The annual celebration of the region’s top tourism businesses at this month’s South West Tourism Awards also saw the spotlight fall on one of the industry’s most tireless champions.
In front of almost 400 tourism businesses and VIP guests from across the West Country, the managing director of West Dorset Leisure Holidays Martin Cox was singled out for a very special individual distinction.
He was presented at the glittering Exeter Cathedral ceremony with this year’s award for Outstanding Contribution to Tourism by the chair of the SW Tourism Alliance, Alistair Handyside
The honour came on top of a silver award for Highlands End Holiday Park in Bridport, the flagship of Martin’s family business which comprises five top-rated Dorset parks.
Paying tribute to his outstanding achievements, Alistair said that Martin had made a huge impact on the holiday parks and tourism industries regionally, nationally and internationally.
Martin’s overarching aim, he commented, has been to bring together the tourism sector, encourage co-operation, and continue driving up the quality of the visitor experience.
His contributions in these areas, said Alistair, was in evidence across the wide range of bodies and organisations in which Martin plays an active and highly valued role.
He serves on a range of tourism groups and enterprise partnerships in the South West, including Destination Dorset which unites private sector firms to help raise the county’s profile.
At an international level, he is a former president and now the British representative to EFCO&HPA, the European federation which represents more than 20,000 holiday park businesses.
Martin is also vice president of the British Holiday & Home Parks Association with over 3,000 parks across the UK in membership, and previously served for two years as its national chairman.
As well as helping to promote the economic and employment benefits of tourism as a whole, Martin champions a number of other causes with implications for the sector.
He has been a longstanding proponent of skills training within the parks industry, and among the many new courses he helped establish was foundation degree in tourism park management which is now celebrating the end of its first successful decade.
From early in his career, Martin has held a firm belief in the value of IT to improve efficiency, and many park businesses have been helped to stay ahead of the game with his encouragement and ideas.
Martin’s forward-thinking has today led him to become a campaigner for the faster introduction of charging points for electric vehicles to ensure that “range anxiety” doesn’t stymie rural tourism.
At the South West Tourism Awards there was praise too for Martin’s advocacy of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site, and his parks’ raising of over £80,000 to support the trust’s appeal.
Speaking afterwards, Martin said he was humbled by the award, and that he felt honoured to be able help promote the interests of a county in which it was a privilege both to live and work.