Ribble Valley Tourism Awards 2015 Online edition

The Retail offer is very important to the Ribble Valley visitor economy and the aim of this new category is to celebrate some of the achievements of that sector

There is one food outlet and café that always has a huge array of homemade cakes, soups, special dishes each day that never fail to impress visitors. The staff are particularly welcoming to tourists and always willing to suggest places to visit, walks etc. The place is like a visitor information centre with plenty of tasty treats to purchase.  The Retail Experience Award goes to The Delicious Deli & Café at Gisburn.

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The next award winner is a hive of retail activity linked very much to hospitality and food but also to fashion. Visitors from across the country have always been drawn to the fashion side of this business and more recently the associated café bar but now the business has developed another successful strand of a high quality delicatessen with a delicious range of food on sale

The winner of the Retail Experience Award goes to Benedicts of Whalley.

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The association has the power to award Honorary Life Membership to people who have made a significant contribution to its work over a number of years. One member has made such a contribution, not necessarily in recent years but certainly during earlier times and it is probably the case that without her enthusiasm and vision, the association wouldn’t be what it is today, if in fact it was here at all.  She was a committee member serving in a number of roles, not least as treasurer where she made her mark. Frances Ahearne, of Stonyhurst College has been an active supporter of the RVTA for many years, and in her role at Stonyhurst College has also encouraged the use of the college as a tourism and events destination. Often working behind the scenes, she has always taken her roles and responsibilities seriously, with the good of the association as her primary concern, the award Life Membership of RVTA goes to Frances Ahearne.

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In celebrating Tourism at these awards it is great to recognise the Champions and there are two people who are outstanding, a couple, in fact. In addition to both running local businesses and contributing to the local economy and employment, they have turned their own home into a tourist attraction and developed an exclusive and unique Wedding and Function venue in which we are now seated. They both work tirelessly for the local area, and are true Tourism Champions and they are Robert and Amanda Parker of Browsholme Hall.

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These awards recognise and celebrate success, and it is always good to mark the achievements of someone who is perhaps not used to being in the limelight yet who is critical to the success of the business. One such Unsung Hero is an individual who doesn’t take the plaudits but has played an integral part in turning a hotel into an award winning business

As General Manager of the hotel, his daily tasks are to manage the hotel and its staff He takes a huge part in future decisions and is very proud of the hotel and its locality. He shares and supports the statement ‘pride in place!’ and with thirty years of service, the winner of the Unsung Hero Award goes to Mr Philip Wharton of Stanley House Hotel.

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Effective team work is often the key to business success and this area boasts many outstanding teams. One such team has been key to the transformation of an old village pub into a highly popular dining experience, with a reputation that attracts diners from across the region whilst maintaining the warmth, atmosphere, and charm of a classic English country pub. The Stars in Tourism award winner for Team of the Year, is The Higher Buck at Waddington.

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Excellent customer care and service are absolutely essential ingredients and very much evident across Ribble Valley, but sometimes an individual shines out.

The winner of Individual Excellence in Customer Care Award prides herself on building an instant relationship with customers and her spare time is spent on furthering her wealth of knowledge through studying business administration. Her customer care values are based on the simple yet overlooked commodity of ‘listening’. Always ready with new ideas to develop the business, this winner has adapted her work-life balance to meet the needs of the client by working late, saying goodbye to her weekends and being flexible enough to suit modern day living. The winner of the Individual Excellence in Customer Care is Joy Parker, Wedding coordinator of Stanley House Hotel and Spa.

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Events form one of the mainstays of Ribble Valley Tourism, and one event in particular has grown significantly in size and impact. From humble beginnings, it now attracts a worldwide food audience. The event has just celebrated its 15th anniversary and the hotel where it is based its 30th anniversary. During the most recent event 27 chefs from across the world took part. With world class chefs and sommeliers preparing the best food and wine from local producers and growers, this unique festival is, of course, ‘Obsession’ based at Northcote.Stars in Tourism Awards 2015-0266

Quality is what Ribble Valley is all about, and in some tourism businesses there is sumptuous luxury.  The winner of this new category has been developed to the highest possible specification, offering outstanding luxury self-catering accommodation. Attention has been paid to every detail for quality whilst building and equipping these cottages, and the visitor could wish for nothing. High tech, modern, immaculate and yet very cosy, the winner of this award Oakdean near Whalley Nab, offers sheer luxury.

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Diversifying from agriculture into tourism has been on the agenda of many farms, not least the next award winner which has successful farm visitor attraction and ice cream businesses. More recently another form of tourism has been developed here with the creation of something that has attracted a whole new audience into the area. The appeal of fear has boosted off peak, out of normal season tourism, in large numbers, bringing economic benefits to the whole area. This award goes to Scare Kingdom at Hawkshaw Farm.

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Building sustainability into the business is a challenge and this award recognises the achievement of minimising the impact of tourism on the environment. This brand new boutique hotel in Clitheroe has achieved the ultimate luxury experience whilst incorporating energy efficiency to the highest standard. Some of the features include with an internal structure comprised of structured insulation panels. All windows are triple glazed. There is also a mechanical ventilation heat recovery unit designed to bring filtered fresh air into the building and recycle 95% of the internal heat around the house. The winner of this award goes to Fifty One and a Half Boutique B &B.

