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Stars of the tourism world shine on glittering awards night

The South Devon Tourism and Hospitality Awards for 2018 have been dubbed a huge success.

Headline sponsor for the Herald Express awards again this year was regional law firm Wollen Michelmore.

Chief executive Chris Hart sent his apologies for missing the finals night which was attended by around 300 people from across South Devon’s vibrant holiday industry at Torquay’s Riviera International Conference Centre.

But there was a surprise in store for the audience when Chris suddenly popped up on the stage’s big screen to send a video message from his home in Newton Abbot.

Dressed in a West Ham dressing gown and wearing a bow tie, Hammers fanatic Chris paid tribute to wife Liz, whose donation of a kidney in a transplant operation saved his life.

Chris and Liz, who are making good progress, congratulated all the short-listed businesses and individuals and wished them luck as the winners were to be revealed later in the evening.

Wollen Michelmore partner Rebecca Procter did a brilliant job standing in for Chris. She addressed the audience and spoke of Wollen Michelmore’s recent success stories including two mergers and a shortlisting for Law Firm of the Year in this year’s national Law Society Awards.

Rebecca also announced the overall outstanding business of the year and presented champions Paignton Zoo and Living Coasts with their prestigious award.

The night was hosted by Herald Express Associate Editor and Wollen Michelmore Business Development Manager Jim Parker and BBC Spotlight presenter Victoria Graham.

Jim thanked Wollen Michelmore for their continued support as well as the category sponsors and panel of judges.

One of the highlights of the evening was the presentation of a Lifetime Achievement Award to top chef and restaurants business owner Mitch Tonks.

There was as standing ovation for an emotional Mitch as he received his award from Jim. He described Mitch – the man behind the Rockfish and Seahorse brands – as am ‘inspirational whirlwind’.  Mitch was also praised for being at the heart of the community especially with his teaching links to South Devon College and as one of main driving forces behind South Devon’s Seafood Coast initiative.

Another memorable moment was when the Brixham Pirates stormed the stage with muskets firing as their festival won, by public vote, the tourism event/festival of the year category.


Gold winners were:


Bed and Breakfast, Guest House or Inn of the Year:

Blue Waters Lodge


Best Visitor Attraction of the Year:

Pennywell Farm


Bistro | Restaurant | Gastro Pub of the Year:

Breakwater Bistro


Café | Tearoom | Takeaway of the Year:

Ode & Co


Dog Friendly Business of the Year:

Pilgrims Rest Cottages


Excellence in Customer Service

Lady's Mile Holiday Park


Fine Dining Experience of the Year:

The Elephant Restaurant


Hotel of the Year:

Bovey Castle


Inclusive Access:

Torre Abbey Museum


Serviced Accommodation of the Year:

Church Thatch.


Small Boutique Hotel & Guest Accommodation of the Year:

The Downs, Babbacombe.


Social Responsibility and Sustainable Tourism:

Paignton Zoo & Living Coasts.


Spa and Well-being Experience of the Year:

Ilsington Country House Hotel


Tourism Event or Festival of the Year:

Brixham Pirate Festival


Tourism Experience | Sporting Activity of the Year:

Paignton Zoo & Living Coasts.


Outstanding Business of the Year: Paignton Zoo & Living Coasts

Lifetime achievement: Mitch Tonks

Pictures taken and provided by Pyramid Photography 

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