Wales Tourism Awards
The National Tourism Awards showcase the very best the tourism industry in Wales has to offer. From luxurious hotels and country houses to cosy B&Bs, campsites and attractions – they all possess one common theme – great quality, a warm welcome and a professional approach to customer service.
Best Place to Stay (Hotel)
Vitality pool, St Brides Hotel, Pembrokeshire by St Brides Spa HotelSet by the sea on the Wales Coastal Path in Pembrokeshire, the hotel has gained a reputation for offering the perfect getaway or escape, with many of the guests coming for the luxurious spa treatments or simply to relax in what is one of the most beautiful corners of Wales. Hotel Marketing and Front of House Manager Alison Fowler says: “We strive to make every visit to the hotel as perfect as possible… making their stay extra special is what it is all about.”
Best Place to Stay (Guest Accommodation)
Llwyn Helyg, Carmarthenshire by Llwyn Helyg Country HouseStill a derelict house in 1996, Llys Helyg was lovingly rebuilt and opened for business in March 2013. Situated in the heart of the beautiful Tywi Valley, midway between Carmarthen and Llandeilo, the house is set amid three acres of landscaped gardens. “We enjoy meeting people”, says owner Caron Jones, “and owning Llwyn Helyg gives us the opportunity to pursue our love of Wales, its music and art while opening our home to guests. We go the extra mile to ensure our guests’ complete comfort.”
Best Place to Stay (Self catering)
Plas Cadnant, Anglesey by Plas Cadnant GardensSeventeen years ago, dairy farmer, historic house and plant enthusiast Anthony Taverner discovered a collection of derelict houses surrounded by a network of overgrown paths. With steely determination he set about transforming them into luxury four and five star self-catering cottages and restoring Plas Cadnant’s 10 acres of gardens. Anthony says: “The people involved in the business really care about the cottages and gardens, and this passion for the place shines through.”
Best Place to Stay (Holiday, touring or camping park)
Plassey Leisure Park, Wrexham by Plassey Leisure ParkThe Plassey Leisure Park has been lovingly developed by the Brookshaw family out of their former dairy farm's land and its striking Edwardian buildings into a beautiful and popular destination. Over 50 years, the holiday park has built a loyal clientele by giving visitors a warm and friendly welcome. “It’s about the service and warm welcome we give to customers,” says managing director John Brookshaw. “That, and constant reinvestment to keep our offer fresh, is how we have grown from a small farm into what we are now.”
Best Place to Stay (Hostels, bunkhouses and alternative accommodation)
Set in four acres of beech woodland and wetland near Hay-on-Wye, Cosy Under Canvas provides visitors with a proper ‘glamping’ experience. With five units – Scandinavian style “tentipis” and geodesic domes, the site also possesses kitchen areas, wood-fired showers, and more recently – wood-fired hot tubs. Proprietor Emma Price says: “Our site lends itself to a relaxed, alternative break away from the trappings of a hectic life. It’s perfect if you love the idea of a unique, low-impact and environmentally friendly camping holiday, plus that touch of luxury”
Abergavenny Food Festival, Wye Valley by Abergavenny Food FestivalFrom its humble beginnings, the festival has grown to establish itself into one of the best known in Wales, helping to raise the profile of the country, both in terms of its food story and its significance as a visitor destination. Chief Executive of the festival Heather Myers says: “Because of our geographical location, we are effectively 'the gateway to Wales' and as such have had success bringing both UK and overseas visitors into Wales for the first time,” says Heather. “A significant percentage return to stay longer and take in other aspects of the country's landscape and heritage, which helps to challenge pre-conceptions about what Wales has to offer.”
Best Visitor Experience
Celtic Quest Coasteering, Pembrokeshire by Celtic Quest CoasteeringPortsmouth born Cleopatra set-up Celtic Quest in 2009 and with her team of eight instructors look after up to 100 visitors a day during the busy summer months. Described as extreme rock pooling, coasteering involves exploring the beautiful Pembrokeshire coast at sea level – diving, sliding and jumping into the sea. With the company targeting families they have ensured that the sport is accessible to all – no matter what their competency in the water is. Rain or shine the guys at Celtic Quest are ready for action.
Most Successful Tourism Team
Trecco Bay Holiday Park, Glamorgan by ParkdeanTrecco Bay Holiday Park is a long-established family holiday park and since its change in ownership in 1999, the site has seen significant investment – £12 million in the past six years alone. Existing facilities have been refurbished and additions made including a brand new outdoor multi-sports pitch, an adventure golf course, a playground and water park, and a conservation and wildlife park. Parkdean regional director Karl Schmidtke says: “Financial investment in the product and training go hand-in-hand to create the success we’re currently enjoying. We are very proud of the quality service we provide”
Best place to eat (Café)
The Old Station, Tintern, Wye Valley by chippy1920If you want a café with that step-back-in-time, get-away-from–it-all feeling, that Brief Encounter romance to that slower pace of life, then the Old Station tea room at Tintern is just the ticket. Owned and managed by Monmouthshire County Council, the tea room is in what used to be the old Victorian railway waiting room, with other attractions on site including a signal box used for changing exhibitions, two restored railway carriages housing a gift shop, a Wye Valley exhibition, and a meeting room. There’s also a one-mile riverside meadow walk and a campsite.
