Daniel and Simone Hackett are used to reeling things in, but this time they’ve caught a different catch.
The pair are the brains behind RiverFly 1864, a business which offers guided fly fishing tours around Tasmania.
“Fly fishing is pretty specialised. So to take it out a second time is a bit of a surprise and a real honour for us. It’s good for us and for our little industry,” Mr Hackett said.
“Primarily we do fly fishing trips from Launceston, we also do wilderness fly fishing camps based from a Stanley camp that we have in the [Tasmanian] World Heritage Area. That area is quite unique in itself.”
With about 45 per cent of their customers being repeat clientele, Daniel credits the success to their month-long planning regime.
“We spend a month every winter planning. The awards are based on an audit of your business and you have to be covering all the areas: sustainability, marketing and financials,” he said.
“The fact that we do that planning helps a lot.”
Simone said the work they do in within the community also helped them take out the award.
“We use all local suppliers and staff, we’re actually giving back to the community essentially,” she said.
“It’s a beautiful environment to work in and that’s enough of a draw card for tourists as it is. Then knowing full well that you have a great reputation in the fly fishing community … the experience becomes a confident experience for them.”
Simone spent a month in the United States researching after securing a scholarship in April 2016.
“Montanna is the epicentre of fly fishing globally. So it was a really important destination to go and look at how they operate their industry – not only from retail, but fisheries management and then to the visitor’s experience,” she said.
“I was given a huge opportunity to see inside some of the biggest and smallest businesses in the world and bring some of those things back to Tasmania and implement them into our business.”
The research and development exchange had made a difference to how the Hacketts run their business, she said.
“It also confirmed to me that where we were heading was the right way,” Simone said.
“We’re keeping it local, giving people an authentic experience and making sure that everyone is comfortable with what they want to do and tailoring that experience for the customer.”
RiverFly 1864 is not a “one size fits all” type experience and that alone made their business a standout for the award.
“We also have a small guide customer ratio, it’s one to two,” Simone said.
“So many of the walking companies and tourist operators have a number of visitors per guide. We have that really intimate relationship. You get to spend time with the guests over a two and three day period.”
However, Daniel said the whole Tasmanian tourism experience was key to the business’ success.
“These guests don’t always just come for us. They go to local restaurants, they stay in the hotel. They have to have good experiences all the way through, so it’s definitely Tasmania as a whole,” he said.
“It’s always been tours from the start about 15 years ago. It was just me then,” he said.
“Then we wanted to scale up the business and a show seemed to be the right way to do that. We’ve come a full circle now and have a stable team of guides and we’re going back to focusing on guiding because the demand is there now.”
He said Tasmania’s tourism scene was “completely different” now.
“There is a focus on wilderness tourism which we had been doing for years. We were just doing the right thing, in the right place and at the right time,” he said.
“We’re totally different to what you can experience on the mainland and New Zealand … So we must be and Tasmania must be doing something right.”
The pair will now turn their attention to taking home the National Specialised Tourism Award, which will be held in Western Australia’s capital in February.
“It’s a real honour to win these sorts of awards. It’s a career highlight, it’s what you strive for essentially when you have a team of guides like we have and they put everything into it,” Simone said.
“We’re really thankful for the face that we have that team. It’s a great reward for something that we put in.”
Daniel said the awards would be exciting.
“We look forward to going to Perth in February and giving it a crack for Tassie at the nationals,” he said.
“There are a couple of significant operators that we’re up against. Queensland has the indigenous gallery for example.”
About 800 tourism industry leaders from around Australia are expected to attend the national awards.