Deadline looms for top tourist spots

WITH just a few days to go before the deadline for entries in the Tourism in Suffolk Awards 2006 arrives, Suffolk's tourism industry is showing it has plenty to offer.

WITH just a few days to go before the deadline for entries in the Tourism in Suffolk Awards 2006 arrives, Suffolk's tourism industry is showing it has plenty to offer. Reporter GRANT SHERLOCK looks at the flood of entries received so far.

FOR some it's the way they cook the bacon and eggs that makes the difference.

For others it's the friendly smile, greeting visitors to one of Suffolk's many tourist attractions.

Whatever it is they do best, nearly 130 attractions and businesses from around the county are in the running for the first Tourism in Suffolk Awards, which are being run by The Evening Star's parent company Archant.

The response to the awards has been dazzling in just their first year and, industry insiders say, is testament to the strength of the county's developing tourist sector.

Julian Evans, Archant's advertising manager, said: “I have been delighted with the response to the Tourism in Suffolk Awards. With the deadline looming there are just a few days left for businesses to complete entry forms.

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“I would encourage businesses and readers to enter as soon as possible. These awards are proving very popular and we will need as much time as possible to study applications and visit those shortlisted.”

Categories range from Best Suffolk Attraction, to the Peoples' Award, which will honour the attraction or business which has most captured the imaginations of visitors. The best Bed and Breakfast in the county will be honoured, as will be the best hotel, the best caravan or holiday park and the best tourism information centre. In all there are 12 categories.

The awards were created as a response to the immense growth which has been seen in the tourism sector over recent years. Businesses, attractions, charities, volunteers and local authorities have worked together to turn what was once a disjointed and segmented industry into a £1billion boon for the economy each year.

All the signs suggest the sector will continue to grow, according to Martin Tuffs, the chairman of Visit Ipswich, which is the main sponsor of the awards.

He said: “Tourism is becoming something which is close to everybody's heart. We've got a huge local market and people are getting more interested. It's up to us to build the quality and raise the standards. We have got to build a sustainable tourism industry in this part of the world.”

Ipswich has been working hard to promote itself as the county town with lots to offer and a base where visitors can stay while exploring the whole of the county.

David Stainer, the manager of Ipswich Tourist Information Centre, said every resident of Suffolk was benefiting from the county's growing tourism sector.

“Tourism is a massive industry and Suffolk is getting an increasing share,” he said.

“It is a fragmented industry, you can't help that. It includes someone who has got a collection of shells in their front room, charities, volunteers, also profit making organisations and local authorities.

“Tourism is very good for the area, it's very good for the economy and for employment.”

A lot of the hard work in promoting Suffolk's visitor destinations has been in convincing the people who live here that they should explore their own county.

Mr Stainer said: “We like to encourage local people to see local attractions. You've got all the great things on our doorstep. Hopefully people use their local attractions and it captures their imagination.”

Ryan Insurance Group is sponsoring the category of Best Bed & Breakfast and Guesthouse in the awards.

The company, which has two branches in Ipswich, today urged guest house and B&B owners to nominate their businesses.

Helen Jerrold, head of Ryan's private clients division, said: “We decided upon this category because we understand the dilemma that B&B owners go through in running a successful business, usually from their own homes.

“We can't encourage people enough to enter; it's really going to be great publicity for the winner. The kudos that is attached to the awards will be a significant business driver.”

The best nominations will be short listed for each category, with the short lists announced in The Evening Star prior to the awards on September 28.

Scott Dolling, Suffolk Development Agency's destination marketing manager, said there were enormous opportunities on offer for those who nominated themselves in the awards.

He said: “This is an excellent opportunity because Archant have made this possible there are automatic PR benefits from taking part.

“With the range of categories there is one to suit everyone.”

ARCHANT'S Tourism in Suffolk Awards aim to showcase the professionalism and expertise that goes into this vital industry.

With 12 categories the awards span this diverse industry giving an opportunity for all businesses associated with tourism to proudly position themselves at the forefront of their sector.

Working with the Suffolk Tourism Partnership, the awards aim to raise the profile of tourism in the county.

They are expected to generate additional tourism business and increase standards in the county.

Businesses have been encouraged to nominate themselves for 11 of the award categories and the public will be able to vote for their favourite experience with the Peoples' Award.

There are still a few days before Monday's entry deadline, so to enter fill out an online entry form and send it to the address supplied on the form.

Members of the public can vote on their favourite visitor experience in the Peoples' Award category. Forms can be downloaded by visiting www.eveningstar.co.uk/content/awards/tourism.

Judging will be conducted by category sponsors, Suffolk Tourism Partnership, The Evening Star, The East Anglian Daily Times and the East of England Tourist Board.

The winners will be announced at a presentation dinner on September 28 at Trinity Park, Ipswich.

Best Suffolk attraction

Best bed & breakfast and guesthouse

Best hotel

Best caravan or holiday park

Best self-catering establishment

Best tourist information centre award

Community award

The sustainable tourism award

Rising Star award

Education and training award

Outstanding contribution to tourism award

Peoples' award - best visitor experience

Weblinks: www.eveningstar.co.uk/content/awards/tourism

www.visit-ipswich.co.uk

www.visit-suffolk.org.uk

www.visiteastofengland.com

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