The Hello Koalas Sculpture Trail has added to its "significant number of awards" after claiming gold for cultural tourism at the Destination North Coast Regional Tourism Awards.
The winners were named on Thursday August 1, at South West Rocks.
Leading regional tourism businesses, events, and visitor experiences were recognised at the awards.
Winners in 14 categories were announced at the awards presentation ceremony from finalists including tourism businesses, events, restaurants, wineries and accommodation providers.
More than 150 industry representatives were in attendance to see who would take home the coveted awards.
Category winners from the regional tourism awards will now gain finalist status upon entering the NSW tourism awards to be held in Sydney in November.
Hello Koalas Sculpture Trail project director Margret Meagher says the award was great news.
"These awards recognise that the koala trail is bringing people into the region as visitors," she said.
"As well, we are continuing to engage very strongly with the local community.
"I think the sculpture trail reinforces the koala as an iconic brand for the region.
I think the sculpture trail reinforces the koala as an iconic brand for the region.Margret Meagher
"This award dove-tails the impact the koala trail has in relation to community from a community, tourism and economic perspective," she said.
"Many people tell me that the trail is presenting Port Macquarie in a very distinctive way."
To further enhance the koala trail's reputation, Ms Meagher is preparing for a major exhibition running through October and November at Sydney's Botanical Gardens.
Six new koalas will be produced bringing the total to 24 koalas for the exhibition.
"This is very exciting for us. The Botanic Gardens rarely features such a big exhibition.
"The Gardens traditionally attract close to 900,000 visitors so this exhibition will showcase our koala trail to a wider audience," she said.
Once the six new hand-painted koalas are complete it will bring the total to 73.
The Hello Koalas Sculpture Trail has won awards since 2015 including Greater Port Macquarie Business Awards, North Coast Regional Tourism and NSW State Tourism Awards.
With this year's gold under its collective belt, the trail is now a finalist in the state tourism awards.
The trail took gold in 2017 and silver in 2018 at this level.
The trail acknowledges the artistic skills of our local artists and recognises the steadfast number of existing and new sponsors.Margret Meagher
Ms Meagher said the awards recognise the large number of people who support the koala trail.
"The trail acknowledges the artistic skills of our local artists and recognises the steadfast number of existing and new sponsors," she added.
Regional Tourism Awards chair, Jane Barnes, congratulated all winners and finalists on their contribution to regional tourism.
"Finalists in this year's program were of a high calibre with a number of first-time entrants on the list," she said.
"We are thrilled to recognise the best of the region's tourism industry tonight and wish our winners the best of luck as they progress to compete against operators from the entire state.
"We would also like to acknowledge and thank our partners, Destination NSW and the NSW Business Chamber who have both been instrumental in ensuring the success of the 2019 Regional Tourism Awards."
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