East of England Tourism Awards 2021-2022: Resilience and Innovation Award finalists

A family in Nature Corner at Audley End Miniature Railway

The judges were impressed at how Audley End Miniature Railway has diversified from its traditional offering - Credit: Emma Jenkins

The finalists have been announced for the Resilience and Innovation Award, sponsored by Howes Percival, at the East of England Tourism Awards 2021-2022.

This award recognises businesses in the tourism industry that have demonstrated innovation, resilience and adaptation, along with support for their local communities, during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Audley End Miniature Railway 

Audley End Miniature Railway is an outdoor children’s attraction set in the countryside of north Essex. Forced to close its doors by the first Covid lockdown, the business used the time to look at ways of re-opening safely.

A successful marketing campaign kept families engaged during lockdown, and the furlough scheme meant the company retained all members  of staff before it re-opened again on July 4, 2020, with a number of new safety measures in place.

The judges were impressed with how the business has diversified into initiatives such as the Nature Corner, al fresco dining experiences and adult-only experiences such as its Halloween event.

Chestnut has delivered thousands of free meals to NHS and care workers through its charitable initiative, The Giving Tree

Chestnut has delivered thousands of free meals to NHS and care workers through its charitable initiative, The Giving Tree - Credit: Chestnut

Chestnut 

Established in 2012 by Philip Turner, Chestnut is a collection of 12 pubs, inns and restaurants in East Anglia that celebrates the region’s people, provenance and personality.

When Covid-19 struck, Chestnut had to pivot its offering. Utilising innovative ways to stay in touch with guests and create new revenue streams, it created new services including homemade food delivery to customers and a takeaway menu, and also built a greater connection with community through its charitable initiative, The Giving Tree.

Most Read

The judges commended how Chestnut brought together its employees at the toughest of times and provided valuable assistance to the local NHS and community. They added that the survey it carried out ahead of re-opening after lockdown demonstrated a business that listens and cares about its customers. 

A live show at Potters Resorts in Hopton-on-Sea

Potters Resorts continued to entertain guests remotely during lockdown - Credit: Potters Resorts

Potters Resorts 

Potters Resorts in Hopton-on-Sea, Norfolk was first opened in 1920 by Herbert Potter, with the Covid pandemic arriving as the resort celebrated its centenary.

The business quickly built new kitchens and opened 50 Covid-safe ‘restaurant suites’ with balconies overlooking a new South Terrace and outdoor theatre stage. It also invested in technology to entertain guests remotely and stay connected to its 150,000 Facebook followers, as well as raising £25,000 with an online concert for the NHS and Norfolk Accident Rescue Service (NARS).

The judges highly commended the charitable work carried out through the Potters Friend Foundation, as well as the innovation shown by the business in constantly adapting to the ever-changing restrictions.

The Commodore, a boat available to hire from Richardson's Boating Holidays

Richardson’s Leisure is a family business offering boating experiences, days out and accommodation on the Norfolk Broads - Credit: Richardson's Leisure

Richardson’s Leisure 

Established in 1944, Richardson’s Leisure is a family business offering boating experiences, days out and accommodation on the Norfolk Broads. The company also runs a five-star holiday park in Hemsby, as well as two family entertainment centres in Hemsby and Lowestoft.

During the first lockdown in 2020, Richardson’s created a number of short animated videos showing guests how to enjoy boating on the Broads safely. These were posted on the Richardson’s Boating Holidays YouTube channel and Facebook page between July 2020 and March 2021.

Judges commended the effectiveness of the videos and the company’s brave move of reducing its boat fleet in order to invest in other areas of the business.  

A young boy feeding an alpaca at Wroxham Barns 

Wroxham Barns now has a junior farm where families can get hands on with animals - Credit: Hattie Swain

Wroxham Barns 

Wroxham Barns was established by Ian Russell in 1983 and started out as one of the UK’s first and original craft villages. The Norfolk attraction has since expanded to incorporate two cafés, a gift shop, a fun park and a junior farm where families can get hands-on with animals.

In 2020, at the height of the pandemic, Wroxham Barns decided to combine the junior farm and fun park into one ticket – a risky move that has proved transformational for the business.

The judges said Wroxham Barns showed great braveness and resilience in pressing on with significant investment in the fun park at such a challenging time. They also praised the company’s willingness to modernise and adopt new technology.

The winners of the East of England Tourism Awards 2021-2022 will be announced at a black-tie event held at Imperial War Museum Duxford on Thursday, February 24.