THE staff and volunteers working in tourism across the Blackmore Vale have been celebrating their success in the latest Dorset Tourism Awards.

In an online ceremony held on February 4, nominated hotels, information centres and other travel services were recognised for their efforts within the sector, especially through the unprecedented times of the Covid-19 crisis.

Locally, Shaftesbury Tourist Information Centre received the silver accolade against Bridport Tourist Information Centre in the Visitor Information Service of the Year category, and Sturminster Newton-based Farmstead Glamping received gold in the Glamping Business of the Year category and silver in the Ethical, Responsible and Sustainable Tourism category.

Hammoon Manor, near Sturminster Newton, received the bronze award in the New Tourism Business category and the Self Catering Accommodation of The Year category.

Hannah Hannam, manager of Farmstead Glamping, said the result was “a wonderful morale boost for the team”, adding: “We were especially pleased with our success in the sustainability category as it is something that is hugely important to us as a business.”

Steven Vestbirk of Hammoon Manor said producing digital guidebooks was an important part of the site’s offering, as it helped visitors to both relax and explore the county.

He added that last year’s push for staycations had helped put Dorset and the barn conversion on the map.

He said: “Many of our newest guests in 2020 were ‘refugees’, from their planned or cancelled foreign trips, and had never been on a staycation, let alone to our beautiful county. A frequent comment was ‘We had never thought of visiting Dorset before’!

“That’s the challenge for us. There is no reason Dorset should not be spoken of in the same breath as Cornwall or Devon as the destination of choice - if not the preferred destination of choice.”

David Taylor, the manager of the volunteer-ran Shaftesbury Tourist Information Centre, said: “This was the first time we had entered and, to be recognised like this, it reflects well on [the team’s] endeavours.

"They have enabled the TIC to remain open throughout the year offering essential community services, even during the lockdown periods. Thousands of visitors and residents alike have benefitted from the service our volunteers provide.”

Securing the gold for Tourism Innovation and silver in the Hotel of the Year category, The Grange at Oborne, near Sherborne, was another successful finalist.

The hotel has been busy throughout the Covid-19 pandemic - during the first lockdown it opened as a convalescent home accepting low-risk patients from Dorset hospitals, and the team is spending the current lockdown redecorating, with hopes to reopen in the spring.

General manager Jenny Fletcher added: "2020 was a particularly challenging year in hospitality and so these awards mean a great deal to us and the whole team."

To find out more information about other finalists visit the Dorset Tourism Awards website.

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