- Sustainable Tourism Awards
- Best Customer Service in Tourism Awards
Tourism Awards for Old Oak Barn
There were strict judging criteria and both entries required me to focus on what I know we do well here at our lovely self catering holiday accommodation! Written applications were submitted and extra supplementary evidence was included and some weeks later I heard that Old Oak Barn was indeed shortlisted for the final in both categories.
The next stage was an appointment with two judges who visited me here on two different days in early November. The first award was sponsored by The National Trust and I must have done something right because I was awarded SILVER! In the finals I was up against the Ceridwen centre near Newcastle Emlyn which is a very big enterprise which hosts weddings, has yurts and holiday cottages plus is a large venue for local and community events eg Fireworks and Christmas Fayres. I was also up against the Myddfai Centre near Llandovery which is an award winning community and visitor centre which opened in 2011 by none other than HRH I believe! This was lottery funded initially and is recognised as a centre of great interest to many. The fourth finalist was Larkhill Tipis which is a long established glamping and yurt and tipi site in West Wales. They offer five different nomadic ‘glamping’ experiences: an Alachigh, a Mongolian Ger, a Bentwood Yurt, a Lavvu and a Native American Tipi. This has won several awards over the years and opened in 2003.
You can imagine how thrilled we were to receive Silver in this category.
I had to give evidence for and explain amongst other things how we manage and monitor our energy consumption, water and waste, how we recycle and reuse what we can. How the building was originally converted and materials used. How we promote the visitor experience. How we help our visitors understand what it is going on in the local area and further afield. How we get involved in local charity work. How we promote, protect and support the local environment, nature and wildlife. Initially I had thought just to enter this one category but just two days before entries closed I decided also to go for a second award – that of Customer Service. I know we look after our visitors very well because I am constantly told so by people who stay here. I had to demonstrate HOW we go the extra mile to make sure people get the very most out of their visit. Judges were impressed with the details I provided plus of course our many amazing reviews online and in the visitors books. I know there is scope for me to monitor and evaluate visitors views even more and in a more formal way but at the end of the day there is only so much anyone can do to encourage visitors to tick boxes and complete questionnaires!!!! I was told there were lots of entries in this particular category so I was over the moon to be awarded Bronze!
So we went along to Llanelli on 25 November for the Awards Night! There was entertainment in the form of a string quartet, food and drink and we came away with two awards! Thank you so much to everyone who has helped to make Old Oak Barn the very successful business it is today!
Here we are all dressed up at the Awards evening!
We have always been passionate about the countryside and local environment in which we are lucky enough to live. Since establishing Old Oak Barn as a holiday cottage, open all year round for visitors to enjoy, we have constantly sought to look at the impact that it and our visitors may have on our environment.
We all know that sustainable tourism is much more than just being ‘green’. To be truly sustainable, we must think about the needs of our local rural environment and respect all wildlife, flora and fauna as well as think about the quality of life of local communities and local traditions and where possible contribute to local economic prosperity. We must consider how we manage all waste from the barn including water as well as recycling opportunities. We are sure we go the extra mile in encouraging our visitors to learn a little about the local culture and traditions and in showing them how we have looked after this valley for the last 25 years we open their eyes to how they too can play their part in looking after wildlife and the natural environment.
We offer children a short quiz with a surprise “prize” at the end which includes reference to the welsh language but is more designed to encourage identifying birds and bird sounds here plus identifying trees and plants. It is lots of fun and has been well received. We have some written welsh phrases and words plus welsh dictionaries including children’s picture dictionaries in Welsh and people are often surprised to hear the language spoken locally. We always suggest holiday makers buy local produce including local meat from two fine butchers in St Clears. We offer them fresh grown produce from my garden when there is a surplus. We encourage visitors to recycle waste which can be composted here and edible food scraps are swapped for fresh eggs.
With sustainability in mind in 2015 we have decided to purchase cleansing products which have been made on an organic farm just over the border in Gloucestershire. Daylesford Organics make some wonderful smelling rosemary washing up liquid, kitchen surface cleaner and sanitising hand wash which we use in the barn. Very occasionally bleach is used too but for daily use we are thrilled with the new products which have been approved by our visitors so far.
When making alterations in the barn we always consider the environment and energy use – last year we installed solar powered velux blinds – all repainting of windows and doors used oil free paints and new cushions were chosen for their 100% natural feather filling and cotton covers. Another water butt has been installed to collect rainwater from the roof to water in summer the many flowers grown around the barn.
Our website makes it clear that we value the views of visitors of all ages very much and I often ask them what improvements they would like to see here. Its often surprising what people come up with! Recent additions to the children’s book corner includes more books on trees, flowers, birds, stream life and woodland mammals.
Our next plans are going to be exciting – in 2016 we hope to open up a small boardwalk on the pond we developed 25 years ago so that visitors can spend time looking a little closer at the wonderful array of pond life we have attracted. The challenge will be not to disturb the 2 pairs of grey lag geese which now nest there along with a pair of moorhens and mallards – so this may only be open after June when nesting has finished.