Congratulations to Frank and Yvonne Wynen of Lilypad Luxury Cabins for taking out the NSW Tourism Top Award.
Few may be aware of the history of the development of this kind of tourist accommodation in Bellingen.
Some thirty years ago it became clear that Bellingen was in the process of fast becoming a favourite tourist destination, alas with not enough accommodation.
With visions of budget-built motels with neon lights spoiling the beautiful entry into our town, as some favoured, a few of us informally discussed alternatives to this.
The obvious solution was friendly bed and breakfasts and holiday cabins that melted into the landscape. One or two people already offered this, but certainly not enough.
Adrian Lipscomb and myself started Koompartoo Retreat with just a small charming building next to our home, which was soon visited by a travel writer who wrote us up in glowing terms in the Sydney Morning Herald.
The result was that we had to refuse nearly 70 bookings for Easter 1990. The market was obviously there and should not be left unexploited.
We called a meeting of people that we knew had empty cottages on acreage or granny flats to see if any were interested in taking our overflow.
Our offer was happily taken up, and once this eco-friendly form of hospitality took off, others followed, and today there is a plethora of accommodation choices available to suit all budgets.
The entry into Bellingen is still one of the most charming in the state, unspoilt by commercial motels and neon signs, and the profits from tourist accommodation is shared amongst many locals.
The development of this hidden industry is certainly one of the most successful in Bellingen Shire, thanks to a small group of about ten people who cooperated, inspired others and made it grow.