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Record night for Dorset at the South West Tourism Excellence Awards

‘A record finale to a record year’ was one description of this year’s Awards night, as 10 months of work culminated in the presentation of 98 trophies to the South West’s leading tourism businesses at the South West Tourism Excellence Awards 2014-15. The event, in association with Source for Business, saw Dorset establishments taking home a grand total of 30 awards with 5 Gold Awards, 9 Silver and 16 Bronze.

With Taiko drummers grabbing the audience’s attention and dancing till the small hours, this year’s awards were announced on Thursday 12th 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. Dorset won no less than 14 awards - far more than ever before - Robin Barker who manages the Dorset Tourism Awards says of the county’s success:

'This is great news for Dorset, which to date had been a 'sleeping giant' in the regional and national awards. 14 Winners is a massive leap forward and will help gain recognition for Dorset as a top quality tourism destination as well as give a massive kudos to those businesses.' 

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 or marking, visits and panel meetings.

Amongst the night’s big winners were Dorset's Sculpture by the Lakes, taking Gold in the Small Visitor Attraction category, and Lyme Bay RIB Charter, taking a Silver and Bronze for Tourism Experience and Customer Service.  Silver awards were also picked up by South Lytchett Manaor Camping and Caravanning Park, the Green House Hotel, The Italian Villa, the Acorn Inn, Bournemouth Air Festival and The Tank Museum. The White House in Charmouth took a Bronze, alongside the Alexandra Hotel, Poole Welcome Centre, West Dorset Tourism Information Service and Sherborne Abbey Festival.

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 had the opportunity 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 oft-neglected industry that is at the heart of this region.”

The full list of Finalists and Highly Commended entrants is shown below and can also be found at www.southwesttourismawards.org.uk

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

The Awards hashtag is #SWTAwards