North Wales is poised for a bumper year tourism in 2017 after establishing a reputation as one of the best places in the world to visit, according to Economy Minister Ken Skates.
His comments came at the inaugural Go North Wales Tourism Awards, to honour the work and spectacular successes of the region’s £2 billion industry.
The region’s very best visitor attractions, restaurants and businesses were celebrating after picking up gongs at the event, organised by North Wales Tourism and Heart FM.
Zip World, run by former Marine Sean Taylor and his business partner Nick Moriaty with sites in Gwynedd and Conwy, collected a special award for Outstanding Contribution to Tourism in North Wales.
Nick said: “I’m thrilled we have been recognised for our contribution to the local and wider economy which is worth in excess of £120 million.
“We started with just one employee three years ago and are now employing 220 people. I’m looking forward to an even more successful 2017.”
Clwyd South AM Mr Skates, who masterminded the 2016 Year of Adventure, praised North Wales Tourism for making the region the top fourth best place in the world to visit, according to travel guide The Lonely Planet.
He said: “That is down to a strong partnership between us all, and a relentless focus on improving quality of the offer, the appeal of North Wales, and the development of new, world class, attractions.
“I am confident that the visitor economy of North Wales is on the crest of a wave. In 2017, the year of Legend, there will be unique and compelling reasons to visit North Wales. I am sure that everybody in the sectors, from B&B and hotelierss to visitor attractions, will enjoy a bumper year for next year.
“Congratulations on being part of an incredible regional place of activity.”
North Wales Tourism managing director Jim Jones said there were almost 300 entries to the awards, the first of their kind for the region.
He added: “This is celebration of all that’s best about North Wales – we at NWT are working hard to promoter this region. It’s a real pleasure to showcase North Wales to the rest of the world.”
GreenWood Forest Park at Felinheli collected two awards after winning the Green Award and the Tourism Business Innovation Award.
Managing Director Stephen Bristow and his wife Andrea, who is the attraction’s director and marketing manager, collected the gongs alongside staff members including Visitor Services Manager Mark Rowlands.
Stephen said: “It is absolutely fantastic to be recognised for the work we have and continue to do. However, we wouldn’t be here without the hard work of our amazing team.
“It really is our 19 permanent members of staff and our 120 or so seasonal staff that deserve the credit.”
Mark Rowlands said winning the Tourism Business Innovation Award was a fantastic achievement for the whole GreenWood Forest Park team.
He said: “It recognises the hard work of everyone involved at what is a wonderful family attraction.
“And while the team works exceptionally hard we have to pay credit to the management of Stephen and Andrea Bristow who are real visionaries and absolutely wonderful people to work for.”
And also highly commended in the Tourism Business Innovation Award, sponsored by North Wales Economic Ambition Board were The Ale Trail Company and UK Leisure Living.
Bryn Elltyd Eco Guesthouse in Tanygrisiau, Blaenau Ffestiniog, Llandudno’s Imperial Hotel and Anglesey Sea Zoo were highly commended in the Green Award category, which was sponsored by Carbon Zero.
Conwy County won the Best Destination award despite stiff competition from Anglesey and Wrexham, which were both nominated for the award.
Graham Rees, Conwy County Borough Council’s cabinet member for tourism, marketing and leisure was on hand to collect the award along with head of community development, Marianne Jackson.
A delighted Cllr Rees said: “Conwy continues to get accolades from all over the UK which is always welcome. However, to receive this award and to be recognised by tourism experts here in North Wales means so much more.
“We have a great relationship with our tourism partners. And that partnership has been built over a number of years. It’s been a long journey but things really are working well and I really couldn’t be more delighted.”
Jimmy and Louise Williams collected the Best Food or Drink Award, sponsored by Celtic Holiday Parks, for their fine dining restaurant Signatures in Conwy.
Louise and Jimmy, who were joined at the awards evening by their Mexican maître d’ Carlos Saloma, say they were simply blown away by the award.
Louise said: “We started the business eight years ago, just Jimmy and I, with no financial backing. We have built the business up, with the amazing support of our team that has grown to 23 members of staff.
“To actually win the award, considering there was such strong competition is incredible, amazing and simply wonderful.”
Dylan’s Restaurant and Wrexham Lager were also nominated for the Best Food or Drink Award.
