For over twenty years, these awards have been distributed and the winners go on to represent the South East on the national stage at the Visit England Awards for Excellence in 2014.
For visitors, and our readers judging by the e-mails I get, the customer service awards are the most important. This was won by West Marden Farm Accommodation, a 16th century B&B farmhouse which is in a small village in the South Downs, near Chichester.
Maidstone Visitor Information at Maidstone Museum won the Visitor Information Provider of the Year with Guildford Tourist Information Centre as the runner-up. At a time when many councils are considering how many tourist information offices to keep open and staff, it is a reminder of just how important these are to you and me when we visit an area. Without these sources of information, tourism and visitor providers would have a hard time informing us in their own words where to stay and what is available.
Portsmouth did particularly well winning Large Visitor Attraction of the Year with Portsmouth Historic Dockyard which is where the new Mary Rose museum is located and a silver award with the Spinnaker Tower. The other silver winner was Marwell Zoo. Not that far away in the New Forest, the Beaulieu International Autojumble won the best tourism event followed by The Hampshire Food Festival and Wallingford Food Festival. It is a reminder of just how appealing to visitors has become the food festival.
The small visitor attraction of the year was won by Chiltern Open Air Museum in Buckinghamshire and the runner-up was the Shepherd Neame Visitor Centre. The Tourism Experience of the Year was won by the Weber Grill Academy and, again there were two runners-up, The Chapel Down Winery and Knights’ Glamping at Leeds Castle in Kent. The Business Tourism Award was won by Blenheim Palace, the home of the Dukes of Marlborough and the birthplace of Winston Churchill.