A LIFE-long passion for event tourism and the boost it can provide local economies has taken Sunshine Coast tourism professional Garth Prowd around the world.
On Friday night it took him into the spotlight at the 2012 Queensland Tourism Awards. In front of the leading lights of the state's tourism industry, the man who had his first foray into event tourism when he organised the first Noosa Triathlon more than 30 years ago was awarded the Marie Watson-Blake Award for outstanding contribution by an individual.
Mr Prowd began with the Noosa News in the mid-70s and always had an appreciation for great events, but said it wasn't until he moved to the US in the late '70s that his "light bulb" went off.
"I was doing a ski season in Lake Tahoe and the resort was really struggling with bad snow, to the point where we thought it was going to be shut down," he said.
"Then the resort hosted a professional skiing event and all of a sudden we were run off our feet.
"The snow wasn't any better but the slopes were packed.
"That was a turning point for me in recognising the power of hosting great events."
Inspired by his time in America, Mr Prowd returned to Noosa in the early 1980s determined to use his new-found knowledge to change the way sporting events were viewed.
He founded event management company USM Events, which has become synonymous with some of the biggest sporting events in Australia.
Since the inaugural Noosa Triathlon in 1982, it has gone on to be worth $12 million to the economy every year.
The Mooloolaba Triathlon - a staple on the professional triathlon calendar - injects about $25 million. Having sold his share in USM Events a few years ago, Mr Prowd now serves as a consultant to the company and remains the triathlon's event chairman.