Promoting Australia as a welcoming destination for gay and lesbian travellers is the guiding principle for GALTA (Gay And Lesbian Tourism Australia – http://galta.com.au/meet-the-team) and Noosa certainly demonstrated its credentials in wonderful style as a prodigious host for the 2015 gathering of GALTA members for their Annual General Meeting. Noosa, the jewel in the crown of Queensland’s famous Sunshine Coast, was the chosen location for this year’s event and we (GayMenOnHoliday.com) didn’t waste the opportunity to meet the people behind the famous rainbow logo. Little did we know we would also be introduced to a network of members from both the local area and across Australia who share the same focus for developing gay friendly travel in our beautiful country. And didn’t Noosa shine!
We joined the group for welcome drinks held at Pepper’s Noosa Resort & Villas (http://www.peppers.com.au/noosa/). We were greeted by Steve McPharlin, the General Manager of the hotel and Louise Terry (GALTA Director and Marketing Manager for Tourism Noosa) who made us ‘novices’ feel relaxed by providing introductions to other members who had also taken time out from busy work schedules to participate in the fun, frivolity and fact finding this weekend had in store for us.
A short tour of this beautiful resort followed and we saw one of the four bedroom luxury villas with spectacular sunset views over the Noosa foreshore. The level of comfort and style synonymous with the Pepper’s brand was obvious from the immaculate presentation and quality of finishes in the villa. Returning for a final round of drinks and scrumptious canapés, the hotel staff couldn’t have been more charming and hospitable.
GALTA members were then invited to join the group for dinner at Gaston, a favourite local restaurant. During the evening we became better aquainted with the representatives of the GALTA executive. The President, Rod Stringer and Vice President, Mario Paez have both been part of the organisation for many years and, like the others who hold key roles, are fully engaged running their own tourist industry businesses while lending their knowledge and expertise to the management of GALTA. The Secretary, Dennis Basham, ensures effective communication among the whole group and, combined with his role of General Manager Scoot (Australia), it’s easy to see why he doesn’t have a lot of spare hours.
On Saturday the group was hosted by Noosa Tourism and Noosa Hinterland Tours to a ‘familial’ which provided a taste of local GALTA affiliated businesses. The AGM was held at Netanya Noosa (http://www.netanyanoosa.com), followed by a full afternoon of festivities along the Noosa River and, in the evening, a drive up into the Eumundi hinterland.
Linda and Kirsty from Malu OS Eco Boat Hire (http://malu-os.com.au) transported us from the Sheraton Hotel’s wharf to the impressive Noosa Boathouse (http://www.noosaboathouse.com.au) where we were greeted by the incomparable Melanie Breasts, a local drag performer and fabulous host. As well as delicious finger food and drinks, we were provided with entertainment by the sublime voice of local songstress, Andrea Kirwin.
Towards the end of the afternoon, as the sun was setting and creating a spectacular backdrop over the river, we were introduced to various local community and business representatives. A strong, positive and encouraging welcome to GALTA members was presented by Councillor Frank Wilkie on behalf of the Noosa Shire Council.
“We want you to feel welcome. We want you to know you are welcome and feel appreciated for who you are.”
The grand finale to the weekend was the Australian Body Art Festival 2015 held at the Eumundi Markets site. It provided a cultural feast for the senses and a true celebration of body art craft. We watched the magic and collaboration of graffiti artists, fashionistas, international make-up specialists, designers and hair stylists, creating 3D living sculptures which surprised the audience with unique artistic expression.
As we eagerly swapped emails, business cards and ‘air kisses’ with our new collective of colleagues for the final time, we were struck by the realisation that our work with GALTA and reviewing alluring and fascinating destinations around Australia had only just begun.