Al Grundy honoured to receive major award
That was how an emotional Al Grundy responded after being announced as the winner of the "Bob Porter Award for an Outstanding Contribution by an Individual" at the Whitsunday Tourism and Business Awards on Saturday night.
Totally overwhelmed, Mr Grundy explained how he'd moved to the region to start his business - Explore Whitsundays - 17 years ago because he had visited as a young man and had seen the beauty of the place.
"I love this place and I love the industry," he said as he accepted his award.
"When I started, we carried 3000 people a year, now we are carrying 30,000 people a year.
"Honestly, I am stoked. We are so lucky to have Whitehaven Beach in the region and the 74 islands that make up the Whitsundays. That's amazing.
"As a community, we need to work together, to work hand in hand with the people of Bowen and the resource industry to protect them and look after them," he said.
After having time to reflect in the following days, Mr Grundy was still quite overwhelemed.
He has thanked the WMDL Board and the Tourism Advisory Group for the award which he described as 'both humbling and a huge surprise'.
"We sit on some of the most valuable tourism assets globally and I'm so very proud to represent the area for the greater gain of all in the community," he said this week.
"The Whitsundays punches well above its weight when compared with other tourism destinations with large budgets. WMDL and all the members should be proud of the achievements, through the toughest economic period for tourism."
According to Mr Grundy, the recent upgrades and refurbishments to the Airlie Beach tourist precincts and infrastructure, and quality tourism offerings in combination with a falling Australian dollar, boded well for the future of tourism in the Whitsundays, however he emphasised the need to protect the region's natural drawcards.
"We urgently need to focus our energy on reversing mankind's impacts on the reef and strike the right balance for the environment and the economy," he said.
"In the last 18 months, the charter boat industry has worked hard to gather facts and raise awareness of the declining water quality issues our local reefs face, but the highest accolades should be reserved for Tony Brown who has given untold hours and travelled the world, from Germany to Canberra, lobbying on our behalf."