The award for Best Attraction, sponsored by Contact Centre Cymru, went to the Welsh Mountain Zoo in Colwyn Heights.
The zoo’s director of operations Jen Jesse and marketing officer Jamie Toffrey were on hand to collect their award.
Jen said: “It’s an absolutely fantastic award and testament to the hard work of each and every one of dedicated team and our amazing volunteers.
Jamie added: “We are a year-round attraction and this is award will be a real boost to the whole team.”
Highly commended for the award were Great Orme Tramway and GreenWood Forest Park.
The Ale Trail Company landed the Magnificent Crowd Puller under 7.5K award, sponsored by North Wales Tourism.
Owner Shelley Barratt, of Hawarden, Flintshire, said she was absolutely thrilled to win the award as it recognised the success of the bus-based event and the support it gives to rural North Wales businesses.
Shelley said: “It’s wonderful to be recognised by my peers in the tourism industry. I’m just amazed and delighted to have been recognised.
“It has been hard work but the venture has been a success and this fantastic award recognises that. I now look forward to an even bigger and more successful year ahead.”
The Best Newcomer Award, sponsored by Silver Birch Golf Club, was won by Gorjys Events.
Excited directors Gavin Mart, Tansy Rogerson, Anna Openshaw and Jonathan Hughes celebrated collecting the award.
MD Gavin Mart said: “We formed a creative team of four directors to form this event company that showcases singer songwriters and local talent.
“We enjoyed an amazing and highly successful first festival and the task now is to replicate or even better that achievement in 2017.”
Anna added: “It is wonderful to be recognised by our peers. We hope we have brought something new to North Wales that will enjoy continued success for many years to come.”
Also highly commended in the Best Newcomer category were Erwyd Le Fol, The Conwy Jester and Caer Rhun Hall.
Llechwedd Slate Caverns were named winners of the Cartrefi Conwy sponsored Best Use of Digital Award.
Managing Director Michael Bewick said: “It is a very special award. The Caverns have only been there since 1972. In the last year we have begun a new underground tour and made it relevant to the modern visitor through our use of digital technologies.
“It’s also fabulous to collect the award in front of so many of our peers. Tourism in North Wales continues to thrive and the amount of revenue tourism created for the regional economy is staggering.”
Also commended for the Best Use of Digital Award were Snowdon Walks, and Not Just PR on behalf of the Royal Victoria Hotel.
The award for Best Accommodation, sponsored by Wrexham Lager, went to Llandudno Bay Hotel who edged out Chateau Plas Rhianfa, Holt Lodge and Soughton Hall to pick up the award.
The hotel’s general manager, Stuart Desborough, said: “Everyone has worked exceptionally hard since we opened 18 months ago.
“It is a tough economic climate at the moment so to win this award is a real step in the right direction. It’s all about team work and we all work hard from linen porters to departmental managers. We want to give our guests the very best experience we can. I am absolutely delighted with this very special award.”
The award for the Magnificent Crowd Puller over 7.5K, sponsored by Powlsons Design and Print, went to Dayinsure Wales Rally GB.
Rally managing director Ben Taylor said he was absolutely thrilled to win the award.
“Everyone tells us the rally is fantastic but for us to be involved in these awards is just amazing and I am really proud of our achievements.
“It’s an international event that comes to North Wales for just four days a year. However, we get such massive support from people and businesses and Conwy County Borough Council.
“And although we are only actually here for four days we are working hard all year with our partners to ensure the rallies success,” said Ben.
Also highly commended were Conwy Pirate Weekend; Wales International Balloon Festival organised by Nightingale House Hospice; and Take Part festival at Venue Cymru, Llandudno.
The Year of Adventure Award, sponsored by ARRIVA Bus Wales, was won by Surf Snowdonia.
Managing director Andrew Ainscough was delighted to have won. He said: “It’s a very proud moment for me and the whole Surf Snowdonia team. We have had a very successful first year which is testament to the incredible hard work of the whole team.
“It’s been a special, special evening and to be recognised for your hard work in front of your peers is something quite special.”
North Wales Active and Zip World were also highly commended in the category.
The award for the Best Caravan, Camping of Glamping award, sponsored by Wrexham Destination Partnership was won by Snowdonia’s Graig Wen who beat Flintshire’s Tree Tops Caravan Park and Kinmel Bay’s Sunnyvale Caravan Park.