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Michael Eavis & Nathan Outlaw amongst 98 South West Tourism Award winners on Grand Pier

With Taiko drummers grabbing the audience’s attention and dancing till the small hours, this year’s awards were announced last night (12 February 2015) in the Great Hall of the Grand Pier at Weston Super Mare, where 98 different awards were announced following a rigorous judging process in which a record 425 entries were considered.

Amongst the category winners there were 2 Outstanding Contribution awards, the first going to Glastonbury’s Michael Eavis, whose vision has brought millions of visitors to the region, and a second going to Carol Wager for her passion in delivering outstanding customer service to 7,000 tourism employees across the region.

This year’s awards event was hosted by ITV news presenter Kylie Pentelow, with an inspiring opening address by travel writer and adventurer Monty Halls, famous for his BBC Great Escape series. The event broke new ground being hosted at Weston’s Grand Pier, itself a bronze winner on the night, with many guests visiting for the first time.

The awards broke the previous record for entries with 425 submissions being considered, each going through a rigorous 3-stage judging process of marking, visits and panel meetings.

Amongst the night’s big winners were Cornwall’s Bosinver Farm Cottages (pictured), picking up the Winner of Winner award as well as gold for self-catering.  A further special award went to Cornwall’s Emerald, for its innovation in water management.

Winners were spread across the whole region, with the Hell Bay Hotel in the Isles of Scilly picking up gold in the Small Hotel category, and the Small Attraction golds shared between Dorset’s Sculpture by the Lakes and Wiltshire’s Wadworth Brewery Visitor Centre. Devon winners included Millbrook Cottages, taking joint for self-catering, the Elmdene, outright gold winner in the B&B category, and Wheatland Farm Eco Lodges, gold for Sustainable Tourism.

Judges were delighted to see increased interest in the important Access & Inclusivity category, with golds shared between Countryside Mobility in Devon and the Bath Preservation Trust. There was also increased interest in the Venue & Business Tourism award, won for the first time by Devon’s Deer Park Hotel.

Cornwall again picked up several top awards, with the spectacular Tall Ships Festival 2014 taking gold as Tourism Event and Trethem Mill winning gold yet again amongst the holiday parks.  The Scarlet won in the Small Hotel category, whilst Mobius Adventures in Newquay took the hotly contested gold for Tourism Activity, Sport & Experience.

Peter Hayes from City Sightseeing Bristol won gold for his outstanding customer service, adding to the success of the Pony and Trap in Chew Magna, who shared the top accolade with Cornwall’s Pandora Inn.  Top Large Attraction was the Roman Baths, whilst the honours for Tourism Information Service were shared between Launceston and Salisbury Tourist Information Centres.

The most hotly contested category was that of Taste of the South West, in which Nathan Outlaw took the top award.

425 entries were considered for the Awards, with all entrants undergoing a rigorous short-listing process and 275 being visited by a team of 35 mystery shoppers. Entry was free, and all entrants received feedback on how they had done, giving them useful tips for future success.

Up to six award winners from each category in this year’s awards have also been nominated to represent the region at the National Enjoy England Awards for Excellence in May.

Chair of Judges, Alistair Handyside, said: 

“The list of finalists really does look like a who’s who of the best in the industry in the South West. Once again the entrants have surpassed themselves in showing that investment, innovation and creativity remain at the heart of the visitor economy in the region.

John Crouch, Commercial Manager for Title Sponsors, Source for Business, said: 
“The West Country celebrated the success of the tourism sector in tremendous fashion last night and it was gratifying to see the diversity of businesses gaining recognition. South West Water is supporting all tourism businesses through a dedicated Business Solutions Manager to help the sector save water and money.”

Robin Barker of Services for Tourism, who manages the awards programme, added:

“There’s little more gratifying in life than knowing you’re making a positive difference, and the feedback we receive from business tells us the awards do just that.  So I offer very many thanks to all concerned – the sponsors, judges and entrants.  You bring so much to an industry that is right at the heart of this region.”

The full list of Finalists and Highly Commended entrants is shown HERE

Event photos can be downloaded from http://nickwilliamsphotographer.co.uk/p17512906

The Awards hashtag is #SWTAwards