It's shaping up to be an exciting year for Robert Pennicott and his team at Pennicott Wilderness Journeys. Last night the company won three prestigious trophies at the Australian Tourism Awards, held in Hobart.
In competition with the best tourism experiences from all states and territories, Rob's Bruny Island Cruises won the Tourist Attraction and Ecotourism categories and Pennicott Wilderness Journeys won the Qantas Award for Excellence in Sustainable Tourism.
For the past 13 years, Rob and his passionate crew have been showcasing Bruny Island's rugged south-east coast. Guests sit at the foot of Jurassic Dolerite sea cliffs towering 272m towards the sky. These have been sculptured by weather and waves over millions of years to form dramatic sheer cliff faces, caves and sea stacks. Cruising in the company's custom-built yellow boats, guests regularly encounter seals, dolphins, migrating whales and a variety of seabirds including albatross, shearwaters, cormorants, terns, gulls and birds of prey.
The award for Best Tourist Attraction recognises businesses of state-wide importance which contribute to the tourism experience in their region. Bruny Island Cruises is certainly a worthy winner – having grown from humble beginnings in 1999, to become one of Tasmania's iconic experiences.
A key part of the business' philosophy is to work in harmony with the local community. As Bruny Island residents, Rob and his family share their success with fellow islanders through the generation of significant regional employment, purchasing goods and services from local suppliers where possible, as well as direct support and sponsorship of local schools, organisations and community groups.
"Sustainability is at the heart of what we do and we work hard to operate with minimal impact on the environment,” Rob says. "Each year we offset our carbon emissions through Greening Australia. These donations have planted 15,000 trees, which are actually sequestering more carbon than what we produce.”
Pennicott Wilderness Journeys is Advanced Ecotourism certified. The company is also part of the EarthCheck program and it exceeds global best-practice standards for efficient fuel, energy and water use.
"Each year we give away at least 25% of our net profits to donation, charity and conservation,” Rob says. "This goes to a range of local, national and international conservation, community fundraising and humanitarian projects. Much of this work is done through the Pennicott Foundation.”
Pennicott Wilderness Journeys has donated to a range of initiatives, including a large-scale project undertaken by the Tasmanian Parks & Wildlife Service. A feral species responsible for killing 50,000 seabirds per year was successfully eradicated from Tasman Island.
This year, 40 of Rob's staff members were there to celebrate the company's success and Rob acknowledged the hard work and dedication of his entire team.
"I am so lucky to have such an incredible team behind me, who are extremely passionate about what they do,” Rob says. "An Australian Tourism Award is a real credit to everyone in the business – skippers, deckhands, bus drivers, kitchen staff, office staff, cleaners, promotions staff and my management team – not to mention all our partners and business colleagues in the Tasmanian tourism industry.”
"I also want to say a huge thank you to the Tasmanian public for their support this year, and every year since my business began,” Rob says.
As well as Bruny Island Cruises, which Travel Leisure has named as one of The Greatest 100 Trips in the World, Pennicott Wilderness Journeys also operates Tasman Island Cruises along the dramatic coastline between Port Arthur and Eaglehawk Neck.
Pennicott Wilderness Journeys also launched a new land-based day tour, Bruny Island Traveller, in late 2012. The full-day guided tour gives guests the rare opportunity to climb the spiral staircase inside Cape Bruny's historic lighthouse, as well as experiencing the authentic nature of Bruny through meeting its makers and growers, encountering its wildlife, admiring the coastal scenery and tasting local food and cool-climate wine.
And there's plenty more happening for Pennicott Wilderness Journeys through 2013. On the horizon are three new Yellow Boats, purpose-designed to take a small number of guests on a unique 'hunting and gathering' expedition from Hobart, down the River Derwent and into the sheltered waters of the D'Entrecasteaux Channel.