The British Guild of Travel Writers' top annual tourism awards were announced on November 2 on the eve of World Travel Market. The King Richard III Visitor Centre in Leicester won in the UK category, the Andreasstrasse Memorial & Education Centre, Erfurt, Germany took top honours in the European Category while the High Line Park in NYC was the winner for the Wider World category.
The awards were presented at a glittering awards ceremony in London's Savoy Hotel, sponsored by the Louisiana Tourist Board and Brand USA.
Each tourism project was completed within the past three years, each was nominated by a Guild member and selected via a secret ballot of the Guild's 270 professional journalists, writers, editors, photographers, broadcasters and bloggers. The Guild members proposing a project were asked to evaluate these on the basis of both its tourism potential and its benefit to the local community.
Last July the eponymous King Richard III Visitor Centre opened in the former Alderman Newton’s School in Leicester, located next to the very spot where the remains of Richard were found. The discovery of the king’s remains created a global sensation when they were found in 2010. The centre is based on the theme of Dynasty (the story of how Richard controversially ascended the throne), his Death on the battlefield and, carrying on up to the first floor, the Discovery section which focuses on the science and archaeology around the finding of Richard’s remains. Exhibits here include a detailed facial reconstruction, a replica of Richard’s skeleton that clearly shows the curved spine and battle injuries plus a timeline of actors who have portrayed Richard III on stage.
The two runners up in this category were the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, London, nominated by Emma Levine, and Stonehenge Visitor Centre, Wiltshire, which was nominated by Gillian Thornton.
The Best European Tourism Award winner went to the Andreasstrasse Memorial & Education Centre, Erfurt, Germany nominated by Paul Wade. The Andreasstrasse Memorial and Education Centre commemorates the resistance that took place during the reign of the German United Socialist Party (SED) in Thuringia from 1949 to 1989. The GDR Ministry of State Security operated a pre-trial detention centre, where more than 5000 people who had opposed the Communist regime, were imprisoned. On 4 December 1989, local people occupied the Erfurt State Security District Headquarters in Andreasstrasse, the first successful occupation of a stronghold of the "Stasi" during the Peaceful Revolution.
Runners up were the Frigate Hermione Project, Rochefort, France nominated by Melissa Shales and the Čachtice Castle & Village Regeneration, Slovakia nominated by Guild member, John Malathronas.
Wider World Award
The Best Wider World Tourism Award was awarded to the High Line in New York City nominated by Ferne Arfin. The High Line at the Rail Yards is New York’s extraordinary public space. The High Line is built on a historic freight rail line elevated above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side. It runs from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to West 34th Street, between 10th and 12th Avenues. Visiting the High Line is a way to experience the city from an entirely new perspective and is an example of a very sophisticated reclamation project that has revitalised its local community.
The runners up for the Wider World Tourism Award were the Shark and Manta Sanctuary, Indonesia nominated by Michelle Jana Chan and El Biomuseo, Panama City nominated by Aaron Millar.
Guild Chairman Mary Moore Mason is enthusiastic about the spread of finalists this year: “The winners, and indeed all those shortlisted for the British Guild of Travel Writer’s Tourism Awards, reflect how far our members travel for stories. They also prove what a rich resource our membership offers to editors. For 30 years, the Tourism Awards have been a way of celebrating the diversity and creativity of tourism projects around the world, as well as the contribution that these initiatives make to local economies.”
The BGTW also presented travel writing and photography awards, selected by an outside jury, to its own members during the evening, which was attended by 300 top travel industry and media representatives.