A HOST of Dorset businesses are in the running for the South West Tourism Excellence Awards.

The judges assessed 425 entries, made 275 visits and held 20 hours of meetings before deciding on 93 finalists and highly-commended entries.

The winners will be announced on February 12 and 89 of the finalists will represent Team South West in the national VisitEngland awards in May.

The winners of the Dorset, Cornwall and Devon Tourism Awards were all considered, alongside direct entries from Wiltshire, Somerset, Bath, Bristol and Gloucestershire.

A team of 35 judges and mystery shoppers carried out the shortlisting and all entrants will receive feedback.

Sponsor support meant entry into the awards was free.

Alistair Handyside, chair of the South West Awards Panel said: “This year’s South West award winners represent the very best of the region in all its glory, and we wish them all the very best at the Grand Pier in Weston-super-Mare on February 12.”

John Crouch, marketing manager of headline sponsor Source for Business, said: “The finalists have all demonstrated their ability to match the stunning product that is the South West with their take on hospitality.

“Every year the bar is raised and all finalists should be congratulated for getting to this stage and for their hard work.”

Robin Barker, director of services for Tourism Ltd, which manages the awards, said: “When I was first involved in tourism awards, the difference between the top performers was often 10 to 15 per cent. “This year it was usually less than one per cent.

“While this makes the judges’ task all the harder, I’m delighted to see this great industry continuing to innovate and excel.”

Dorset finalists and highly-commended

Holiday Park and Village fo the Year, sponsored by Stephens Scown LLP: South Lytchett Manor Caravan and Camping Park, finalist.

Sustainable Tourism Award, sponsored by Green Tourism: Green House Hotel, Bournemouth, finalist.

Taste of the South West Award: Arbor Restaurant at the Green House Hotel, Bournemouth, highly commended.

Tourism Activity, Sport and Experience of the Year, sponsored by Moore Scarrott: Lyme Bay RIB Charter, Bridport, finalist.

Tourism Event of the Year, sponsored by Bristol Airport: Bournemouth Air Festival; Sherborne Abbey Festival, finalists.

Tourism Pub of the Year, sponsored by Hale Events: Acorn Inn, Evershot, finalist.

Tourist Information Service of the Year, sponsored by Quality In Tourism: Poole Welcome Centre, Dorset; West Dorset District council Tourist Information Service, finalists.

Venue and Business tourism Award, sponsored by e-Strategy: The Italian Villa, Poole, finalist; Beach Weddings, Bournemouth, highly commended.