Meet the 10 fabulous finalists for the coveted 2020 Tourism Superstar award.
It was established nine years ago by Mirror Travel and national tourist board VisitEngland and celebrates the unsung heroes of the staycation industry.
We’re looking for people who go the extra mile to ensure visitors have an amazing experience, whether it’s on holiday or a day trip.
Local tourist boards across England submitted hundreds of nominations and our judges compiled this shortlist of 10 people for a public vote.
Our finalists – their nominations are below – have made this video presentation explaining what they do and why they should win.
All you need to do is watch the video and vote for your favourite holiday hero on the form below ( you can only vote once ).
The ballot closes at midnight on Tuesday April 21 and our winner will be announced on these pages at the conclusion of English Tourism Week on Saturday April 25.
Our 10 fabulous finalists
(Listed in alphabetical order)
1. Christopher Earlie, Head of Tower Bridge, London
It would be easy for someone in charge of one of the UK’s most recognised structures to not modernise, risk reaching out to engage audiences, or change the visitor experience in this much-loved attraction.
However, Chris has ensured that Tower Bridge will be as important for the UK in this century as it was in the last, and it has evolved, becoming a cultural and community hub with a wealth of activity.
His developments include adding to the experience by adding free installations, including exhibitions and the ‘walk of fame’ on the pavements, a series of plaques celebrating the local construction workers.
His emphasis on inclusivity, accessibility and education includes autism-friendly early openings, sign language tours, special needs workshops and tours. It’s also London’s only fully dog-friendly attraction.
2. Chris French, Director, French Brothers boats, River Thames, Windsor
With a genuine passion for tourism, Chris is a down to earth director who has lived in the borough all his life.
Industrious and imaginative, he built the company from scratch and isn’t afraid to get involved, whether it be driving a boat, catering, engaging with customers or making directorial decisions about the company – no task is too large or small.
He has been instrumental in the drive to protect crucial local tourism funding and has supported the Royal Borough tourism department with its campaign, giving his time, energy, expertise, support and passion. He is an advocate for Windsor and a great ambassador.
He is not afraid to move with the times, particularly when it comes to tourism, and is always generating fresh and inventive ideas.
3. Tori Goodall, Head Falconer, Walworth Castle Birds of Prey, Co Durham
Tori has spent seven years establishing an attraction renowned for its educational, fun-filled falconry displays and has a reputation for once-in-a-lifetime experiences. All visitors are welcomed and leave with a smile on their faces.
Tori oversees the introduction to the birds, helps with the flying and is involved in experience days, mobile displays, wedding ring deliveries, school visits, birthday parties and guest speaking.
Born and bred in the area, she is passionate about promoting tourism across Co Durham and developed her own handout with details about things to do.
A huge advocate for the Upper Dales and its wildlife, Tori is supported by farmers to use their land for hunting, so she can showcase Durham’s landscapes to foreign tourists and visitors to the area.
4. Lorry Middleton, Hovertravel Handling Agent, Hovertravel, Isle of Wight
Starting at Hovertravel in 2011, Lorry’s attitude goes beyond being helpful and he’s always smiling or, when appropriate, sympathetic to the customer.
He is prepared to do whatever it takes to make the customer experience better – even cleaning windows or vacuuming.
Lorry actively promotes the Isle of Wight and his help ranges from basic advice regarding onward travel through to guidance about distance between attractions.
Some assistance Lorry provides may sound simple, but it makes a world of difference, making him the most named member of the team in feedback across all Hovertravel’s social media and review methods.
He also suggested a promotion to raise the awareness of free travel for dogs on Hovertravel and helped with accessibility initiatives.
5. Jim Morrison, Volunteer tour guide, Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich, London
Jim has been at the college since 2010 and is a committed member of the volunteer team, excelling in history training which makes him an experienced and knowledgeable guide.
He trained up quickly to deliver two new tours introduced in March 2019.
Jim is at the college full time all week, yet is also there every Saturday and mostly is the only volunteer coming in at weekends.
Come rain or shine, his tours always take place, and his passion and personality makes them an excellent experience for everyone, no matter the weather.
Jim goes above and beyond to expand and amplify his knowledge of the site by doing independent research in his own time, bringing stories that leave visitors enthused and his tours have had excellent feedback over the years.
