Hosted by BBC Look North's very own Harry Gration (MBE), the award ceremony honoured the efforts of the city’s hotel and venue staff.
In addition to the voted for awards, an additional Special Award was given to Crowne Plaza Hotel, in light of the flooding that Leeds experienced over the Christmas period last year.
Closed for three months at the beginning of 2016, Crowne Plaza were faced with the challenge of overcoming great adversity during the floods, but their determination to repair both the physical damage and reputation of the hotel was considered exceptional by the judges who deemed them more than worthy of the unexpected award.
Gordon Jackson, Chair of Leeds Hotels and Venues Associations and General Manager of Thorpe Park Hotel & Spa commented: “As one of the most eagerly anticipated nights of the year for the Leeds hospitality industry, the Leeds Hotels and Venues Association Awards is a fantastic opportunity to celebrate and give recognition to the hard-working staff of our hotels and venues. Yet again, the judges were absolutely blown away by the quality of candidates for each award and their representation of not only their hotel or venue, but as positive role models for the hospitality industry as whole. A huge well done to all nominees, and congratulations to all of the winners.”
This year’s highlights included: Clare Pennock-Halpin from Radisson Blu took the first award of the evening, the Mentor Award. Known for her calm and patient nature, Clare was commended as a true inspiration to her mentees and it was easy for the judges to see how Clare has embraced and thrived as a valued mentor and friend.
A tough category to judge, the Exceptional Customer Service Front of House Award, sponsored by Trinity Leeds, is always fiercely competitive and highly regarded amongst the hotels and venues. The well-deserved winner, Dean Sygrove from DoubleTree by Hilton, was awarded the title for his genuine empathetic disposition towards customers – which has seen him gain favourable reviews on TripAdvisor no less!
A passionate and innovative young talent, Louise Harrison from Park Plaza took the award for Rising Star this year. Showing tenacity and passion, she has achieved a lot in her short time at the hotel and is now embarking on the path towards management through the company’s management programme.
Sponsored by Leeds BID, the Unsung Hero Award is a chance for those staff members who are often ‘behind the scenes’ to gain recognition. The merited winner, Amanda Maguire from Malmaison Leeds, was selected for her conscientious attitude and ‘team-player’ mentality as part of the Housekeeping team.
The Top Team Award, sponsored by Virgin Trains East Coast, was certainly one of the most raucously applauded throughout the night, with The Spa Team from Thorpe Park Hotel & Spa taking first place. Awarded for their enthusiasm and innovative approach to events, such as their extremely popular Winter Ball, The Spa Team’s win was well-earned.
Tajinder Bahra from DoubleTree by Hilton was commended for his Exceptional Customer Service Back of House. When the floods hit in December, Tajinder was on hand to divert water away from the hotel whilst managing customer’s expectations and showing a fantastic level of customer service.
New for this year, the award for Lifetime Achievement was added in acknowledgement of the staff members who have dedicated their careers to the hospitality industry. Congratulations went to Hilary Carruthers of Thorpe Park Hotel & Spa; having spent 43 years in the industry, and showing no signs of slowing down, Hilary was commended for her continued passion and enthusiasm with new staff members.
The final award of the evening, The People’s Choice sponsored by Yorkshire Evening Post, was the only award voted for by the general public and this year saw more nominations than ever before. It was an extremely tight vote, with only 7 votes in it between the winner, Kerry Adams from DoubleTree by Hilton and her closest contender, Royal Armouries International’s Conference & Banqueting Manager, Rasim Dervisevic.
Executive Head Housekeeper at the DoubleTree by Hilton for 7 years, Kerry is a highly regarded member of the team and takes an enormous amount of pride in her work and the hotel as a whole. Currently Chair of the Yorkshire and North East section of the UK Housekeepers Association, Kerry was awarded for her commitment and excellent leadership skills, having honed her craft from the early age of 16, working in hotels all over the world.
The judging panel was made up of a range of Leeds hospitality, educational and industry leaders, including Zoe McClelland, Head of Hospitality & Retailing at Leeds Beckett University, who said: “Yet again, the incredibly high standard of nominees this year is testament to the hard work that each of the hotels and venues put in to ensuring that their staff represent the best in the industry. These awards are some of the most highly contested and I am privileged to be a part of the panel which recognises the commitment of these individuals in Leeds.”