Winners of VisitEngland Awards for Excellence 2012 Announced
by Emma White
June 4, 2012

The English Garden has won the award for Outstanding Contribution to Tourism at the VisitEngland Awards for Excellence 2012. The coveted accolade was one of 19 presented at a glittering ceremony hosted by the national tourist board at the art-deco Athena in Leicester, on 22 May. These prestigious awards, currently in their 23nd year, promote excellence in England’s tourism industry and celebrate the very best the country has to offer.

The English Garden is part of the very fabric of England, bringing pleasure to a huge number of visitors from home and away; in winning this award it joins an exclusive group of English tourism champions. Previous winners include Michael Eavis, the driving force behind Glastonbury, The English Pub, The National Trust and last year’s winner, the Royal Shakespeare Company. Chief Executive of the National Gardens Scheme (NGS), George Plumptre, accepted the trophy on behalf of the Gardens of England, and guests watched a special video message from NGS President and BBC gardening expert, Joe Swift.

VisitEngland’s Chairman, Lady Cobham, commented:

“The English Garden has been seducing visitors for hundreds of years, and we are delighted to be able to recognise the pleasure they bring to so many. Our green-fingered heritage is famous throughout the world, whether it’s the formal works of art by ‘Capability’ Brown and co, or the cosy cottages in villages across the land. The beautiful English garden will always be with us, and will forever be adored by visitors of every age.”

2012 marked the first year the VisitEngland Awards for Excellence have awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award, serving to recognise and celebrate one individual who has quite literally dedicated his life to tourism in England. This year this prestigious award goes to the His Grace, 11th Duke of Marlborough; custodian, visionary and protector of Blenheim Palace. The birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill and a World Heritage site, Blenheim Palace is one of England’s most popular and best loved attractions, and the Duke has devoted the last 40 years to the management and improvement of the estate.

Other awards announced at the ceremony in Leicester included the best bed and breakfast in England, best small hotel, best tourism experience, Taste of England, sustainable tourism award and caravan holiday park of the year. The 34 Gold and Silver winners were selected from a shortlist of 69 finalists, judged by a panel of tourism industry experts including VisitEngland Board Member David Orr and travel broadcaster Alison Rice.

This year’s celebrations also saw the presentation of the inaugural Tourism Superstar Award to Newcastle cab driver, Alan Fidler. As part of English Tourism Week in March, VisitEngland teamed up with the Daily Mirror to find England’s unsung tourism hero – someone who goes above and beyond the call of duty to make visitors feel extra special and is a real ambassador for the local area.

Another victor was journalist Ian Belcher, who won Travel Article of the Year award for piece, “Why go to Venice… When you can go to Birmingham?”, a celebration of all things great in the UK’s second city.

VisitEngland’s Chief Executive, James Berresford, commented:

“The VisitEngland Awards for Excellence represent the highest accolade in English tourism. They champion the very best quality, and continue to help to raise standards across the industry, establishing England’s place as a world-class destination and a thoroughly fantastic place to visit. This year’s awards were the biggest ever, with a record number of almost 400 entrants from across the country. All our finalists are to be warmly congratulated for their success – particularly our Gold Award winners, whose passion and commitment to excellence is outstanding.”

For more information on the awards, please visit:

  • New Eden
  • Kids Garden
  • Plant a Row Grow a Row