In many ways, the fourth annual Gourmet Traveller Travel Awards was a night of firsts. As the great and the good of the travel industry gathered for a glamorous dinner at Guillaume at Bennelong, ethereal patterns played on the sails of the Opera House, marking the first night of Vivid Sydney, the city's festival of light. And just before host Catriona Rowntree, of awards partner Getaway, called the winners to the stage, it was revealed that GT would be launching on the iPad.
Katie Noonan and her band The Captains set the stage for guest speaker Penny Rafferty, executive officer of Luxury Lodges of Australia. She provided a sneak peek of the brand-new organisation and spoke of the need for this country to celebrate and better promote its top-end product, as showcased by the GT awards.
And about those awards: a total of 18 winners were announced in categories as diverse as Best Resort/Lodge (Southern Ocean Lodge), Best Green Tourism Initiative (Sal Salis Ningaloo Reef) and Best Airline Service (Singapore Airlines). Other noteworthy winners included newcomer Emirates Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa (Best New Resort) and yacht racing legend Bob Oatley's Qualia, which took out line honours in both the Best Spa and Best Hotel Villas/Suites categories (check out the full results).
Renaud Tinel, Australia and Oceania market director and general manager of founding sponsor Nespresso, was on hand to present the trophies with GT editor Anthea Loucas, who said, "At Gourmet Traveller we take pride in being able to shine a light on Australia's finest travel operators. Celebrating excellence is what we do."
As well as primary sponsor Nespresso, the awards were supported by Getaway, Skoda, Huka Lodge, Air New Zealand, Champagne G.H. Mumm, Church Road wines, S.Pellegrino and, of course, chef Guillaume Brahimi and the Guillaume at Bennelong team.