Falls adventurer grabs tourism gold

Nicola KalmarBroome Advertiser
Horizontal Falls construction and maintenance manager Peter Barber and owner-operator Troy Thomas.
Camera IconHorizontal Falls construction and maintenance manager Peter Barber and owner-operator Troy Thomas. Credit: Broome Advertiser

Multiple award-winning Broome company Horizontal Falls Seaplane Adventures is off to a flying start this year after being crowned Australia’s top adventure tourism venture.

The family-owned and operated business took out gold in the adventure tourism category, and bronze for unique accommodation at the 32nd Australian Tourism Awards ceremony in Darwin on February 24.

The annual awards are designed to recognise and celebrate businesses that have demonstrated a commitment to quality tourism products and experiences.

The accolades mark the latest in a string of awards claimed by Horizontal Falls in the past 18 months.

Owner-operator Troy Thomas said he was very proud for the company to be recognised nationally for what it did best.

“It’s very hard to operate remotely and logistics are very high to do what we do over there,” he said.

“We went into the State awards and won gold in categories of unique accommodation and adventure tourism, which then put us in to the national awards which is up against the best of the best in Australia.

“We came out with bronze for unique accommodation, which is itself quite a big achievement because there are some big companies around Australia with unique accommodation ... and to win gold in adventure tourism, which is what our specialty is, and to be recognised in Australia for that is a massive achievement.” Australia’s North West chief executive Glen Chidlow said the tourism operator deserved the national recogntion.

“The operators of Horizontal Falls Adventure Tours do an outstanding job in showcasing one of the Kimberley’s great wonders, and the recognition they’ve achieved at the national awards is well deserved,” he said.

“Like many operators in the region, they’ve made significant investment in their business to enable them to provide a world-class adventure experience in a beautiful, but very remote, location — something for which the Kimberley is renowned.”

Since 2006, Horizontal Falls Seaplane Adventures has been providing luxury tours in the Kimberley and has transported tens of thousands of people each year to one of the region’s most spectacular natural wonders.

Mr Thomas said the secret of the company’s success was multi-faceted.

“Our customer service is second to none for the remote area and we pride ourselves on sending away happy people,” he said.

“We do a large number of people each year, and to get that large number of people out there, fed, accommodated, and obviously the tour component — boat rides, helicopter rides, and bring them back all happy is a big logistical operation to make it all work.

“(Despite) the logistical problems we face, none of the passengers see any of that and to their face, it’s just a perfectly oiled machine.

Mr Thomas said Horizontal Falls worked closely with Aboriginal groups throughout the Kimberley, and had a big focus on supporting local businesses.

“We employ over 70 people in our operations and support the local community. We buy all our food and fuel locally ... we feed people barramundi for lunch and all the barramundi come from local fishermen,” he said.

“Our commitment to maintaining all of our equipment to the highest standards ... we don’t take any shortcuts.

“We have the same crew every year to keep everything operational.”

Earlier this year, Mr Thomas also celebrated the launch of his newest venture, Swan River Seaplanes, which flies tourists on one-day return trips from the Swan River to Margaret River for winery tours and sightseeing.

He said this latest endeavour was a way to keep planes operational.

“The most expensive part of this whole business is the aircraft and keeping them maintained,” he said.

“There’s such a small season when everything’s so busy so between all of our planes, in peak season, some of them only fly for three or four months a year and the rest of the year they just sit around not doing much.

“Part of the business strategy now is to keep the planes working.

“We’re looking at opening more tours down in the South West there and start utilising some of the fast boats that we have up here.”

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