Anthology’s Grant Hunt has taken out one of the Australian tourism industry’s highest honours – Outstanding Contribution by an Individual – at the Qantas Australian Tourism Awards.
In presenting the awards, which were hosted by Steve Liebmann and Zoe Naylor, it was noted that Hunt has earned a national reputation as an innovator with visionary thinking and leadership, particularly in the areas of responsible and sustainable tourism.
It was felt that Hunt was truly deserving of this honour following his more than 20 years of service to the industry. Special recognition was made of the role he has played as a leader in sustainable tourism development working closely with local communities and developing important initiatives to support the environment.
Hunt’s company Anthology, www.anthology.travel, launched in 2008, is the embodiment of this commitment. Cornerstone property of the Anthology collection, Wildman Wilderness Lodge, is a partnership with Indigenous Business Australia. The Lodge was also recognised with a bronze award at the ceremony for Best New Development for 2011.
Wildman, located two hours from Darwin on the Mary River wetlands is Australia’s first recycled resort and sits perfectly in harmony with the natural environment. Guests have commented not only on the spectacular beauty of the location but also the authentic interpretation provided by the local indigenous guides who are employed by the Lodge.
Hunt recognised many years ago the importance of working with and supporting local communities. During his ten years as CEO and Managing Director of Voyages Hotels and Resorts, which managed multiple properties across Australia in spectacular wilderness locations, Hunt pioneered numerous cultural initiatives.
Reflective of this commitment, Hunt developed an indigenous employment program at Ayers Rock Resort which won the Prime Minister’s Award for Excellence in Community Business Partnerships. This program still continues today. He also established the Mutitjulu Foundation, set up to benefit the Resort’s nearest neighbours in the impoverished Aboriginal Mutitjulu community. The goal was to help improve the quality of life – health, education and wellbeing – for the residents of the community. Voyages kicked off the Foundation with a start-up contribution of $250,000 with guests given the opportunity to contribute during their stay. The construction of a respite centre was the Foundation’s first major project. It provided a safe place to meet, receive healthcare support and also enjoy arts, crafts and games. Similar indigenous programs were set up at other Voyages resorts including Cape Tribulation resort where the Walker sisters from the local community led interpretive walks for the guests.
In addition to the cultural commitments, Hunt has always strongly believed that the preservation of the natural environment is critically important.
In 2004, while at Voyages, he developed the first ever “Community and Environment Report” to audit the progress of the company and to chart best practice for the future. This was the first of its kind and Hunt hoped it would encourage others in the industry to follow suit.
Hunt left Voyages in 2006 – the year he was named one of Travel + Leisure magazine’s Top Tourism Innovators. He set up a consulting firm to help companies continue the legacy he had started with the building of Longitude 131 – a small scale, low impact luxury resort designed to set a benchmark in environmental and conservation best practice. He worked closely with the Oatley family to develop qualia and subsequently with other well-known tourism entities.
In 2008 he decided to get back into driving his own vision and Anthology was born.
“We began Anthology with the dream of creating one of the world’s finest experiential travel brands,” Hunt said. “We want to offer our guests the opportunity to immerse themselves in nature and heritage in rare and interesting locations.”
Hunt’s visionary insights have been sought out by the industry and he has been happy to share his passion and vision with numerous organisations. His roles include Director for the Australian Tourism Export Council; Chairman, Tourism Northern Territory Advisory Board; Director, Tourism Australia; Member – CSIRO/Department of Climate Change Stakeholder Group and currently Chairman of Tourism Tasmania. A former colleague, Maree Tetlow (previously Chief Executive Tourism NT) commented “It is evident to those of us who know him that his involvement on industry boards and committees is not about personal kudos or enhancement to his resume but because he has a genuine passion for Australia and a real desire to share it with the rest of the world.”
The award submission included numerous letters of support from leading tourism industry figures. Ken Boundy – previously Managing Director of Tourism Australia – noted what many of them had included “it is a privilege to know Grant Hunt and to continue to interface with his vision, courage and overall leadership in the Australian tourism industry where he has touched and motivated so many people.”
Hunt flew in from the United States to collect his award citing it as the single most important recognition he could be given of his long career in the industry.