When Dot Barclay recently won the inaugural Natasha Watson Award for Women in Tourism, she was honoured, humbled and reflective.
"I just felt so overwhelmed," she said. "I was just so grateful to be recognised but it also makes you realise you don't do anything on your own. It's always a collaborative effort."
The award, part of the 2023 Canberra Region Tourism Awards, was named in honour of 49-year-old Natasha Watson, who died of suspected massive heart failure on December 11 last year. The first anniversary of her death is Monday.
Natasha was the marketing manager for the National Capital Educational Tourism Project which promotes and encourage schools to visit Canberra. She worked side-by-side her husband Garry Watson, leader of the project, and was a quiet but effective achiever for tourism in the ACT.
"We won 20-plus tourism awards because of her skill," Mr Watson said.
Mr Watson initiated the award in his wife's honour to recognise a woman who had, without any great fanfare, been a fierce advocate for tourism in the national capital.
"This is an award for someone who has put in the hard yards over a long period of time. I'm stoked that Dot is the inaugural winner," Mr Watson said.
Mrs Barclay is the much-respected director of the Forrest Hotel and Apartments. The family-owned business in the heart of Canberra evolved from her parents Joan and Clive Waldren buying the Forrest Hotel and later integrating the apartments.
The complex has 76 hotel rooms and 40 serviced apartments. It's rated 3.5 stars and pitched at the middle market to ensure reasonably priced accommodation is also available in the middle of leafy Forrest.
Mrs Barclay never stops promoting the national capital to her guests - whether it's working with a small business to organise a bike ride around the lake, to collaborating with the National Gallery to provide accommodation for Indigenous people to participate in a leadership program each year.
Mrs Barclay is one of Canberra's pioneering Cusack family. Her mother Joan was a Cusack and helped the family to build its furniture business in Canberra. Joan and Clive had eight children, instilling in them all the need to give back to their community. Mrs Barclay, married to King O'Malley's pub owner Peter Barclay, has always understood small business and run with the family philosophy that you "get what you give".
"We grew up in small business," she said.
"We were always taught to support the community, support charity. We took the ethos into the hotel and apartments."
Mrs Barclay is part of the Tourism Leaders Forum, is on the advisory committee for the National Arboretum Forest Sculpture Garden, a member of the Australian Hotels Association and volunteers on the phones once a week at Lifeline Canberra. And she never stops promoting her home city. "If I didn't live here, I'd want to come for a holiday. Canberra is just a beautiful city," she said.
Mrs Barclay said Canberra had become "more interesting and trendy" but still, at its heart, was a smaller city where connections could be made. "I think we are a city with a soul now," she said.