HOSPITALITY businesses are being urged to enter this year’s Dorset Tourism Awards.

They are part of a series of linked awards schemes across the South West which attracted 490 entries last year, with 100 winners and 26 going on to national finals.

The 2016 awards will include new categories for glamping, self-catering properties and dog-friendly businesses.

Feedback from the industry has also led to changes to the criteria for the awards for attractions, small hotels and bed and breakfasts.

Entry forms have been shortened following feedback from businesses, reflecting the fact that most of the judging is based on visits.

Other categories in the awards cover spas and wellbeing, activity providers, events, festivals, cafes, pubs, restaurants, B&Bs, hotels, attractions, tourist information, business tourism and holiday parks. There are generic awards for outstanding customer service, accessibility, international visitor experience and sustainability.

Moors Valley Country Park and Forest, at Avon Heath, was named the large visitor attraction of the year in 2015 and also took the ‘winner of winners’ title. It took silver in the access and inclusivity category, while its Go Ape treetop attraction took silver in the category for tourism activity, sport and experience of the year.

Kate Davies of Moors Valley Country Park said: “We were thrilled with our awards last year, especially considering the high calibre of the other entrants. The Dorset Tourism Awards have been a wonderful opportunity for us to take a fresh and considered look at our visitor offer and customer journey from start to finish.

“The feedback from the judges’ visits has been very useful.”

The Balincourt in Bournemouth, took the award for B&B and guest accommodation last year.

Owen Williams from the Balincourt said: “Winning the tourism awards gave the whole team at the Balincourt a huge sense of achievement.

“Being judged by experienced assessors gave us a perspective on how much progress we’d actually made in improving all aspects of our business, and the areas where we could do even better.

“We would recommend anyone in the tourism industry to take part.”

Nick Fernyhough of Saffery Champness in Bournemouth, headline sponsor of the awards, said: “We are delighted to be the headline sponsor for yet another year for these prestigious awards, which reward excellence in this essential sector of the Dorset economy.

“We really like how the Dorset Tourism Awards have expanded to reflect the changing shape of tourism.”

The Dorset awards sit alongside the Cornwall, Devon, new Bristol, Bath & Somerset, and South West awards. Winners in the county awards are fast-tracked into the South West awards, with most South West winners submitted to the national VisitEngland awards. Entry is free and all entrants receive feedback.

The deadline is midnight on June 12, although businesses are being urged to start preparing straight away. Details are at