Best place to eat (Pub)
The Bell at Skenfrith, Wye Valley by The Bell at SkenfrithRemote but not too far away, this bastion of fine food and high-end accommodation has been offering visitors from near and far a warm welcome over the past 13 years. As well as its location to die for – surrounded by fields, next to the River Monnow, and a stone’s throw from Skenfrith Castle – the five star restaurant with rooms has built a reputation through its food and a “legendary” wine list. Janet Hutchings, who owns and runs the pub with husband William, says: “What draws people is the food – we are in an area blessed with wonderful local produce.”
Favourite place to eat - small restaurant (Voted by the public)
Llansantffraed Court, Wye Valley by LLansantfffraed CourtLlansantffraed Court, near Abergavenny, is a country house hotel set in 20 acres of mature parkland. The Court Restaurant has retained two AA rosettes for 17 consecutive years, while the cellar has been shortlisted for AA Wine List of the Year for the last seven. About 85 per cent of kitchen produce is sourced within 15 miles of the hotel. Fresh fruit and vegetables are provided by the hotel’s own walled kitchen garden where 54 varieties of vegetables, 28 herbs and 22 fruits are grown.
Favourite place to eat - large restaurant (Voted by the public)
Signatures Restaurant, Conwy by Signatures RestaurantBased within the Aberconwy Resort in North Wales, Signatures is a fine dining restaurant which skilfully combines city chic with true Welsh hospitality. Owners Louise Williams and her chef husband Jimmy are inspired by the Welsh heritage and the rich culture which surrounds them. The exciting menu is beautifully complemented by the restaurant’s stunning location with a backdrop of Snowdonia and views across to the Great Orme.
Regional tourism winner (Capital region)
Penderyn Distillery, Brecon Beacons by The Welsh Whisky CompanyThe Penderyn Distillery Visitor Centre is a part of the Welsh Whisky Company, home of Penderyn Whisky – the only single malt whisky produced in Wales. Hourly guided tours, seven days a week, are aimed at educating visitors about the ancient art of distilling. Tours also cover the history of whisky making in Wales, the importance of water and wood to whisky maturation, seeing the distillery at work (including its bottling line) and tastings of Penderyn products.
Regional tourism winner (South West Wales)
Dan yr Ogof caves, Brecon Beacons by National Showcaves for WalesDan yr Ogof, which celebrated its centenary in 2012, is a privately-run, family operation, which is still owned by descendants of the Morgan brothers who were farmers, and the original explorers of the Showcaves. Regular investment, enthusiasm and a commitment to constantly looking to improve the visitor experience has been the key to the long-term success of the Showcaves. Designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and National Nature Reserve, the caves employ 12 full-time members of staff and up to 50 part-time during the busy months.
Regional tourism winner (Mid Wales)
Y Talbot, Tregaron, Ceredigion by Y TalbotOriginally a drovers inn, Y Talbot has been at the heart of Tregaron for over 250 years and although it has undergone extensive renovation, at its heart it remains a traditional inn – serving great food and drink and offering comfortable and welcoming accommodation. The commitment to local produce is very important to owner Michael Taylor and his team. Food miles are minimised by careful sourcing and ensuring that they keep in touch with local suppliers.
Regional tourism winner (North Wales)
At some 40 miles in length the two lines of the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railway form the longest heritage railway in the UK, with 85 full-time employees and 1,000 volunteers keeping everything on track! The rebuilding of the Welsh Highland Railway took more than 10 years and cost £28 million, reinstating a rail link lost for 70 years. Some 300,000 passengers a year travel the two lines, passing through stunning scenery in this most beautiful part of Wales.
Business Tourism Operator Award
As a national chain, putting down Welsh roots has been at the heart of The Radisson Blu Hotel, Cardiff’s success over the past four years. The hotel has worked hard to develop strong, meaningful relationships with Cardiff Tourism Network, Cardiff City FC, St David’s Shopping centre, local food and drink suppliers as well as Welsh charities. The hotel is the tallest in Cardiff with 21 floors, offering guests panoramic views of the city centre, the Bay and across the Channel. Business guests are well catered for too, with six flexible state-of-the-art meeting rooms with conference and event facilities for up to 300 people.
Young Tourism Entrepreneur
Phil Scott and Tom Ashwell's energetic RibRide business takes over 5,000 people a year on adventure boat tours on the Menai Strait from locations around North Wales in high-performance rigid inflatables. Phil says: “We started in June 2005 with a single used boat, a few leaflets and no idea if anyone would show up. Skip forward to 2013, and we now have a fleet of four new boats, two park-and-launch boat yards, five full-time staff, two part-time staff and up to 10 self-employed workers carrying happy clients all year round.”
Technology in tourism
Celtic Quest Coasteering, Pembrokeshire by Celtic Quest CoasteeringCeltic Quest has brought “extreme” adventure to the masses, enabling people to take part in an adrenaline-rush activity at their own level and speed. Marketing efforts have now developed the site from its initial five pages into a large informative and interactive tool. Embracing current trends such as QR codes and social media, Celtic Quest has seen an increase in mobile users visiting the website and they now make up almost a third of all visits. The team use Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr while out and about to supply clients with stunning images and a lasting reminder of their adventure.
Outstanding Achievement Award
In the late 1970s, the pony trekking industry, the mainstay of the local tourist economy around Llanwrtyd Wells in mid Wales, was in alarming decline. A group of local business people – one of whom was Gordon Green, came up with the idea of organising a series of quirky, off-the-wall events. Their first event, the Man versus Horse Marathon, was staged in 1980 and now a handful of events including bog snorkelling (and mountain bike bog snorkelling), stone skimming and chariot racing – on bikes have grown to become part of the Llanwrtyd persona.
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