Judging the Awards

Judging is carried out by independent, impartial, professionally qualified judges procured via a competitive tender process.

Judging services are currently supplied by Services for Tourism and QIA Services Ltd. There are two rounds of judging

Round 1 judging

The initial judging phase is based on the information provided within your written entry submitted via the Open Water application portal, along with your online presence and reviews.  Judges will also be looking for evidence of your commitment to accessible and inclusive tourism and ethical, responsible and sustainable tourism.

Judges will also be looking at how your website and/or social media pages encourage visitors to come to the county in the first place, how they are inspired to choose your business, the information you provide and how it is viewed on different devices (laptop, tablets, smartphones etc).

Each will be scored, based on your answers; if a question is left blank you will not receive a score.

Three to five of the highest scoring entries per category from Round 1 will go forward to Round 2

Round 2 judging

Depending on the category this involves a judging visit and/or interview. Selected businesses may be visited (incognito ‘mystery guest’ visits where possible) by independent judges acting as mystery guests.

Visits differ according to category with the following summary outlining how these take place:


Round 2 Judging Visit

Serviced Accommodation (Hotels, B&Bs, Guest Houses, Inns and Pubs / Restaurants with Rooms)

Unannounced and overnight visit (including lunch, evening meal and/or breakfast as appropriate), but with the option for a pre-booked announced day visit if necessary

Camping, Glamping & Holiday Park and Self Catering Accommodation

Pre-booked announced day visit.

Visitor Attractions and Experiences

Unannounced day visit (with pre-booked tickets if required)

Pubs, Cafes, Casual Dining and Restaurants

Unannounced day visit including relevant meal (with pre-booked reservations or appointment if required)

Accessible & Inclusive Tourism, Business Events Venue, Ethical, Responsible & Sustainable Tourism, New Tourism Business and International Tourism Award.

Pre-booked announced day visit

Unsung Hero, Rising Star and Team of the Year

No judging visit normally required

Please note that it is a requirement of entry that applicants agree to waive or refund the direct costs of a mystery visit should a mystery visit be arranged – e.g. admission tickets, accommodation, meals, treatments etc. dependent on the category you have entered.

The mystery visitor will present you with a letter of authorisation stating this after their visit, please advise your staff in advance that this may happen to avoid confusion.  Receipt of your entry is taken as agreement to this requirement. 

All entrants will receive summary feedback. 

The winners, normally a combination of Gold, Silver, Bronze and Highly Commended awards per category, will be announced at the awards ceremony. 

Eligible Gold winners will progress to represent the county in the national VisitEngland Awards.

By submitting a completed form to us you have agreed to be bound to our terms and conditions of entry. Any data you provide will be handled in accordance with our privacy policy.

Other pages you may find useful: