland tourism movement when he accepted the Vince Evert award for an individual who has made an exceptional contribution to the industry in outback Queensland, at the 2016 awards night in Windorah.
He recalled a raucous conversation in his parents’ kitchen at North Delta, in the Barcaldine area, where Hugh Sawrey, RM Williams, Bob Katter Snr and his father Ranald Chandler “had the vision splendid”.
“They were talking rubbish – building a hall of fame and landing jet planes,” Rob said.
“On the back of those dreams we have the Australian Workers Heritage Centre, Qantas Founders and others.
“We not only have the best attractions in Australia; we have the best natural attractions.
“We are babes in the woods as far as world tourism goes, but no-one has the natural attractions we do.”
He paid tribute to his wife Deb for “sticking her neck out” and starting a tourism venture in the form of new accommodation, and to Alan Smith of Outback Aussie Tours and Lance Smith, who he said had put their fortunes on the line when tourism in the west was unproven.
“They are the ones who inspired me,” he said.
Cr Chandler is on the Local Government Association of Queensland policy executive, along with fellow western mayor Belinda Murphy, and said he would be working to convince fellow directors to back tourism to the hilt and convince state and federal governments to invest serious money into tourism in the west.