28 May Why you absolutely should enter the Devon Tourism Awards 2017 (and how to ace them)
If you’re considering entering the Devon or Cornwall Tourism Awards 2017 but are not sure it’s a worthwhile exercise, here are a few words of wisdom from four time winners, John and Dorothy Lewis of Woodovis Park.
When did you first enter, and what made you decide to do so?
We entered the South West Tourism for Excellence Awards in 2009 (the Devon Tourism Awards launched in 2010, and we entered these too). This was primarily an exercise in demonstrating to the team our confidence in what they were doing.
We also wanted to see how we rated against all the other parks in the region. We use the Visit Devon grading system as well as the AA and Green tourism grading systems to help us to evolve the park to make it better, so this was another way to get an outside opinion as to how we were doing. We knew that there would be great credibility if we won anything, and it would give us something to shout about…with the ultimate aim of boosting business.
How did you decide which category to go for?
Initially it was obvious to go for the holiday park category, but the following year, once we’d really got involved in raising our sustainability across the park, we decided to enter that category too. It was quite a different tack to be able to show that a business promoting the ‘luxury’ and ‘boutique’ end of the holiday park range could also promote sustainability.
How long did it take you to complete your entry?
If you are serious about winning it takes ages! We have seen many entrants fall short of finalist podium who should have been there, but failed as their entry didn’t do enough to convince the judges to visit.
For us, it wasn’t so much the entries themselves that took the time, but the open ended bit about ‘providing supplementary evidence’ to accompany the entry. When we go about doing a job, we really go about doing it to our best, which meant that we wanted to back up everything that we said. We use RMS as our booking system which has amazing reporting systems and our sustainability measures involve a lot of monthly reporting anyway, but being able to present that information in a manner that meant the judges would be able to understand the figures clearly and easily was our challenge.
What extra work was involved?
So much about it was information gathering and then being able to present it well. Learning how to cut and crop from Excel sheets and add notes to make the message that we were trying to get across clear was pretty time consuming.
Did you think about outsourcing it?
Never! In fact we made a point of saying at the beginning of the entry that it had been completed in its entirety by ourselves. We strongly believe that the success of our business is the personal touch, our huge involvement in setting everything up, our interaction over the years with guests, staff and tourism inspectors.
Why do you think you won?
Oh dear, what a question! We have spent years building and fine tuning our offerings, encouraging feedback, especially any negative comments. We have a passion for our park and this is transferred down to the rest of the team, contractors and suppliers. This is borne out by the superb Trip Advisor reviews, which we leant heavily on in our entry.
We also believe we are innovative in the way we do business and in the product offered such as introducing circus skills sessions for guests.
It is important that as a business we were credible in all sections of the entry and not merely outstanding in one or two of them.
Can you name five ways winning the award (fist time) helped your business?
- Increased sense of pride for all the team……. Self-fulfilling prophesy, it ‘geed’ them on to maintain high standards always, and success breeds success.
- Increased bookings – people unsure as to whether to book accept the credibility of an award rather than just relying upon a website or brochure ‘sales’ speak.
- It fired us up to want to keep improving things for our own sense of pride.
- We enjoyed the challenge (although at the time it felt like a headache, we still went back for more!)
- We were introduced to the whole concept of PR, and having a great excuse to shout about the park.
How did you maximise the PR?
We engaged Sam from Dart PR who really inspired us to issue ‘a story’ on different aspects of our park. The award news is one thing, but really, it in itself isn’t that great news without further stories spun around it to build on the success. We were really surprised about this, but I guess there are lots of awards dished out all over, and so a story about your business is what journalists seem to want, so much more than just an award.
Sam will take a little change that we introduce on the park and successfully create a story around it. We also regularly host journalists and bloggers, and each time we receive great coverage, which leads to increased bookings.
What top three tips would you share with businesses entering for the first time?
Set aside plenty of time.
Have good back-up information to support what you claim.
Use the first entry to think about all aspects of your business as this will help you build your business going forward. And even if you are not a winner first time around, you will know what to work on to be one next time.