After judging a record 602 entries, 380 business visits and 24 hours of panel discussions, 132 Finalists and 5 Highly Commended entries have been announced in this year’s South West Tourism Excellence Awards. 103 of the Finalists have also been nominated as the South West representatives in the national VisitEngland awards in 2016.
The finalists include winners from the Dorset, Bristol, Bath & Somerset, Cornwall and Devon Tourism Awards, all of which have been celebrated at county events during the autumn. They also include direct entries from Gloucestershire and Wiltshire.
The awards have seen a 23% increase in entries since 2015, reflecting their importance to entrants in recognising the quality of their visitor offering and ongoing investment in excellence. They are the biggest scheme of their kind and follow a rigorous 3 stage judging process with the majority of entrants being visited by a team of volunteer mystery shoppers. Run with the support of South West Water Business Services, the awards are seen as a way to recognise the ongoing quality development of tourism businesses in the region as well as to reward the staff that work in them.
The awards will be presented at a black tie dinner in the brand new Lansdown Suite at Ashton Gate Stadium in Bristol on 2nd February, the culmination of a 10 month programme. They are also the official scheme for the South West, with most finalists nominated for the national VisitEngland awards in April 2017.
In what is seen as increasingly important to participants, all entrants receive feedback on their entry, giving them the best opportunity both to make improvements to their business and hone their entries in future years. This year will see a further development of this with a new ‘Aspiring for Excellence’ programme being offered during the winter months.
Sponsor support meant entry into the Awards was free, with 24 categories to choose from covering everything from pubs, restaurants, hotels, events, attractions, activities, holiday parks and self catering holidays to awards for customer service, access, sustainable tourism and business tourism. Reflecting ongoing changes to the tourism sector, there were also new categories for International Visitor Experience, Café & Tearooms, Glamping and Dog Friendly. Up to seven finalists have been announced in each category, but all will have to wait until 2nd February to learn whether they have won Gold, Silver or Bronze at the prestigious Awards Ceremony.
Alison Rice, national travel journalist & broadcaster and Chair of the Awards Panel, said: “Once again the South West has produced a great and varied selection of excellent finalists. Such high-quality standards are essential for the reputation of the region, especially as 2017 looks likely to be a record year for holidaying at home thanks to the failing pound, security fears and Brexit uncertainties.”
Richard Stanbrook, Director of headline sponsors South West Water Business, commented: “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. 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, Director of Services for Tourism Ltd, who manage the Awards, commented: “Tourism is one of biggest and fastest growing industries in the world and is at the heart of the South West economy. Recent research has proved that investing in tourism reaps a greater economic return than virtually every other industry, not to mention contributing to the unique assets and quality of life of this fantastic region. I pay tribute to all this year’s Finalists for being ‘beacons’ for the region and demonstrating just what tourism can do.”
The full list of Finalists and Highly Commended entrants can be found below with further information at www.southwesttourismawards.org.uk