9 May 2024

Kiama and Shellharbour pitch their patch to grab votes in Top Tourism Town Awards

| Jen White
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Two landscapes.

Residents are urged to vote for their favourite top town – Kiama or Shellharbour. Photos: Destination Kiama; J. Sedgewicke/NPWS.

OK Illawarra, time to make your hometown pride count! It’s the last few days of voting for Australia’s top tourism towns, with Shellharbour and Kiama vying for the top honours.

Further down the coast, Berry and Merimbula are in the mix for Small Tourism Town (population 1500-5000) while Huskisson is one of four finalists in the Tiny Tourism Town category (population under 1500).

The Top Tourism Town Awards, run by Business NSW, showcase the value of tourism to towns and communities across NSW.

Not surprisingly, the Illawarra’s two finalists – Shellharbour and Kiama – are desperately trying to outdo each other and are urging their residents to cast their votes now.

Destination Kiama is rallying locals and visitors to the cause.

Tourism and Marketing Lead Belinda Williams said the awards required Destination Kiama to submit a bid – “a bit like hosting the Olympics (but much cheaper)”.

“The ‘bid’ includes a detailed application, with an itinerary for a specified target visitor market and a video that encapsulates the essence of the destination,” Ms Williams said.

As a finalist in the hotly contested 5000-plus population category, Kiama’s public vote counts as 25 per cent of the overall score.

Mayor Neil Reilly has thrown his support behind Kiama’s finals campaign.

“I’d say this is exciting, but no surprise to anyone who has spent any time here; it’s just further confirmation of what our residents and regular visitors have known for a long time,” Cr Reilly said.

Meanwhile, up the road in Shellharbour, Mayor Chris Homer is rallying the troops after the city was named a finalist for the second year running.

“I’m not surprised at all that Shellharbour has been named as a finalist again. We only narrowly missed out on the top gong last year, so I encourage everyone to vote for our amazing city,” Cr Homer said.

“Shellharbour is blessed to have pristine beaches and Lake Illawarra in the eastern part of our city, and the beautiful hinterland, rainforest and escarpment in our west. It was only a few months ago that The Farm Beach was officially named the second best beach in Australia and the best in NSW.”

The winners will be announced at the 2024 Local Government NSW Destination and Visitor Economy Conference in Wagga Wagga at the end of May. The winners will go on to represent the state at the National Tourism Awards.

Nominations close at 5 pm on Monday 13 May and voting is online via the Business NSW website.

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