The Fylde coast’s tourism and hospitality expertise was well to the fore as the county celebrated all that is best in the sector at its annual awards.
Lancashire’s £4.25bn visitor economy was celebrated at the Lancashire Tourism Awards run by Marketing Lancashire.
More than 400 guests descended on new Preston venue, Imperial Banqueting, to find out the winners of 22 categories at the annual event, supported by headline sponsor University of Central Lancashire.
Blackpool-born star of West End, stage and TV Jodie Prenger was guest presenter, bringing her Lancastrian humour to the proceedings and entertaining guests with her incredible voice, as she performed some of her favourite songs.
Among the Fylde coast winners was Blackpool’s Sandcastle Waterpark in the Inclusive Tourism Award category.
Managing director John Child said he was delighted for the whole team.
He said: “We are absolutely passionate about inclusivity here at the Sandcastle. It is in our ethos to give everyone the opportunity to enjoy the attraction.”
He said it was not just about having ramps and lifts it was a whole culture of considering what various groups of people might need and making people feel at home.
“The work the team do here is absolutely awesome, they do such a good job in welcoming visitors with all needs.”
He said they offer special services for people with autism, accessibility nights.
He said: “The accessibility nights are wonderful you can feel the warmth and our team come away buzzing.”
The Winter Gardens continued its award-winning run, picking up the Business Tourism Award.
The Taste Lancashire Restaurant award went to Twelve Restaurant of Thornton, which came as a bit of a surprise for owners Paul Moss and Caroline Upton as they were handling the catering for the awards night with 70 staff on duty.
Caroline said: “With 70 staff working to provide the food and drinks, there was a little bit of pressure!
“We were nominated but we were up against some brilliant competitors so it was a complete surprise to win. Absolutely delighted.
“It is an honour. We have a great location here in Thornton, brilliant Lancashire suppliers and producers which enable us to create the dishes we offer. As we often say, teamwork makes the dream work and I would like to thank everyone we work with.”
Other Fylde coast winners included Ream Hills Holiday Park at Weeton, which triumphed in the holiday village award.
Park manager Sarah Gerrard said: “We’ve only been open for three years and we’ve spent that time building the business up, so we’re thrilled to win this award.
“We weren’t told why we had won but I think the judges liked some of our ideas - one of our unique features is a converted Lynx helicopter which can comfortably accommodate a family.”
Fleetwood Market won the retail experience award and Coun Michael Vincent, the planning and economic development portfolio holder for Wyre Council, said: “We pride ourselves in maintaining a market with variety.
“A very well done to all the staff and traders at the market who make it a wonderful shopping experience. “We are very excited about receiving our second award of the year and continuing the success of Fleetwood Market.”
The evening also saw the Lancashire Tourism Superstar – the only category decided through a public vote - awarded to tour guide Simon Entwistle of Clitheroe. His Top Hat Tours see him traversing the length and breadth of Lancashire shouting loud about the county he is so proud of.
He entertains visitors, tourists, VIPS and media representatives with his expert storytelling, sharing those tales that are a part of the fabric of Lancashire’s rich history and culture.
He said: “I am absolutely delighted to win my second tourism award and would like to than people who voted for me and Marketing Lancashire who have been very supportive of me down the years.
“I started my own business in 1996 with a ghost walk in Clitheroe, then followed it with others in Blackburn and Preston. I have built up a huge amount of stories from Lancashire, the heroes and the villains and I have really enjoyed doing it.”
This year, more than 100 finalists competed for the prestigious titles and progressed through shortlisting, mystery shopping and interviews by panels of experts to arrive at last night’s much-anticipated awards ceremony.
Rachel McQueen, Chief Executive of Marketing Lancashire welcomed guests saying: “A thriving Lancashire tourism sector contributes to the economy, to employment, to the culture, the quality of life and the prosperity of Lancashire.
“The Lancashire Tourism Awards reminds us of the diversity the county has and how privileged we are to have such amazing experiences to offer visitors.”
The event was supported by: University of Central Lancashire – Headline Sponsor, Total Foodservice, Northcote at the Rovers, Dewlay, Pear Communications, Links Signs and Graphics, The Imperial Banqueting, Quality in Tourism, Heart FM, 3 Man Factory, The Cumberland, Creative Council, Northern Print Distribution, eBusiness UK, Peter Scott Printers, Lancashire Business View, Lancashire Life and BBC Radio Lancashire and Johnston Press.