WEARSIDE tourist attractions struck gold at the North East England Tourism Awards.
The National Glass Centre (NGC) and Washington Wetlands Centre both scooped Gold awards at a glittering ceremony at the Stadium of Light.
The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust’s Washington site won Small Visitor Attraction of Year and Sunderland University’s NGC won Best Tourism Experience of the Year.
Alison Cleland, senior learning and engagement officer at the NGC, said: “We’re delighted to be winners of the Best Tourism Experience.
“It’s great to receive acknowledgement for all the hard work we have done in recent years to offer such an exciting and varied range of hands-on glass making experiences and courses, which we haven’t had before.
“NGC has a truly unique visitor experience utilising the skills and craftsmanship passed down from our industrial heritage in Sunderland, and it’s fantastic to celebrate this.”
Alex Evans, marketing and communication coordinator at the attraction, said: “We offer the opportunity to get hands on with this fascinating material, not just watching the experts do it.
“Visitors can have a day out trying something new and exciting, without necessarily spending lots of money, to learning a new skill over a series of weeks.
Washington WWT centre manager Jane Ramshaw said: “We are absolutely delighted to have won this prestigious gold award.
“The staff and volunteers are extremely committed and work tirelessly in the development of our centre and the unique visitor experience that it offers the people of the North East.
“We are extremely proud to be part of the region’s tourism industry and this accolade reflects the continual progress we are making.”
The awards are a further shot in the arm for Wearside’s burgeoning tourist industry, which out-performed both Newcastle and Gateshead in terms of growth last year.
Other businesses and organisations honoured from the area last night included Seaham Hall Hotel and Serenity Spa, which won bronze in the Small Hotel of the Year category.
Oldfields Eating House, in Durham City, won bronze in the Taste of North East England category, and Durham University’s “Event Durham” scooped a silver Business Tourism Award.
Durham University Botanic Garden won silver in the Small Visitor Attraction category, and Low Urpeth Farm Bed and Breakfast in Chester-le-Street won bronze in the B&B of the Year section.
Winners in a number of categories will automatically go on to represent North East England in the national Visit England Awards for Excellence in the spring.
Geoff Hodgson, chairman of the North East Tourism Advisory Board, said: “The quality of this year’s shortlisted finalists has shone through the judging process. Their commitment to providing a first class experience for their customers and constantly improving their business is what helps makes North East England such a great place to visit.
“The judging process has been difficult, but has also provided a chance to see at first hand the wealth of talent and experience in the region.”
A total of 44 tourism businesses from right across the region from Haydon Bridge to Seaham, from Berwick to Guisborough, were recognised at the awards, judged by a range of senior industry experts.
ROLL OF HONOUR
LARGE HOTEL OF THE YEAR: Gold, Rockliffe Hall Hotel, Golf Spa Resort, Hurworth-on-Tees, County Durham; Silver, Gisborough Hotel, North Yorkshire; Bronze, Linden Hall Golf and Country Club, Morpeth, Northumberland
SMALL HOTEL OF THE YEAR: Gold, Doxford Hall Hotel, Chathill, Northumberland; Silver, Wynyard Hall Country House Hotel, Tees Valley; Bronze, Seaham Hall Hotel and Serenity Spa
BED AND BREAKFAST OF THE YEAR: Gold, Dowfold House Bed and Breakfast, Crook, County Durham; Silver, Old Vicarage, Tweedmouth, Northumberland; Bronze, Low Urpeth Farm Bed and Breakfast, Chester-le-Street, County Durham.
SELF-CATERING/SERVICE APARTMENT: Gold, Cheviot Holiday Cottages, Ingram, Northumberland; Silver, Falstone Barns, Falstone, Northumberland; Bronze, Outchester Ducket, Belford, Northumberland/Budle Falls, Belford, Northumberland.
CARAVAN HOLIDAY PARK OF THE YEAR: Gold, Seafield Caravan Park, Seahouses, Northumberland.
SMALL VISITOR ATTRACTION OF THE YEAR: Gold, WWT Washington Wetland Centre, Tyne and Wear/Hall Hill Farm, Lanchester, County Durham; Silver, Durham University Botanic Garden.
LARGE VISITOR ATTRACTION OF THE YEAR: Gold, Beamish Museum, County Durham; Silver, Roman Vindolanda Fort and Museum, Bardon Mill, Northumberland; Bronze, Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, Tyne and Wear.
BUSINESS TOURISM AWARD: Gold, Sodexo Prestige at Newcastle United; Silver, Event Durham, Durham University; Bronze, Great North Museum: Hancock, Newcastle.
TASTE OF NORTH EAST ENGLAND: Gold, Knitsley Farm Shop, Consett, County Durham; Silver, Wheelbirks Parlour, Stocksfield, Northumberland; Bronze, Oldfields Eating House, Durham.
OUTSTANDING CUSTOMER SERVICE: Gold, William Salve, Linden Hall Golf & Country Club, Northumberland; Silver, Kelly Smith, Wynyard Hall Country House Hotel, Tees Valley/ Kate Carnaby, Sodexo Prestige at Newcastle United.
SUSTAINABLE TOURISM AWARD: Gold, St Cuthbert’s House, Seahouses, Northumberland; Silver, Killhope, The North of England Lead Mining Museum, County Durham, Bronze, Blackthorn Gate, Nunthorpe, Middlesbrough.
BEST TOURISM EXPERIENCE OF THE YEAR: Gold, The National Glass Centre at the University of Sunderland; Silver, Go Ape! Matfen; Bronze, Surfing in North Tyneside.
TOURISM EVENT OF THE YEAR: Gold, Tall Ships Races, Hartlepool; Silver, Extraordinary Measures, Belsay Hall, Castle and Gardens, Northumberland; Bronze, Evolution Weekender 2010, Newcastle/Gateshead.
ACCESS FOR ALL TOURISM AWARD: Gold, Great North Museum, Hancock, Newcastle; Silver, The Coach House Bed and Breakfast, Bardon Mill, Northumberland; Bronze, The Old Farmhouse, Haydon Bridge, Northumberland.
TOURISM INFORMATION CENTRE OF THE YEAR: Gold, Stanhope Tourist Information Centre, County Durham; Silver, Once Brewed Tourist Information Centre, Northumberland; Silver, Rothbury Tourism Information Centre, Northumberland.