Mitchell Grass Retreat takes gold, thanks local support

Tanya and David Neal after winning Best New Tourism Business at the Queensland Tourism Awards. PHOTO: Supplied

AFTER a hugely successful tourism season, central west attractions have “cleaned up” at the Queensland Tourism Awards.

Six awards were handed to central west tourist vendors, including Mitchell Grass Retreat for Best New Tourism Business.

Others included Best Tourism Information Centre which went to the Longreach Information Centre; Qantas Founders Museum which was awarded Bronze for Cultural Tourism and Bronze for Major Tourist Attraction; Australian Age of Dinosaurs which was awarded Silver for Major Tourist Attraction; and The Big Red Bash which was awarded Bronze in the category of Festivals and Events.

Mitchell Grass Retreat Co-Owners Tanya and David Neal said winning the Gold Prize had come as a complete shock.

“We thought we had a shot, but we weren’t confident of even achieving a Bronze,” Mr Neal said.

“We were up for the Best New Tourism Business in Queensland, we were up against so much competition.

Ms Neal said their success had come from their willingness to try something different. 

“We realised there wasn’t a lot of options for higher-end accommodation in the outback, and that’s where we came up with the idea for luxury glamping,” Mr Neal said.

“A part of the reason we went with the tents was that it was different, at least, in our region; because we can have our visitors out from city areas to come to see the stars.

“Even compared to being in Longreach, the stars are vastly better – it’s just different to your ordinary $10 accommodation.”
The Neals have been diligent with creating an experience that is luxurious for their patrons. 

“Our couples’ and solo tents have all got luxury king-sized beds, they have their own individual fire pits that they can go out and roast their marshmallows,” Ms Neal said.

“Everything we do is provided there, each tent has its own private BBQ on the deck, we also have a communal fire pit.

“They can be by themselves on a romantic getaway, or they can use the fire pit and interact with other travels.”

Other local businesses have profited from The Mitchell Grass Retreat: indirectly from the foot traffic it has brought the town, but also through the jobs the project has created.

“Where we can, we buy everything locally to support our community,” Ms Neal said.

“Casey’s coffee shop, the Merino Bakery, the meat in our barbecue packs come from the Savage Butcher Shop.

“We also used all local contractors in the construction of the retreat, including Gavin Groves Plumbing.”

They said they believe the town, in general, should be proud of the business achievements it’s made over the past few years – naming The Branch as another successful venture.

“I think the town should be proud of all its attributes,” Mr Neal said.

“It’s a great town.”

After a busy tourist season in 2020, the Neals said they were grateful for the hard work their staff have put in, and due to the short number of staff available, it is evident in their success, how much work they have put in to make the venture work.

“We have been so short staff all around the town, and our cleaners have done a magnificent job,” Mr Neal said.

“The fact that we haven’t had any backpackers around has made it a very tough gig to find staff.

“We are closed now because we just can’t clean in a short turnaround; it has been extremely difficult on that side of it.”

Mitchell Grass Retreat will be representing Queensland at the Australian Tourism Awards in February next year.