Donkey Sanctuary among businesses up for Devon Tourism Awards

The Donkey Sanctuary's visitor engagement manager John Crouch with one of the 220 housed donkeys. Pi

The Donkey Sanctuary's visitor engagement manager John Crouch with one of the 220 housed donkeys. Picture: Sam Cooper - Credit: Archant

The Donkey Sanctuary says it is ready to go head-to-head with the best in the South West after reaching the finals of the Devon Tourism Awards.

John Crouch, visitor engagement manager, said it was great to be nominated for Large Attraction of the Year, adding the charity’s plans to go for national recognition over the next five years - including the coveted Visit England award.

Following major refurbishment work including a new restaurant, visitor centre and gift shop, the sanctuary felt it was the right time to enter for the award.

John said: “The utopia is to win a Visit England award for visitor attraction.

“For me, getting the Devon Tourism award nomination this year is great. Hand on heart, I don’t expect to win Visit England yet but over the next five years we want to go on that journey of winning Devon then South West and then hopefully getting up to Visit England. That’s my dream, that’s my goal and that’s what I’m here to deliver.”

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The charity currently attracts 300,000 visitors a year, but John hopes numbers will continue to rise as high as 400,000.

The manager added the possible award could bring a boost to the business: “It allows us to work with other tourism businesses and say ‘we’re a quality attraction, you’re a quality accommodation provider, you’re a quality pub. Let’s all work together to draw more people to East Devon’.”

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The sanctuary will compete against Exeter’s Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery (RAAM) and the Lynton and Lynmouth Cliff Railway in the Large Attraction of the Year category and will find out the result next month.

Describing the nomination process John said: “For me, it was like an exam. It’s an exam question exercise where you’re asked to put forward your case against a number of questions.

“It’s not just a case of entering an award you have to put forward a pretty good case on why you should get that award.

“The questions are is your business sustainable? How do you train your staff? What’s so good about your attraction? What investments have you made? I spent many hours in the summer compiling it which I sent to the panel in June.”

The ceremony will take place on November 22 at the Highbullen Hotel Golf and Country Club.

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