Three outstanding North East tourism businesses have been shortlisted in the VisitEngland Awards for Excellence 2020, an event that champions the very best of the country’s tourism industry and celebrates quality, innovation and best practice.
Seahouses bed and breakfast, St Cuthbert’s House, Northumbrian and Scandinavian fusion restaurant, Hjem, and luxury spa hotel, Seaham Hall will represent the region at the national awards, which will take place in a virtual event on Monday, August 17.
The shortlisted businesses were automatically put forward to compete at a national level after being recognised at the regional North East England Tourism Awards 2020 in April this year.
St Cuthbert’s House, which is owned and run by husband and wife team Jeff and Jill Sutheran has been shortlisted in the B&B and Guest House of the Year category.
Mr Sutheran commented on the win: “We’re absolutely delighted to have been shortlisted in the prestigious VisitEngland Awards once again. Such an accolade will certainly provide a valuable boost to our business in these very difficult times. But as important, for us, is the opportunity that these awards provide to raise the profile of the North East and Northumberland in particular.
“We’re pleased to be able to highlight the fact that staycationers experience standards of service which are rigorously and independently judged as being the best in the whole country.”
Hexham’s Restaurant Hjem will go head to head with some of the best foodie hotspots in the country for the Taste of England Award.
Restaurant manager Ally Thompson and head chef Alex Nietosvouri said: “We’re delighted and honoured to have been shortlisted in these national awards. Having only opened in May 2019, it feels like a real achievement to be named as finalists alongside these established and Michelin-starred restaurants and as ever, we’re incredibly proud to be flying the flag for Northumberland and the fantastic farmers, producers and growers we’re lucky to have on our doorstep.
“We always wanted Hjem to be a destination restaurant, offering a food experience people were willing to travel for. Since reopening in July, we have been enjoying welcoming guests back to Restaurant Hjem and this news has given us all a lovely extra boost.”
County Durham’s five-star Seaham Hall has been shortlisted in the Small Hotel of the Year category. The hotel previously scooped Gold at the regional awards after impressing a panel of industry experts and a visit from a mystery shopper.
North East destination management and marketing organisations NewcastleGateshead Initiative (NGI) and Visit County Durham have also been shortlisted alongside Destination Bristol in a new special category, the International Distribution Award. The category recognises destinations committed to increasing the international distribution of their tourism products and acknowledges their move towards creating more online bookable products and experiences for tourists via the new Tourism Exchange GB (TXGB) distribution platform.
NewcastleGateshead Initiative delivers the annual North East England Tourism Awards supported by North East Tourism Alliance members.
Ian Thomas, Director of Leisure Tourism at NewcastleGateshead Initiative, said: “We are really proud of our regional businesses who will go on to compete in the national awards next month. These represent some of the finest examples of our country’s tourism industry and show off the amazing coast and countryside that we have on our doorstep in the North East. The awards announcements are well timed as our businesses begin to reopen after a difficult few months and will give a welcome boost to the sector.
“What’s more, this year NGI has itself been shortlisted for an award for our work in attracting international visitors to the region. After leading on the delivery of the North East England Tourism Awards for many years, it makes a different, but exciting experience to be up for an award ourselves.”
VisitEngland Chief Executive, Sally Balcombe, said: “These awards celebrate businesses and individuals in tourism across England who have exceeded expectations and delivered excellence during the last 18 months and it is fantastic to see such an outstanding list of finalists.
“The impressive list reflects the sheer scale of innovation, quality and experiences across our tourism landscape and I congratulate all the finalists and wish them the very best of luck.
“Millions of jobs and local economies depend on tourism and this year’s awards are also a timely opportunity to acknowledge the determination and dedication of tourism businesses across the country who have worked extremely hard to reopen and welcome visitors back safely.”