A remote Gwynedd campsite named in the top ten in the UK this year by BBC Countryfile Magazine has picked up another accolade at the North Wales Tourism ‘Oscars’.
Graig Wen Arthog, on the Mawddach estuary, between Dolgellau and Barmouth, was named Camping/Glamping Site of the Year at the Go North Wales Tourism Awards.
The headline sponsor for the glittering event at Venue Cymru in Llandudno was the leading food distribution company, Harlech Foodservice, and it was hosted by acclaimed journalist Sian Lloyd who hails from Wrexham.
The occasion was also a 30th anniversary celebration for organiser North Wales Tourism which was founded in 1990 and now represents more than 1,500 members across the region
Sarah Heyworth and John McKenzie-Murdoch took over the magnificent wooded site at the foot of Cadair Idris 15 years ago and have developed it into one of the finest camping sites in Wales which has nows treceived almost 200 five-star reviews.
It connects to the popular Mawddach Trail by footpath and its network of camping pitches is just three miles from the beaches of Cardigan Bay.
The judges were particularly impressed with how the owners had used the lockdown to prepare and North Wales Tourism chief executive Jim Jones, Chair of Judges said: “Graig Wen have invested heavily in their infrastructure with digital, and sustainability improvements. Making everyone feel valued and important runs through everything they do.
“At the Heart of the Welsh community, they’re an example of a business that is showing great customer care and a massive contribution to the green agenda.”
A delighted Sarah said: “We thought we were just turning up for a night out. It’s a real was a shock but it’s great recognition for our fantastic team.
“We have a very loyal customer base because if they had cancelled bookings and asked for their money back we’d have been bankrupted so we’re so grateful for the way they kept faith with us.”
Michael Bewick, of J W Greaves Ltd which runs Llechwedd Slate Caverns, in Blaenau Ffestiniog, who received the Grwp Llandrillo Menai Outstanding Contribution to Tourism Award, said: “I’m thrilled to bits. I go to work every day and try and inspire a great team and help the industry.
“In the last 18 months I’ve been part of the Welsh Government Covid Tourism Task Force and been able to represent the voice of tourism direct to the heart of government.
“I very much hope that it helps the next generation of young people coming into tourism meet the huge challenge they face.”
Jim Jones added: “Michael has created a lasting impact on tourism, and adventure tourism in particular.
“He spearheaded the rejuvenation of the entire Llechwedd site, paving the way for huge expansion which has contributed to North Wales’s status as the Adventure Capital of the UK.
“He has also been engaged in many committees across the sector and has been an active supporter of the UNESCO World Heritage bid for the North Wales Slate landscape.
“He is always polite, always positive and always encouraging of all things ‘North Wales.”
Jim Jones added that the amount of investment going into improving the infrastructure of the tourism and hospitality sector was a vote of confidence in the future of the industry in North Wales.
Before the pandemic, the tourism industry was flying with the overall income generated increasing to an all-time high of £3.6 billion in 2019 when the number of visitors rocketed to nearly 37 million.
After a massive slump, the staycation boom this summer showed that North Wales was still a hugely popular destination for holidaymakers.
Jim Jones said: “Like everybody else, the tourism industry has endured an absolute nightmare over the past 20 months and, because of the nature of the business, our sector was disproportionately affected during the lockdown periods.
“I would like to congratulate the winners and the other finalists tonight because was they have achieved is utterly remarkable, particularly under the most difficult of circumstances.
“I would also like to stress that all the nominees are playing an absolutely vital role in leading the economic recovery here in North Wales and I would like to thank them for their incredible ongoing contribution.”
David Cattrall, the managing director of Harlech Foodservice, said: “We were delighted to have the opportunity to be the headline backer of the awards and to sponsor two individual categories because the tourism and hospitality industry represents our core customer base.
“Although we’ve all had an extremely tough time, there are reasons to be optimistic for the future and the scale of investment going into North Wales shows there is a strong belief that this is a first-class, must-visit destination.”
North Wales Tourism used the occasion to raise money for their nominated charity, St David’s Hospice in Llandudno.
Gwynedd winners: Plas Tan yr Allt, in Porthmadog, which was Colliers Hotels Best B&B/Inn; Graig Wen Arthog, Dolgellau, Harlech Foodservice Best Camping/Glamping; Greenwood Family Park, Y Felinheli, Adventure Parc Snowdonia Responsible and Sustainable Green Award; Michael Bewick, Llechwedd Slate Caverns, Grwp Llandrillo Menai Outstanding Contribution to Tourism Award; Lyons Pendyffryn Hall, Pario Leisure Group Self Catering of the Year; Plas Dinas Country House, Go Hotel of the Year sponsored by Castell Howell Foods Ltd.