MACKAY is the shock winner of a popular travel website's Australian Town of the Year awards, beating the likes of the Gold Coast and Byron Bay.
Wotif's inaugural awards found the nation's sugar capital was No. 1 for domestic travellers, based on demand, affordability, year-on-year interest and the number of properties available.
Wotif travel specialist Kirsty La Bruniy said she wasn't surprised by the town's win.
"There is so much to see and do in Mackay that we weren't surprised it took out the No. 1 spot," she said.
"The awards are based on a pricing and demand index, and with Mackay experiencing significant year-on-year growth and offering travellers plenty of affordable accommodation, 2018 is a great time to visit."
Highlights included watching the wallabies and kangaroos at sunrise at Cape Hillsborough, the nearby Eungella National Park, uncrowded beaches, and the Great Barrier Reef, Ms La Bruniy said.
Mackay Mayor, Greg Williamson, said events such as Elton John's concert and the Women's Big Bash League had boosted tourist numbers.
"For a long time now we have been receiving data that visitor numbers are going up, and now here is hard evidence that this is real.
"Coming from one of the leading search sites it shows that people are interested in Mackay," he said.
"It been a collaborative effort between Mackay Tourism, Mackay Airports and the council.
"Now the next thing is to work out how to capitalise on that interest."
Cr Williamson said it was important that everyone shared in the success and helped to promote the region.
Doing that could be as simple as showing some hospitality to the tourists that Mackay residents met.
He said the Elton John concert was a perfect example of the collaboration needed from everyone, from police to the bus drivers.
"Everything worked seamlessly," he said.
"I think we are going to see a tremendous year in tourism in Mackay," Cr Williamson said.
Mackay Tourism general manager Tas Webber said the region has celebrated four quarters of growth in domestic and international visitor numbers, as well as an amazing events calendar attracting travellers far and wide.
"We are ecstatic that Mackay has taken out the Wotif Australian Town of the Year in 2018," Mr Webber said.
"The region is a hidden gem full of natural attractions, wildlife, national parks, fishing, beaches, great food and unique events so it's no wonder more and more Australians are choosing Mackay for their next holiday."
Two other Queensland towns made the top 10 - Bundaberg at No. 5 and Townsville at No. 7.
THE RUNNERS UP:
- Shepparton, Vic
- Mildura, Vic
- Bunbury, WA
- Bundaberg, Qld
- Lakes Entrance, Vic
- Townsville, Qld
- Port Macquarie, NSW
- Byron Bay, NSW
- Echuca, Vic
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