David Elliott and the Australian Age of Dinosaurs museum have capped off an incredible year for outback tourism operators, receiving a gold award in the major tourist attraction category at the Queensland tourism awards.
Mr Elliott also received the Outstanding Contribution by an Individual award for his work over more than a decade with the Winton-based museum.
It recognises the extraordinary personal and professional achievement and contribution he has made to the founding and development of the non-profit organisation that finds and prepares and presents Australia's prehistory to the world.
The museum continues to go from strength to strength and today paleo enthusiasts from around the world travel to outback Queensland for the experience.
Its main competition for the major tourist attraction award was Australia Zoo on the Sunshine Coast.
These were among a dozen accolades for the outback region at the awards held at the Sunshine Coast Convention Centre at Twin Waters where more than 900 guests gathered to celebrate the achievements of Queensland's best tourism operators.
Related: Outback tourism a shining light
Cobbold Gorge maintained its winning streak and Hall of Fame induction in 2018, receiving gold in the hosted accommodation category for the fourth year in a row, and gold in the tourist attraction category.
The innovative operators in Queensland's Gulf Savannah recently opened Australia's first glass-bottom bridge.
The Julia Creek Visitor Information Centre was awarded gold and the Cunnamulla Fella Visitor Information Centre received a highly commended award in the visitor information services category.
First-time entrants Saltbush Retreat, based at Longreach, were awarded gold in the self-contained accommodation category while Gilberton Outback Retreat at Georgetown was awarded silver in the unique accommodation category.
Outback Queensland's growing events calendar proved itself with the Mount Isa Mines Rodeo and Birdsville Big Red Bash taking home Silver and Bronze respectively in the festivals and events category.
Two Gulf businesses were also recognised - the Les Wilson Barramundi Centre at Karumba received bronze in the new tourism business award, and The Gulflander was highly commended in the cultural tourism section.
Outback Queensland Tourism Association chairman Andrew Martin said he was proud of the region's success in 2019 throughout the Year of Outback Tourism.
"Outback Queensland deservingly scooped the pool on Friday night," he said. "I am especially pleased that David Elliott has been honoured with the Marie Watson-Blake Award for outstanding contribution by an individual."
The award wins are the cherry on top for the region, after a bumper year where a record-breaking 1.1 million tourists visited the region.
A total of 83 awards were presented across 28 categories, as well as two people's choice awards.
QTIC Chief Executive Daniel Gschwind said the 35th annual Queensland Tourism Awards had brought together an outstanding selection of operators that truly reflected the diverse range of the state's quality tourism offerings.
More than 27.2 million international and domestic visitors flocked to the Sunshine State in the year ending June 2019, with 17.6 million of those tourists being intrastate visitors, which is an 11.9 per cent increase on the previous year's intrastate visitation.
Tourism Minister Kate Jones, who was a guest of honour at the Outback Queensland tourism awards in Winton, congratulated all outback winners and entrants, saying their contribution not only supported their local economy, but contributed to the backbone of Queensland's $27.2 billion tourism industry.
"Outback operators are a shining example of why the industry continues to grow," she said.
Queensland Airports Limited CEO Chris Mills congratulated Outback tourism operators for showcasing the diverse array of tourism offerings in their region.
"We are seeing an ongoing refresh of tourism product and the development and delivery of new offerings, which is essential for the success of the sector domestically and internationally.
"As the owner of the aviation gateways to the Gold Coast, Townsville, Mount Isa and Longreach, we are acutely aware of the importance of excellence in the sector for us, the business sector and communities across the state."
Queensland's gold award winners will gain automatic entry into the Qantas Australian Tourism Awards, which will be held in Canberra on March 6, 2020.