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See Event Video on Youtube HERE

A bigger-than-ever audience of 215 guests witnessed 51 trophies being presented to tourism businesses from across Dorset at the annual Dorset Tourism Awards at the Tank Museum on Thursday 15th October.

Now in its third year, the Awards act as a 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 2 new categories for Cafés & Tearooms, and for Access & Inclusivity.

Winners came from right across the county – from Lyme Regis and Bridport in the West, Sherborne in the North, Christchurch and Bournemouth in the East, and Poole and Weymouth in the South.  Each had been through a rigorous 3-stage judging process involving initial scoring of entry forms, a programme of visits – often mystery visits – and ending with decisions by an independent panel.

Amongst the night’s winners were Moors Valley Country Park and Forest, who took the prestigious Winner of Winners award as well as a Gold for Large Attraction and Silver for Access & Inclusivity.  The Pommery Dorset Seafood Festival was another big winner, taking Gold for Tourism Event of the Year as well as a special award for Outstanding Contribution to Dorset Tourism.  A further special award went to Laurence Smith, a warden on Bournemouth’s seafront, nominated as the Unsung Hero for Outstanding Customer Service.

South Lytchett Manor Camping & Caravanning Park took Gold in the Sustainable Tourism category whilst BOD Bournemouth took top place in the inaugural Access & Inclusivity category. Amongst the serviced accommodation categories, Gold went to Christchurch Harbour Hotel & Spa for Large Hotel, Best Western The Grange at Oborne for Small Hotel and The Balincourt for B&B and Guest Accommodation. A Gold went to Highlands End Holiday Park and the Self Catering Gold went to the Symondsbury Estate. 

In the food and drink categories, the White Post won Gold for Tourism Pub of the Year, the Aroma Coffee House and Kitchen for Café and Tearoom and the Arbor Restaurant at the Green House Hotel for Restaurant of the Year.  The Small Attraction Gold went to Compton Acres, with the top Venue and Business Tourism award going to the adjoining Italian Villa. In the diverse Best Tourism Activity, Sport & Experience category the Gold went again to Lyme Bay RIB Charter, with Bournemouth Tourism Information Centre taking the tourism information Gold.

Nick Fernyhough of headline sponsors Saffery Champness said:  “The level of entries in all categories has been outstanding this year and shows the high quality venues and activities that Dorset can provide for tourism. This is the 3rd year of Saffery’s involvement in these awards and each year we have seen the standard of entries and winners improving. It’s very impressive.”

Guest Speaker on the night was Michael Hanlon, Chief Executive of Jurassica, who spoke on the subject of "Dorset: How do we stop it being the forgotten county?" and commenting “Dorset is a magical and romantic county. It needs to capitalise on its brand.”

The Dorset Tourism Awards were launched in June 2013, following liaison between their founder, Robin Barker, and local tourism leaders.  Robin has been delighted with progress since then, saying: “This year has seen a further growth in entries, more sponsors, a bigger event and a further raising in quality. It follows Dorset’s success in the regional and national awards last year when, after a gap of several years, Dorset was again amongst the winners.”

Successful businesses in the Dorset Awards will now be fast tracked into the South West Tourism Excellence Awards in February 2016 and then possibly on to the National Visit England Awards later in 2016.

Photos from the evening can be downloaded HERE

The full list of Winners is HERE