Tourism providers across Dorset were recognised for their valuable contribution to the industry at a special awards ceremony this week.
An audience of 240 guests witnessed 61 trophies being presented to tourism businesses from across the county at the annual Dorset Tourism Awards hosted at the Tank Museum on Thursday (October 13th).
Now in its fourth year, the Awards broke all records in celebration of the best in Dorset tourism and also as a county heat for the South West and national Visit England awards. This year saw three new categories for International Visitor Experience, Dog Friendly and Glamping.
All parts of the county saw winners, from Christchurch and Bournemouth, to Sherborne, Blandford Forum, Poole, Dorchester, Lyme Regis and Weymouth. Most had been through a rigorous three-stage judging process involving initial study of entry forms and online presence, a programme of visits — often mystery visits — and ending with decisions by an independent panel.
Amongst the winners were two big surprises: an ‘Unsung Hero’ award for Brenden Howard of Bournemouth’s Grove Hotel, nominated by one of the mystery shoppers, who commented: “Kind, considerate and goes out of his way to be helpful. He goes above and beyond his official duties.”
The second surprise was an Outstanding Contribution to Tourism award for Bruce Grant-Braham, cited for his 20 plus years’ service to tourism in Poole, Bournemouth and the wider Dorset.
Chair of the judges, Peter Jones said: “His commitment to raising the profile of tourism has known few bounds.”
The Tank Museum took two Gold awards for Tourism Event of the Year and International Visitor Experience, along with the Winner of Winners trophy. Another big winner was the Symondsbury Estate, with awards in the Self Catering, Café & Tearoom and Venue & Business Tourism categories. Moors Valley Country Park also excelled with Gold awards for Access & Inclusivity as well as Sustainable Tourism.
Many small businesses also took top awards. The Dorset House in Lyme Regis took Gold for B&B of the Year, the Taste Brasserie in Dorchester for Café and Tearoom and Wareham Forest Park for Camping, Caravanning & Holiday Park of the Year. The Large Hotel Gold was presented to the new Hilton Bournemouth, whilst The Kings Arms in Christchurch took Gold for Small Hotel/Boutique Accommodation. Greenwood Grange excelled again taking Gold in the Self Catering sector.
Two significant attractions took Golds; Swanage Railway for Large Attraction of the Year and the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum for Small Attraction. A further Gold went to the RNLI College for its tours, whilst Discover Purbeck Information Centre took Gold for Tourist Information Service of the Year.
The other new categories saw Golds going to The Grove Arms in Ludwell, for Dog Friendly and The Old Forge at Compton Abbas for Glamping.
Food and Drink Golds were awarded to the Taste Brasserie in Dorchester for Café & Tearoom and the Anchor Inn in Seatown for Tourism Pub of the Year. The final category award of the night resulted in a joint award, with joint Golds going to Sherborne’s Eastbury Hotel and Weymouth’s Dorset Burger Company for Restaurant and Bistro of the year.
Nick Fernyhough of headline sponsors Saffery Champness said: “We have been delighted to be the headline sponsor for yet another year for these prestigious Awards and congratulate the winners. The standard of the competition has been outstanding and it has been good to reward excellence in this essential sector of the Dorset economy. The awards are really helping to raise the profile of Dorset and also to raise the quality of the Dorset visitor experience.”
The Dorset Tourism Awards were launched in June 2013, following liaison between their founder, Robin Barker, and tourism leaders. Robin has been delighted with year-on-year progress since then. He said: “This year has record entries, more sponsors, a capacity event and a further raising in quality. The judges have had their toughest task yet – many congratulations to all of the winners.”
Successful businesses in the Dorset Awards will now be fast tracked into the South West Tourism Excellence Awards in February 2017 and then possibly on to the National Visit England Awards later in 2017.