Gold or silver within sight for Winchester

The Winter Olympics have dominated the World's media in recent days. Now Winchester is set to make the headlines as its tourist information centre (TIC) gets ready to take a well-deserved place on the podium in the national Enjoy England Awards for Excellence 2006.

The shortlist has just been announced for the finals, the results of which will be announced on Thursday 20 April, and Winchester has made it to the final two in the Tourist Information Centre of the Year category. The awards, organised by the official UK tourism body VisitBritain and sponsored by the Caravan Club, are fiercely contested and set the standard for the tourism industry.

Staff at Winchester's TIC are now on tenterhooks, waiting for the moment at the national awards ceremony which will determine whether they leave with a gold or silver award. The ceremony is being held at one of London's most famous attractions, Madame Tussauds in London. Writer and broadcaster Sandi Toksvig will host the ceremony.

Winchester TIC is housed in the city's historic Guildhall and managed by Winchester City Council. It handles over 230,000 enquiries each year from all corners of the globe. In the last three years it has twice entered and won the regional Tourism ExSEllence award for the whole of the South East area, which stretches from Hampshire to Kent.

Winchester City Council's Tourist Information Centre Manager Alison Woods said, "We are absolutely delighted to be shortlisted. The team pride themselves on exceeding customer expectations and developing the range of services offered. One of these new initiatives, introduced during 2005, was a bicycle loan service (an extension to the successful Bikeabout scheme offered by Hampshire County Council). The other tourist information centre to be short listed is Harrogate, who we think will be a hard act to beat, but have our fingers and toes firmly crossed!"

Winchester City Council's Portfolio Holder for Culture, Heritage and Sport Cllr Thérèse Evans added, "This is really good news and a well-deserved reward for all the hard work of our tourist information centre and tourism marketing teams. Their proactive approach in going that extra mile to meet the needs of our visitors and residents was highly praised at the regional awards ceremony and it is excellent that we now have national recognition of our successful TIC in Winchester."

Eloise Appleby, Head of Cultural Services for Winchester City Council, commented, "In a survey of local residents which we carried out last summer, 95% said tourism was important to the local economy and 63% were proud to live in a town that people wanted to come and visit. The City Council has shown its own commitment to the tourism industry through its ongoing investment of resources and its drive to set high standards for customer care: our success in this year's national competition seems to be a really fitting return for that constant support over many years."

The tourist information centre is open from 10am to 5pm Monday to Saturday and can be contacted on: 01962 840 500 or e-mail:  or via the website at: .