Following recent allegations of foul play in the Golden Backpack Awards, the event’s Director and Thumbrella Editor Martin Lane explains the process his team go through to ensure every vote is valid.
When Thumbrella posted a story about the phenomenal response to this year’s Golden Backpack awards, with more than 20,000 votes received already, we were both surprised and disappointed by reader comments alleging some companies were attempting to rort the awards in their favour.
We have always encouraged the industry to promote the Golden Backpacks to their customers and urge the satisfied ones to vote for them. Clearly, though, some of the alleged behaviour – touting for votes on the street from people with whom no business relationship exists, bribing customers with free gifts, and pre-filling in forms with the names of preferred suppliers – falls outside the spirit of the awards program.
We launched the Golden Backpacks – the only consumer-voted awards for Australia and New Zealand’s independent travel industries – because we believed the sector deserved recognition for the outstanding job it does in bringing young tourists into the region. This, after all, is an industry worth more than $3.4 billion annually to the Australian economy alone.
By making the awards consumer-voted, we wanted to ensure all companies had an equal chance of winning, not just those with large marketing departments and the resources to enter other awards programs with onerous entry criteria. We remain committed to this ideal and have introduced various measures to ensure everyone can compete on a level playing field.
Having spent the last two days personally going through every vote received so far, I can report it’s relatively easy to sort the genuine votes from the others. Forms with missing contact details are immediately discarded, as are those where sections have clearly been pre-filled or where the handwriting is the same on several copies. We also do spot checks to confirm voters have a genuine business relationship with the companies they have voted for and that no extra incentives have been offered.
Ultimately, though, we are not the police and we must rely on the integrity, maturity and honesty of the industry itself to deliver the awards program it deserves. My experience in scrutinising the thousands of genuine votes we have received so far tells me we can still do that.
Martin Lane, Director, The Golden Backpack Awards
Voting in the Golden Backpack Awards 2009 closes on Friday September 18.