It’s been 2 weeks since we picked up the Experience of the Year trophy at the West Midlands Tourism Awards…
And we are still buzzing! WE WON A THING! We are the official Experience of the Year in the West Midlands!
But let’s back up a little and talk about how it all happened….
What are the West Midlands Tourism Awards?
In the world of business awards, often, it’s not about what you know, but who you know. The process can favour those with the most friends to submit votes, or those who spend money on advertising with the award sponsors. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to win any award – it’s always something to shout about and can get some great PR. But sometimes they can feel a little bit, well, ’empty’.
But the West Midlands Tourism Awards are very different!
Organised by the West Midlands Growth Company, the West Midlands Tourism Awards are a regional competition to celebrate the successes and diversity of talent within the West Midlands’ tourism and hospitality sector. It’s affiliated to VisitEngland, the official national tourism body for England, which is responsible for promoting and managing the visitor economy in our part of the United Kingdom at the highest level.
And our part of the UK is a big one! The wider West Midlands region encompasses the English counties of the West Midlands, our home county of Warwickshire, as well as Worcestershire, Staffordshire and Shropshire, and includes the big cities of Coventry and Birmingham. There are a LOT of tourism and hospitality businesses within this region!
The Experience of the Year award process
So, having entered the West Midlands Tourism Awards in both 2020 and 2022 (there were no awards in 2021, for obvious reasons!), we again nominated ourselves for the Experience of the Year award for the 2023 awards.
We had to submit a detailed application covering all aspects of our business, which was scrutinised and scored by a panel of judges. Then, a couple of months ago, we were delighted to find out that we had been shortlisted as finalists – for the third time!
But the process didn’t end there. To decide the overall winner of the category, a judge came on one of our tours to see for themselves whether we really were the ‘experience of the year’. So there were no public votes, and certainly no exchange of money or favours!
The Awards evening
At last, on 16th March, with our fingers firmly crossed that this would be third time lucky for the top prize, Tom and I donned our glad rags and headed up to Wolverhampton for the awards evening.
Arriving at the beautiful Grand Station venue in Wolverhampton, Tom and I were a little worried out to find that we were seated on table 13 – unlucky for some, so they say!
After a drinks reception, the awards evening was then officially opened with a warm welcome from Sandra Samuels, Mayor of Wolverhampton, Birmingham-based comedian Shazia Mirza, and Andrew Lovett OBE, Chair of the West Midlands’ Tourism and Hospitality Advisory Board.
Our category, ‘Experience of the Year’, was the first of 14 awards to be announced, so we didn’t have too long to wait! First, introductory videos of each shortlisted business were shown on big screens. It was down to just us, and The Bear Grylls Adventure, an activity centre in Birmingham where you can try your hand at daring feats such as high ropes, axe-throwing and shark diving! Surely we didn’t stand a chance…?
And then the nerve-wracking wait for the golden envelope to be opened…
“And the winner of Experience of the Year is…”
Tom roared, I squealed, and suddenly a big spotlight was on us as we were ushered towards the stage to collect our trophy and certificate!
The rest of the evening passed in a bit of a blur, to be honest! We couldn’t wipe the silly grins off our faces – and our joy was shared when our dinner table-mates from The Howard Arms in Ilmington (a fellow Warwickshire/Cotswolds crossover business) won Pub of the Year! Perhaps table 13 wasn’t so unlucky after all!
The judges’ verdict: “This is clearly a business that puts its customers at its heart”
After the awards evening, we got to read the judges’ comments! The judges had lots of very lovely things to say about Go Cotswolds, but here’s one excerpt that really stood out for me. It brought tears to my eyes!
“This is clearly a business that puts its customers at its heart. The experience is excellent and made better by the passion its people have for the business and the area in which it operates. The business delivers what it promises and more, and is invested in the community it operates in, working with other businesses to create a memorable experience but also drive the economy of the area. I generally got the feeling of ‘nothing is too much trouble.'”
What happens after the West Midlands Tourism Awards?
So, very excitingly, as a Gold winner, Go Cotswolds will now be put forward for the national awards!
To put some context on this, VisitEngland is the highest authority on tourism in England. So, for English tourism business, winning the West Midlands Tourism Awards is the equivalent of an actor or film director being nominated for an Oscar!
To get this far is an incredible achievement for a company as small as us, and we’re unbelievably proud!
Thank you SO much to everyone who has contributed to our Go Cotswolds journey so far. Our fantastic guides, our friends and family, the professionals who have helped us with graphic design, marketing, web development and transport management, Shakespeare’s England and Cotswolds Tourism, Rick Steves, and – above all – our wonderful past, present and future customers who put their faith in this little family business to make a small part of your UK vacation amazing!