6. Hayley Mullaney, Head Mammal Keeper and Assistant Curator, Cotswold Wildlife Park, Oxfordshire
Incredibly popular with visitors, Hayley has organised some amazing events at the park, including the first Dreamnight at the Zoo – a special invitation-only evening for chronically ill and disabled children.
Recently, noticing that water bottles, sunglasses and hats were being left by visitors – and ending up unclaimed in lost property – Hayley found a children’s charity in Ghana which would make use of them.
She also goes above and beyond her role as Head Mammal Keeper and when Belle, the first hand-reared rhino calf, needed 24-hour care she spent nights bottle-feeding her at 2am. She even had a makeshift bed in Belle’s enclosure.
Hayley has been a dedicated member of the team for 10 years and has been promoted to Assistant Curator for her hard work.
7. Clare Phillips, Visitor Services Manager, Barbican Tourist Information Centre and Mayflower Museum, Plymouth
Having worked in Plymouth for more than 25 years, Clare has incredible experience and unparalleled knowledge of the destination
She has supported training for the Cruise Liner volunteers and also for the Mayflower Maker volunteers who will welcome visitors during 2020, the Mayflower 400 (Pilgrim Fathers) commemorative year.
She regularly goes the extra mile, including dressing up as an elf at the Waterfront Christmas light’s switch-on and works to devise new ways to attract people to the neighbourhood, creating the Halloween trail and playing a key role in waterfront events.
Nothing is too much trouble for Clare, giving advice no matter how strange the request – even finding a place for a racehorse to sleep overnight.
8. Guy Rowland, Visitor Experience Facilitator, Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust, Blists Hill Victorian Town, Shropshire
Having worked at the museum for 15 years, Guy plays a key role and is at the forefront of visits. He offers cheery greetings from his policeman’s cycle, leads rousing singsongs on the pub piano, “apprehends” misbehaving youngsters and helps create a detailed and immersive experience.
Frequently mentioned as a standout part of a visit, it has been known for people to check if he’s working before planning their trip.
Visitors love Guy’s warmth, gentle (but quick) wit and the authenticity he brings to the roles he plays – including appearances as St George, the Mad Hatter and Sweeney Todd.
He’s been used as a face for the museum in TV, photography and film, and is regularly selected as the VIP greeter. Guy puts the heart in the heart of England.
9. Nigel Seddon, Managing Director, Elgin Hotel, Blackpool
Incredibly passionate about Lancashire tourism, and at the heart of Blackpool’s, he has been responsible for the day-to-day management of the 89-bedroom Elgin Hotel for nearly four decades.
Besides the more obvious parts of this role (interacting with guests, ironing out hiccups, managing staff on shift) he also helps serve breakfast and dinner, greets guests, takes the time to have a chat with each table in the dining room and will assist in the bar with entertainment… and is a pretty handy bingo caller.
Nigel is committed to showcasing Lancashire, offering free coach tours and has actively supported the illuminations for 30 years.
Nigel believes in Blackpool and bought a second hotel, the Sheraton, investing over £3million. Dedicated to the hospitality industry, his mantra ‘‘better never stops’’ is at the heart of everything that he does.
10. Olivia Thackstone, Front of House Manager, World of Wedgwood, Stoke-on-Trent
Olivia was brought up in the tourism and hospitality industry in the guest house run by her parents, meeting people from all walks of life.
Seeking a job that could combine history, art and leadership, she undertook a Blue Badge Guide course for the Heart of England before getting a position as a
tour guide at World of Wedgwood where she showed a natural way with children.
Olivia was then being promoted to Education and Events Officer, working closely with the site’s V&A Collection.
Now, Olivia inspires and leads a team, representing her destination by bringing to life stories and sharing her knowledge to give visitors the best experience – she is a true ambassador for the area.
Cast your vote here – you can only vote once
Our 2019 champion was Emily Hope, who works on the entrance greeting visitors at Beamish Museum in Co Durham.
She romped home in the public voting, taking an impressive 35% ahead of Ryan Sanders, of Brunel’s SS Great Britain, Bristol, and Anthony (Ant) Hurd, from Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s Living Seas Centre in Flamborough.
- For news on which of our finalists is leading during the vote period, look on Twitter for @TravelEdNigel @MirrorTravel @VisitEngland @VisitEnglandbiz
- Photos and video courtesy of VisitEngland/Matthew Miles Video.
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