The Illawarra hotel industry stood tall and proud at the AHA NSW Awards for Excellence 2023 on Tuesday (31 October) where three local establishments walked away with a claim to greatness.
More than 1200 attendees gathered at The Winx Stand at Royal Randwick Racecourse for the awards, which are recognised as the most prestigious awards program in the hospitality industry.
The Warilla Hotel was named Best Sporting Entertainment Venue and Central Hotel Shellharbour took out Best Regional Casual Dining (Southern), while the Industry Rising Star award went to Tahlia Grant of Headlands Hotel Austinmer.
Tahlia says Headlands staff were enthusiastically supportive of her win.
“The whole table just went crazy for me – that was really cool,” she says.
“And of course, getting that kind of recognition amongst my peers was awesome.”
Tahlia joined Headlands Hotel in 2016 as a casual front-of-house member of staff and worked her way up to operations manager in 2020. She had a Bachelor of Communications, majoring in marketing under her belt, and through Headlands later completed a diploma in human resources and is currently studying her Certificate IV in accounting and bookkeeping with an intention to become a hospitality lifer.
“I’d like to work towards getting a bit more behind the scenes operationally and setup wise. I helped [Headlands Hotel managers] Stevens Group with the setup and training at our new pub NINETEEN in the Hunter Valley and found it very fulfilling to play a big part in the foundation of a hotel,” she says.
“The industry has been good to me, and it’s fun. I think I’ll be hanging around, and I would like to play a part in ensuring others have that same kind of experience in hospitality.”
The AHA Awards for Excellence honour the exceptional achievements of NSW hotels across a variety of categories including accommodation, dining, entertainment, marketing, social media, community service and talented employees.
AHA NSW CEO John Whelan says the finalists and winners prove the state offers world-class hospitality.
“The AHA NSW Awards for Excellence shines a light on the hard work, dedication and passion within our industry,” he says.
“It is an opportunity to come together and applaud the success of those within our industry from outstanding operators to exceptional food and beverage offerings, accommodation, design, and community engagement.
“This year, the calibre of our finalists and winners has yet again proven that the hospitality offering across NSW is nothing short of world-class.”
All state winners will proceed to national awards on Monday 27 November in Adelaide.