FINALISTS in the 2018 BAPTAs had the opportunity to meet each other at an exclusive drinks party on Thursday evening.

The Meet the Finalists event was held at the Poole Audi showroom and hosted by the sponsor of the International Cuisine Experience Award, Poole Audi Feast Magazine.

Guests enjoyed an array of delicious wines, cocktails and nibbles. Local cheeses were provided by Country Fare alongside wine pairings by Templar Wines. Meats provided by County Foods were created into mouth-watering canapes, and cocktails were provided by BAPTA finalists Mai Tai Cocktail Bar. The Poole Audi Schön Beauty Salon also provided guests with a mini pampering session and money off vouchers.

Each of the 19 award category finalists had the chance to meet up with one another, enjoy a little pampering and celebrate their success as a finalist in the awards, ahead of the BAPTA Ball Awards Ceremony held at Lighthouse Poole on March 15.

Jackie Phillipson, director of ROUTEpr and BAPTAs, said: “This year introduces the first Meet the Finalists event, and it’s been a great chance for the sponsors to congratulate their finalists in person and in a more relaxed setting ahead of the BAPTA Ball Awards Ceremony.

“The event has also given the finalists a chance to engage with one another, which builds relationships and partnerships ahead of the forthcoming season - all vitally important to helping the destination thrive and develop.”

Andy Woodland, chairman of Bournemouth and Poole tourism management board, said the BAPTAs, now in their twelfth year, had “proved a great success”.

“Now covering the whole BH postcode area, this year’s awards have seen finalists from across Dorset, including Wareham, Swanage, Wimborne, Highcliffe, and Verwood.

“Dorset is a beautiful tourist destination, and we are lucky to live in a place that is among the top 20 in the world.”

Tim Whyatt, marketing manager for Country Fare, said: “We’re sponsoring the BAPTAs for the first time this year. It’s a really good way to give businesses a nice boost.

“This event is a really good chance to relax and chat with the other finalists while networking.”

Kerry Murphy, of the ‘clothing optional’ Rivendell Outdoor Club in Horton, said she was “so excited” the resort was a finalist in the BAPTAs’ Green Initiative Award.

“We can’t believe it. We were up against big resorts like Haven and Rockley Park.

“We’re the only clothing optional resort in the UK.”

BAPTA winners will be revealed at an awards ceremony on March 15. Tickets are now sold out.