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The award Excellent Visitor Facilities recognises some of the outstanding services on offer in this area. The winner has developed an attraction which is versatile in its appeal to all ages offering a programme of entertainment of a quality that the area is lucky to have. The highest standards of facility and equipment, combined with excellent customer service are provided for visitors at the winner of Excellent Visitor Facilities award, is the Grand Theatre Clitheroe.

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Here in Ribble Valley we like to welcome all visitors, and many of our businesses make special provisions to enable access for all. Holiday home parks can be a particularly difficult environment for visitors challenged by mobility. At one park, where an excellent service is already being provided, special facilities are being made available to ensure accessibility. The acquisition of a caravan holiday home specifically designed for wheelchair users has been installed. Additional features are being included to improve access and use of facilities including a sliding door and a wet room. The winner of the Tourism for All award goes to Shireburne Park.

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Some tourism businesses not only benefit the local community but are actually run by the local community. This award recognises the efforts of volunteers in a very special visitor centre. It is a place from which we all benefit because they send visitors on to each of our businesses.

The centre is managed entirely by dedicated volunteers providing a great visitor experience including tourist information along with special historical displays. The venue is always well presented and welcoming, and special exhibitions always involve the local community. This award goes to the Volunteers of the Longridge Heritage Centre.

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The environment in which visitors dine is always very important in the Ribble Valley where so many acclaimed food businesses thrive. The next award winner has managed to create a most tasteful and vibrant atmosphere offering the highest possible quality of food in a village setting. Achieving regular reviews in national media along with a plethora of awards and accreditations this village restaurant has become a national haven for food fanatics. The award for Creativity in Food and Hospitality goes to the Parkers Arm.

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Everyone is talking about Social Media of various kinds and the most successful businesses are using it effectively. There are many great examples of the way that Facebook is used to promote local tourism businesses but one stood out this year. Kept fresh and informative, a visit to their Facebook site certainly makes you want to visit the place. You are made to feel part of the team with regular updates about the attraction conveyed in a friendly style. The Social Media award goes to the Wild Boar Park.

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A good website is now a fundamental tool for marketing new business, and maintaining contact with customers. There are many outstanding business websites. The winner of the most customer-friendly website provides attractive clarity on a website that is easy to understand and navigate and yet technically clever. The site is therefore user-friendly, its language and graphics are clear and it is informative and easy to use on different devices. Sharp, up-to-date and fun to use, the Interactive website goes to Outdoor Elements.

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With such fierce competition for customers, new ideas are all so important to success. One hotel which already has a reputation for creativity has over the past year, reviewed its facilities and taken a brave step to make changes. Owning a very successful Golf course, and yet identifying scope for new business at quiet times, they introduced the new sport of foot golf onto the course. Working hard not to lose existing business, foot golf has been successfully introduced and is proving a huge success. The winner of the Tourism Innovation award is Mytton Fold Hotel.

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Quality is what Ribble Valley has in abundance, but to achieve it requires constant investment, rebranding and new ideas. One such business continues to stay ahead of the game, and in the last year invested significantly in a stylish and tasteful redesign and has extended  to maintain it as one of the premier weddings venues in the north, if not the country.  To create even more exclusivity, a totally new entrance has been created with the wedding facilities extended internally as well as enhanced externally. The new facilities are matched by the outstanding customer service always on offer here.

The first winner of Quality Tourism Award goes to Mitton Hall owned by James Places.

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Running a business in a very rural location can be a challenge and the need to continuously improve the service and enhance facilities is critical to success. One business has done this successfully over a number of years and maintained its positions as one of the premier hotels and wedding venues in the area. Once again this year this hotel has been extended and redesigned to make it even more attractive and inviting to guests. This year a new conservatory has increased capacity and special features making it unique, such as the two hand blown glass chandeliers, designer wallpaper and cast iron pillars. The bio-folding doors create an open vista onto the terrace, gardens and surrounding fells creating the perfect room with a view. The Quality Tourism Award goes to the stunning The Gibbon Bridge Hotel.

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Each year sees new tourism businesses opening in this area and some stand out for quality. One such new business offers an innovative combination of accommodation and food. The facilities provided to staying visitors by night are available to other visitors during the day thereby maximising the space in these well-appointed facilities. Located in Newton, the business is well placed to maximise cycle and walking opportunities along with wildlife study. In spite of suffering badly with their road being closed by the County Council shortly after launching, the owners, Matthew and Helena Lewis have worked tirelessly to sustain customers at this year’s New Enterprise of the Year Clerk Laithe Lodge.

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In Ribble Valley we are lucky to have some outstanding groups operating businesses, constantly investing in their properties and also acquiring new ones. This new category of Transformational Tourism recognises where a failed or redundant business has been transformed into successful business enterprise. One such business in Longridge has resulted in a truly stylish pub and restaurant being created with a stylish interior using traditional oak, flags, slate and steel, a central bar leading to three dining areas, two feature fireplaces, an atmospheric tap room, outside courtyard and most importantly in this part of the valley six new beautifully appointed en suite bedrooms . The first winner of the Transformational Tourism Award is the Derby Arms owned by the Seafood Company.

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Another transformational project is where a redundant riverside pub has been transformed into an outstanding new venue. The development saw a new operator coming into the area and rather than filling just a niche in the market, it has moreover created one, with comfortable family dining both in the stylish interior and outside in the landscaped riverside garden. A destination pub has been created on this idyllic riverside location, bringing to life a building that had become totally redundant. The winner of the Transformational Tourism Award is the Aspinall Arms owned by Brunning and Price.

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