A former Premier League sports science expert who swapped the glamour of professional football to open a holiday venture has picked up a top tourism award.
Andy Franks worked with giants Chelsea and Everton as well as Crewe before he and his wife, Jen, bought an old farmhouse at Llandrillo, on the River Dee between Corwen and Bala, and set about creating Rivercatcher.
Now the family-run operation has been named the Go Self Catering Business of the Year, sponsored by Pario Leisure Group, at the North Wales Tourism Awards at Venue Cymru in Llandudno.
The headline sponsor for the glittering event was the leading food distribution company Harlech Foodservice, that’s celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, and it was hosted by acclaimed journalist Sian Lloyd who hails from Wrexham
Andy and Chris have transformed the property into the Rivercatcher complex of nine luxury log cabins and cottages scenically sited beside the River Dee with accommodation for up to 38 people and employing 10 staff.
The couple bought the property, Cilan, 10 years ago and opened in 2014 after two years setting up the business and has been busy ever since despite a nine-month Covid lockdown.
Andy who was Head of Sports Science Medicine at Chelsea and Crewe and has also worked with the Football Association and with Everton, said: “We started off as a family venture and it’s really gone from strength to strength.
“We set up the original five holiday cottages as a family venture with my wife running it and it kicked off so well we decided to build another four log cabins and ideally we’d like to add to that now.
“I took over the running of it five years ago and it’s become quite a big business with four virtually full-time staff and six part-time.
“We provide welcome hampers for guests with products sourced locally, from the bakery and butcher, fresh eggs from the farm and we’re looking to have electric vehicle charging points fitted as well.
“We’re definitely seeing an increase in people visiting this area because I don’t think they realised that this part of North Wales had so much to offer.”
Jim Jones, the chief executive of North Wales Tourism who headed the judging panel, said: “Rivercatcher is a stand-out facility, very much a family business and a very popular attraction in a stunning part of North Wales.
“It stands in a lovely and historic area of south Denbighshire, between Corwen and Bala, beside the River Dee in glorious scenery and within a couple of hours drive of a huge area of the North of England and the Midlands.”
David Cattrall, the managing director of Harlech Foodservice, said: “We were only too pleased to have the opportunity to once again be the headline backer of the awards because the tourism and hospitality industry is the lifeblood of the North Wales economy and also represents much of our core customer base.
“The past few years have been incredibly difficult for everybody and tourism and hospitality is one of the sectors that has suffered the most in terms of economic impact.
“But as the awards have shown tonight we are a resilient lot thanks to an army of heroes who work on the front line in this important sector.
“It is important that we continue to celebrate our many achievements and there are reasons to be optimistic about the future.”
The night’s top award, for a special contribution to tourism went to former Royal Marine Commando Sean Taylor who has was honoured for his “immense contribution” to the industry.
The founder of the fast-growing, adrenaline-fuelled Zip World empire was given the special contribution to tourism award at the prestigious Go North Wales Tourism Awards.
In 2007 he launched the high-wire Tree Tops Adventure attraction in a forest near Betws y Coed and followed that with the fastest zip wire in the world above the Penrhyn Quarry in Bethesda and underground trampolining at Bounce Below in the Llechwedd Slate Caverns of Blaenau Ffestiniog.
His latest ventures include Underground Golf at Llechwedd and the SkyFlyer airship in Rhyl that will carry thrill seekers 400ft in the air when it takes off next year and the company is now spread over seven sites across Wales, the Lake District and Manchester.
Another big winner on the night was the Plas Dinas Country House Hotel in Bontnewydd, near Caernarfon, which was crowned Hotel of the Year for the second year running while its acclaimed Gunroom Restaurant won the coveted food and drink award.
Winners at the Go North Wales Tourism Awards
Best Newcomer Award sponsored by Aber Falls Distillery –
Tan y Bryn Glamping and Touring, Llandudno Junction
Go Skills Award sponsored by North Wales Regional Skills Partnership –
Ambassador.Wales, Denbighshire County Council
Go Young Person in Tourism & Hospitality Award sponsored by Grwp Llandrillo Menai –
Tilly Reynolds, Bodnant Welsh Food, Conwy Valley
Go Tourism Supplier of the Year sponsored by Orenda-Luxe Exclusive Holiday Homes
UK Leisure Living, St Asaph and Mochdre
Go Best Event of the Year sponsored by Penderyn Distillery Llandudno –
Rhyl Air Show
Go Food and Drink of the Year Award sponsored by Menter Mon –
The Gunroom Restaurant at Plas Dinas Country House, Bontnewydd
Go Activity of the Year sponsored by Design 2 Print –
Anglesey Boat Trips, Beaumaris
Go Caravan, Camping or Glamping of the Year sponsored by Tan y Bryn Caravan and Camping Ltd –
Brook Cottage Shepherd Huts, Y Ffôr, Pwllheli
Go Self Catering of the Year sponsored by Pario Leisure Group –
Go Holiday Park of the Year sponsored by Thornley Leisure Parks–
Commonwood Leisure, Wrexham
Go Pet Friendly Award sponsored by Pero Foods Ltd
Y Stablau, Betws y Coed
Go Best B&B/Inn of the Year sponsored by Colliers Hotels –
Golden Fleece Inn, Tremadog
Go Hotel of the Year sponsored by Castell Howell Foods Ltd–
Plas Dinas Country House Hotel, Bontnewydd
Go Responsible and Sustainable Green Award sponsored by Adventure Parc Snowdonia and Hilton Garden Inn Snowdonia –
Anglesey Sea Zoo and Marine Resource Centre, Brynsiencyn
Go Attraction of the Year sponsored by Development Bank of Wales –
Manorafon Farm Park, Abergele
Go North Wales Special Contribution to Tourism Award sponsored by Tir Prince Leisure Group – Sean Taylor, founder and president, ZipWorld