Records tumbled last night (February 2) at the annual South West Tourism Excellence Awards finale, as 10 months of work culminated in the presentation of 135 trophies to the South West’s leading tourism businesses.
Held in the brand new Lansdown Suite of Ashton Gate Stadium in Bristol, this year’s awards were announced alongside performances from LED jugglers ‘Feeding the Fish’ and an introductory presentation from adventurer Alastair Humphreys. With 469 people booked, it was the biggest ever regional gathering of South West tourism businesses, with 135 different awards presented following a rigorous judging process in which a record 605 entries were considered.
Amongst the winners there was an Outstanding Contribution award given to Graham Grose, Owner of Thurlestone Hotel, and Harry Murray MBE, Chairman of Lucknam Park, both for their service to and their lobbying on behalf of the region’s top industry. The Winner of Winners award went to the Gloucester Tourist Information Centre for their innovation, consistency and service over many years.
This year’s awards event was hosted by ITV news presenter Kylie Pentelow, with an inspiring opening address by travel journalist and Chair of Family Holiday Association Alison Rice.
Alison was also this year’s Chair of Judges and commented: “Yet again the South West leads the way in tourism excellence. Whatever 2017 throws at this very special region of Britain, tonight’s award winners will excel at what they do best – offering all comers the best possible visitor experiences.”
The event broke new ground being hosted at Ashton Gate stadium, the home of Bristol Rugby and Bristol City, and the largest conference and events venue in the South West. Entries were 23% up on the year before, helped by a new county scheme encouraging more entries from Somerset, Bristol and Bath.
Winners were spread across the whole region from the Isles of Scilly and Cornwall in the west to Bournemouth, Dorset and Salisbury in the east, and from Kingsbridge in the south to Bristol, Bath and Gloucester in the north.
Many finalists in the awards were also nominated to represent the region in the VisitEngland awards, the finalists for which will be announced in March.
All entrants in the South West underwent a rigorous short-listing process with 380 being visited by a team of 36 mystery shoppers. Entry was free, and all entrants received feedback on how they had done, giving them useful tips for future success.
Richard Stanbrook, Director of Title Sponsors, South West Water Business, said: “We’re committed to playing our part in delivering a sustainable economic future for the South West and feel there’s never been a better time to showcase the individuals and businesses who pioneer, create jobs and help drive the region’s economy and growth.
“We understand how crucial the leisure & tourism industry is to the region and how important water is for such businesses, so we’re thrilled to be supporting the Tourism Awards again and celebrate the hard work, innovation and determination that goes into making the thriving tourism industry in the South West such a success.”
Robin Barker of Services for Tourism added: “Excellence is elusive. It takes creativity, commitment, investment, and persistence to achieve. Standards have to be maintained for every guest, in all situations, at all hours of every day. Achieving excellence is one thing, maintaining it in a world of ever-rising expectations is an even greater challenge. So well done to all of this year’s winners – you are at the cutting edge of this region’s top industry and are genuine business icons.”
The full list of Finalists and Highly Commended entrants can be found at www.southwesttourismawards.org.uk