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After a challenging year, the Devon Tourism Awards celebrate Devon’s finest from all corners of the County

The Devon Tourism Awards celebrated Devon’s finest establishments from all four corners of the county at the 5th annual Visit Devon Awards last night hosted by Radio Devon's Judi Spiers, on Wednesday 19th November.

Held at the brand-new ‘Palazzo’ at Highbullen Hotel, Golf & Country Club near South Molton - the first glittering ceremony to be held at this new events venue – the Visit Devon Awards, now featuring 18 award categories, celebrated the strength of Devon's tourism offer as a county, as well as the strength of the competition entrants and winners. Carolyn Custerson, Chair of Visit Devon, says of Devon tourism and the Awards: "2014 got off to a very challenging start, with extreme weather and worldwide media coverage around the Dawlish Railway line closure impacting both visits during the early part of the year, and bookings for later on in the year. The cost to Devon tourism was £37.7 million but the industry as a whole responded positively and the later good weather stimulated increased visitor numbers, contributing £24.9 million, and in so doing reducing the negative impact to £12.7 million.

"Devon tourism is strong. This was shown in our success this year in the Visit England Tourism Awards, with 7 national winners, more than any other county, and no more so than at this years Visit Devon Awards. It is this success, that we should all focus on and this year’s finalists should feel very proud.”

All Visit Devon winners go through a three-stage judging process, including assessment of their websites and entry forms, mystery visits and a final independent judging panel.

Awards organiser Robin Barker says: “This has been a fabulous and competitive year, with judges poring over reports and recommendations for many hours.  It is a testament to Devon that we’ve seen so many entrants and such close scoring.  Well done to them all."

Stuart Devlin of headline sponsors e-Strategy added: “We’re delighted to see the continuing expansion and quality of the Devon Tourism Awards, and especially how businesses are embracing and keeping on top of the non-stop changes in digital marketing.  Many congratulations to all winners.”

The outstanding winner of the night was the Thelma Hulbert Gallery, Honiton, receiving the WINNER OF WINNERS AWARD. There are no fixed criteria for this award, but this year’s panel had no hesitation in deciding the gallery is a leader in its field and a role model to the tourism industry as a whole. A fitting tribute to their efforts, the gallery was chosen by Aardman Animations to be the venue for a recent exhibition because it was the most accessible they could find in Devon.

Other outstanding achievements include the OUTSTANDING CONTRIBUTION TO TOURISM Award which this year has been awarded to Rick Turner of The Big Sheep and Purple Cloud Consultancy. As ‘Leader of the Flock’ at the Big Sheep in North Devon, he has taken this award-winning attraction ahead through leaps and bounds. Outside his own business he has contributed for many years to tourism in the South West, sometimes through very difficult times such as in spring 2014, when Devon needed help following the winter storms, Rick was there, on stage, helping in the all-important Devon Recovery Campaign.

The full list of Winners and Commended entries can be seen HERE

Photos from the evening can be viewed and downloaded HERE