Run in conjunction with our partner, the Daily Mirror, the campaign champions careers in tourism (for people of all ages) and promotes quality, customer service and excellence within England’s tourism industry.
Now in its seventh year, Tourism Superstar recognises and celebrates those individuals in the tourism industry who go the extra mile to ensure tourists in England have an amazing and unforgettable visitor experience. Tourism Superstar nominees are passionate about where they work and the destination they live in and consistently set the bar high for the standard of service in England's tourism industry.
Voting is now open on the Daily Mirror website. Vote now and help us find this year's Tourism Superstar!
Find out more about our nominees below:
Richard Darlington, Shepherd and Farm Guide, Hall Hill Farm, Durham
Richard Darlington grew up on Hall Hill Farm, Durham, surrounded by 1,500 sheep and had already delivered a lamb by the time he was six.
After studying agriculture at university, he returned to the farm where he now looks after 150 sheep and the many thousands of visitors that flock to this outstanding attraction every year.
Richard always goes that extra mile to give every visitor a memorable, immersive experience and has been proactive about introducing new activities to keep the offer interesting and visitors engaged.
He introduced Sheep Racing at the farm and continues to run this most popular daily event. In 2015 he launched ‘Lambing Live’ an annual event which live streams the lamb maternity ward 24/7 and keeps visitors connected to the farm from the comfort of their own home.
At lambing time Richard can be seen lambing sheep and giving a commentary at the same time, much to the delight of watching visitors. He is very patient and encouraging in nature with more nervous visitors when feeding the animals. When a regular visitor wanted to see their favourite donkey, which was not on view that day, he brought it to the farm for them.
Katie Davies, Communication Ranger, Moors Valley Country Park and Forest, Dorset
Katie Davies joined Moors Valley Country Park and Forest in February 2004 and is a Communication Ranger for East Dorset District Council (EDDC) based at Moors Valley where over 750,000 people visit the 1,000 acre park annually.
Katie stands out not just for her work in communicating the many strands of the Park’s activities to a wide cross-section of the public, but for her commitment to improving access and inclusivity.
Learning British Sign Language in her own time, she became Accessibility Champion in 2016 identifying and overcoming barriers to participation, and ensuring access issues are taken fully into consideration by staff, on-site businesses and external partners. Committed to making Moors Valley as inclusive as a natural site will allow, Katie has spearheaded a range of projects to maximise accessibility across all facilities. Her major initiatives include an annual Disabled Access Day; a Pocket Audio Trail; creation of Access for All information and accompanying Accessibility Promise and incorporating accessibility features into the website.
Her commitment to accessibility and development of new initiatives was instrumental in the Park achieving Gold in the 2016 Dorset Tourism Awards for Access and Inclusivity.
Stephen Eddy, Education Officer, Exmoor Zoo, North Devon
Heading a small team, at Exmoor Zoo, Education Officer Stephen Eddy is passionate about using creative ideas in his talks to local groups and visitors, both at the zoo and out in the community.
Stephen regularly makes visits to local schools, colleges, youth clubs, and libraries among others to educate people about the animals at the zoo, using ideas such as using recycled plastic bottle gardens for rainforests, making animal masks for playgroups, making money wallets from recycled orange juice cartons.
He enjoys introducing visitors to the Zoo’s animals through fun talk and handling sessions and managing to educate without them realising. Off his own back he learnt British sign language to give a better experience to people with disabilities, often getting booked for sessions with people who have high needs, such as the elderly or disabled.
Stephen’s team won best education award with BIAZA 2010 and he is referred to weekly in customer feedback on the Zoo’s Facebook and Trip Adviser pages. He has a positive impact on all the Zoo’s visitors, spending time with someone who is terrified of spiders or providing extra activities for a school on a rainy day to keep them busy and having a productive day out.
Charlie Hodson, Executive Head Chef, Fur and Feather, Norfolk
Executive Head Chef at Norfolk’s Fur and Feather, Charlie Hodson combines his passion for cooking with showcasing locally sourced produce from his beloved region to visitors and customers.
Born and raised in Norfolk, Charlie sources top ingredients such crabs, saffron, oils and meat, from local producers and suppliers including fishermen and butchers, as well as overseeing the running of the Fur and Feather, Woodforde’s Brewery Tap.
Charlie actively promotes local suppliers through social media, his cookery demonstrations, and fund-raising dinners. In his words, he says: “the more we can sing and shout about how amazing our individual counties are for produce, farming, heritage, and education, the more we share our ideas and thoughts the more we grow together.’
Paul Hull, Co-owner, For the Love of the North, Tyne and Wear
For Paul Hull, his aptly-named shop, For the Love of the North, could well apply to the man himself, having worked for many years for tourist information centres in North Tyneside and North Shields in the North-East of England.
Selling a range of carefully selected regional gifts and crafts, both in his Whitley Bay store and online, Paul and his partner Lucy, have used the shop as an opportunity to showcase local artists’ work featuring regional landmarks while offering visitor information on each one to enable the buyer to make a visit to see the real thing. They also use social media to promote new products and attractions, including live Facebook broadcasts.
