This follows on from our involvement last year (2016) in the judging for the Devon Tourism Awards. We were so impressed with the way that the awards were managed at every stage, we wanted to support the awards in a bigger way going forward.
The South West of England is a beautiful part of the world, with so much to offer to holidaymakers. It is great to see, through the awards, so many businesses large and small who are working hard to set new, higher standards, for themselves and for the region.
Both awards programmes (along with others) are operated by Services4Tourism Ltd and overseen by Robin Barker and Nell Barrington.
The awards cover a wide range of tourism based businesses. There are 25 separate categories, allowing businesses large and small to be recognised for excellence. Winners from each awards area (along with other areas within the South West) go on to compete in the South West Tourism Awards (SWTA). Winners from the SWTA then go on to compete in the national Visit England Awards.
The criteria that are used to judge entrants are comprehensive and, in our view, extremely well thought-out:
- Customer service and the steps taken by entrants to improve the entire customer (/visitor/guest) experience, play a central role in the assessment process. This includes overall standards, and the thoughtful “extra touches” that really “wow” visitors and guests.
- Most of the entrants are “Mystery Shopped” as part of the assessment process, so judges base decisions on a real experience of the business in addition to the entrants written application and supporting documents.
- Standards of quality all round are assessed, along with visitor ease and convenience, and the steps taken by each business to solicit, and act upon, customer and visitor feedback.
- There’s a heavy emphasis on accessibility and inclusivity for all potential guests.
- Other areas include controlling environmental impact, and supporting the local economy and community.
- A keen eye is placed on inspiring loyalty and repeat business (a great thing for the individual businesses to focus on, and great for the region as a whole!).
- The judging process also looks at the culture and the intentions of the management team behind each business – whether they are truly committed to providing truly memorable experiences to guests and visitors.
The awards are a magnet for forward-thinking business in the tourism sector, and the awards clearly drive ambition and further achievement on the part of the competing businesses.
One inevitable effect of the awards application process is that it forces entrants to ask themselves better questions, and helps them to gets focussed, both on what they are doing and what they could be doing, to move further forward.
Entries have now been closed for 2017, and a huge amount of work has already taken place on assessing the entrants, with many businesses having been “mystery shopped”. Over the next few weeks, the winners will be decided.
We look forward to awards ceremonies, which will take place on 9th November for the Bristol, Somerset and Bath awards, and 23rd November for the Devon awards. They are both sure to be fun, entertaining and inspiring nights.