VisitEngland’s Awards for Excellence Finalists

VisitEngland has announced the finalists in the tourism industry’s national Awards for Excellence. The Awards, now in their 29th year, recognise businesses and individuals who go above and beyond in promoting and practising excellence across England. Finalists will be invited to attend a traditional afternoon tea at the Bath Assembly Rooms on St George’s Day, 23 April 2018. Winners will be awarded either a Bronze, Silver or Gold award at the ceremony.
VisitEngland chief executive Sally Balcombe said: “These awards are a celebration of our thriving tourism industry. They highlight the people and the organisations that deliver amazing experiences for visitors, raising the profile of England as a world-class destination.

“The finalists have shown themselves to be of the highest calibre, using their talent and innovation to deliver excellence. The hundreds of applications this year reflect the quality products across our tourism landscape and I warmly congratulate all the finalists and wish them the very best of luck.”

In the absence of a Glamping Provider of the Year Category, this year Open Air Business is particularly rooting for the following:

Alkham Court Farmhouse and glamping, Kent, in the Bed & Breakfast of the Year category
Loose Reins, Dorset, in the New Tourism Business category, and The Treehouses at Port Lympne Reserve, Kent, finalist in the Self Catering Holiday Provider of the Year category.
Laverock Law Cottages and glamping, Northumberland, in the Sustainable Tourism category.

The latest VisitEngland statistics show that from January to November 2017 Brits took more than 44 million holidays in England, spending in excess of £10 billion on staycations, up five and six per cent respectively compared to the same period in 2016. Tourism in England contributes £106 billion to the British economy.

The Community’s Castle
A volunteer working group is gearing up to breathe new life into Wisbech Castle in Cambridgeshire. The county council had given the heritage building, thought to have originally been built by William the Conqueror, to Wisbech Town Council to manage for the next 34 years, having already carried out urgent repair work.

A community group of 21 volunteers has come forward with the intention of transforming the castle and its gardens into a community asset, hosting weddings, conferences and events. Of the quirkier ideas on the table is using the building’s various vaults to create an ‘escape room’ experience.

In the short term, the group is preparing to ready part of the castle for use over the town’s Rose Fair weekend in July.

Mayor Steve Tierney chaired the inaugural Wisbech Castle Working Party Group meeting and outlined the task ahead, which includes clearing rooms of clutter and debris, and redecorating as well as building work to repair water damage.

Hay Festival Powered Entirely by Renewables
This year, the 10 day Hay Festival will be completely powered by renewables through green energy company Good Energy. The company has been sponsoring the literature and arts event for four years and will be leading the debate about how we generate and use energy, and how to achieve a sustainable future for our communities and the world.

The high profile festival, that has Margaret Atwood, Bear Grylls and Gordon Brown on the 2018 bill, already recycles, reuses or composts 80 per cent of the waste produced on site. It also runs a network of free public buses during the event, and offers free charging for electric vehicles.

In a statement, Andy Fryers, sustainability director, said: “Visitors have told us that they are passionately engaged with the environment as well as stimulating debates, good food and having a great time. Our offices have been powered by renewables for some years, and I’m delighted that we have resolved site technical issues and extended this to the festival site.”

Reusable glasses for beer and wine, and reusable hot drink cups, will also be introduced at this year’s event to cut plastic waste.

Mystery Glamping
Slow Cabins is a new concept from Belgium where guests get the chance to book a truly off-grid experience in mystery locations that are only revealed once they have confirmed their booking. One thing is certain however, the overnight stays, which start from €175, are guaranteed to be the most idyllic rural spots, far away from Wi-Fi. The cabins have been designed in two sizes to cater for couples and families, and feature solar power, wood burning stoves, rainwater collection and compost toilets, with stripped back Scandi interiors.

The cabins are mobile so the opportunity for new locations is endless, and rumour has it that Slow Cabin plans to expand so may well be ‘popping up’ throughout Europe. www.slowcabins.be

Life on the Edge
Offering those who want something truly different from their ‘close to nature’ experience, the team at Dorset’s Free Born Climbing is offering intrepid guests a night 90 feet above the sea on a Jurassic Coast cliff. Sleeping on a portaledge (a piece of climbing apparatus usually reserved for hard core rock climbers spending the night half way up a mountain), adventurous glampers need no prior climbing experience, and for £400 get instruction in abseiling down to their accommodation and a dinner time hamper featuring local produce.

Guests are advised to visit the toilet before settling in for the night, although the website states: “our staff are on hand to help you to the top and a public toilet is 10 min walk away.” www.cliff-camping.com

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