A humble yet outstanding ambassador for North East tourism, Paul’s passion, commitment, knowledge and influence help him make a real impact on the region's tourism economy.
Jim O’Reilly, Customer Service Advisor, Red Funnel Ferries, Southampton
Since 2014, Jim O’Reilly has taken what could otherwise be a forgettable moment in a customer’s travel experience and turned it into a memorable highlight.
While he has numerous loading duties around Red Funnel’s Southampton vehicle ferry terminal, he has become best known as “Jim the Dancing Man” for deploying his signature dance moves while directing traffic on and off the ferries.
Regular commuters to and from the Isle of Wight routinely show him their appreciation with a smile, wave, hello or a honk which he often reciprocates by giving them an extra special thumbs up and a bow. Overseas visitors often take to social media to share their experience, with thousands of compliments received via post-journey feedback forms.
Jim dances because he genuinely loves to make people smile. He is proof that when one puts their heart and soul into what they do, they can make an impact and be a superstar in even the most unlikely of places. It’s also a little known fact that Jim suffers from arthritis, yet he doesn’t let that hold him back. He credits his dancing for helping him cope, and is another example of his tenacity, commitment and sincere passion for creating moments that regular customers and visitors will remember and share.
Martin Salter, AKA Mr Bennet, Meeter/Greeter, Jane Austen Centre, Bath
Dressed as Mr Bennet from the Jane Austen novels, Martin Salter is England’s “most photographed man”, meeting and greeting thousands of visitors to the Jane Austen Centre in Bath every year.
Martin has worked in tourism all his life, first at the Pump Rooms in Bath and for the past 11 years at the Jane Austen Centre answering questions, directing traffic, charming tour guides and offering interesting anecdotes about Jane Austen, Bath and himself,
He does charitable work, is Father Christmas for local children, teaches Regency dancing with the Jane Austen Dancers and is a keen re-enactor. People queue to be photographed with him and he is apparently famous in China.
Alicia Stabler, AKA Mad Alice, Tour Guide and Owner, The Bloody Tour of York, York
Alicia Stabler, aka Mad Alice, has become the most recognisable face in tourism in York.
As sole proprietor of the Bloody Tour of York, the costumed Mad Alice gives visitors a unique and entertaining look into the city’s gruesome history with an entertaining and engaging mix of storytelling and audience participation.
The Bloody Tour of York is one of the most popular tours in the city having been consistently ranked Number 1 of 50+ York tours on TripAdvisor. Her excellent reviews have led to nominations for two awards including Visitor Attraction under 50,000 visitors in the Visit York Tourism Awards 2017.
Alicia recently took the opportunity to turn a negative into a positive after breaking her leg just before Halloween in 2017, by conducting tours in a wheelchair, pushed by her assistant who dressed as a Plague Doctor to keep up the gory theme, rather than disappoint her visitors. She received great admiration from her visitors in reviews and local media sources, and her dedication to tourism in York is a credit to the city.
Christo Tofalli, Landlord, Ye Old Fighting Cocks, St Albans
Once a severely failing pub, St Alban’s Ye Olde Fighting Cocks has been attracting visitors from all over the world over the past five years thanks to the concerted efforts of landlord, Christo Tofalli.
Christo took over the pub in 2012 (which is in the Guinness Book of Records as the oldest pub in the country) when it was struggling to attract visitors and has worked tirelessly since to put it back on the map, re-establishing it as an important historic landmark as well as a fantastic pub/restaurant, while banging the drum for the city and UK tourism at the same time.
The pub now regularly attracts visitors from as far afield as the USA and Australia, as well as people from all over the UK and, of course, the local area.
Christo is well-known for his passion, energy, personal service, positive nature, massive smile and huge personality. He is determined to ensure that everyone has heard of St Albans, and that when they visit, they have the warmest personal welcome, the highest quality locally sourced food and drink including real ale, and the most fantastic time.
He also promotes the city to his clientele, has spoken on TV and radio about St Alban’s heritage and has started publishing a “pub paper” to promote the area to his visitors. His efforts have been recognised recently by Visit Herts when back in November, Ye Olde Fighting Cocks won Raising the Bar (Tourism Pub of the Year) Award. This building of huge historic significance is now in safe hands.
Sam Watling, Skatepark Manager, Revolution Skatepark and Climbing Centre, Thanet
Sam Watling started working at Revolution Skatepark in Thanet since leaving school 10 years ago. He has become a passionate advocate of not only teaching skateboarding skills but also in promoting the local areas to his visitors and customers.
As head instructor for all skateboard and scooter lessons, it’s Sam’s job to keep lessons running smoothly and making sure all the kids are having as much fun as possible. He has set up and run many events such as Skate and Scoot camps in the school holidays which have attracted people from as far as London and Essex to come for lessons.
Sam has also become somewhat of an attraction himself with families and young people seeking out his teaching skills from far afield. He even came in on Boxing Day to give a lesson on request by a child travelling from London which shows real dedication.
Sam was voted Thanet Tourism Superstar in the Pride in Thanet Tourism Awards last year, as part of English Tourism Week. In his words Sam says he ‘loves every single part of my job’, and this shines through to his customers.