Visit Nunney editor Adrie van der Luijt has won the Unsung Hero Award at this year’s South West Tourism Excellence Awards, presented at a black tie dinner in Exeter Cathedral.
‘A fitting finale for the South West’s top industry’ was one description of the awards night, as 10 months of work culminated in the presentation of 95 trophies to the South West’s leading tourism businesses at the South West Tourism Excellence Awards 2015-16, in association with South West Water Business Services.
In the stunning location of the Nave of Exeter Cathedral, this year’s awards were announced on Thursday 4 February 2016 alongside performances of the Tongas ‘Sip Tau’ Haka and by Exeter Street Band. 95 different awards were announced following a rigorous judging process in which a record 490 entries were considered.
Amongst the winners at the tourism awards there was an Outstanding Contribution award given to Alistair Handyside for his commitment to lobbying and supporting the region’s industry. The Winner of Winners award went to The Roman Baths, who had earlier picked up Gold for Access and Inclusivity.
The Unsung Hero Award for Customer Service is for an individual or team within a tourism business that has stood out in delivering outstanding customer service. Unlike other categories, this is not for ‘corporate’ or ‘business’ entries, but for individuals and small teams.
Robin Barker, Director of Services for Tourism Ltd, who manage the Awards, said about Visit Nunney editor Adrie van der Luijt: “The judges were hugely impressed by all he does. If there were Adries everywhere, there’s little doubt that tourism would be in a better condition than it is across the country.”
Visit Nunney is run single-handedly by Adrie in his spare time and without financial resources. The website previously reached the finals for UK Website of the Year in the Good Web Guide Awards 2014 and 2015, and was also in the Top 3 for Best Community Support Business at the 2015 Mendip Business Awards.
In addition to the website, Visit Nunney develops local history exhibitions, promotes Nunney at events in the region and provides practical support with event marketing and publicity to local community groups and charities. This includes Nunney Street Market & Fayre, which last year saw a record 10,000 visitors.
This year’s awards event was hosted by ITV news presenters Kylie Pentelow and Ian Axton, 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: “These high-calibre awards reflect the quality and breadth of the treasures that visitors to the south west can enjoy. The judging panel of tourism professionals did not have an easy time! That’s why in some categories they simply had to award more than one gold winner.”
The event broke new ground being hosted in the nave of Exeter Cathedral, itself one of the region’s top tourist attractions. The tourism awards broke the previous record for entries with 490 submissions being considered, each going through a rigorous three-stage judging process of marking, visits and panel meetings.
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 Salcombe in the south to Bristol, Bath and Gloucester in the north.
Rigorous short-listing process
Finalists in the tourism awards were also invited to enter the VisitEngland awards and news came earlier this week that 26 South West entrants have made it through to the national finals, over twice as many as any other region. They will have to wait till March to hear how they have done.
All entrants in the South West underwent a rigorous short-listing process with 296 being visited by a team of 42 mystery shoppers. Entry was free, and all entrants received feedback on how they had done, giving them useful tips for future success.
Kate Vain, Head of Title Sponsors, South West Water Business Services, said: “The awards was a tremendous occasion and it was a pleasure be at Exeter Cathedral to experience the uplifting atmosphere. The tourism sector is hugely important to us and the South West economy, we look forward to supporting the industry through our dedicated customer services team.”
Robin Barker of Services for Tourism, who manages the awards programme, added: “This year’s awards have set new standards in both numbers and quality standards. It never ceases to amaze me how our top businesses continue to reinvent themselves to stay at the top in one of the world’s most fast-moving and competitive industries.”
A full list of winners is available on the South West Tourism Awards website.
ITV News footage of the awards is available here.