The Roman Baths has been named Large Attraction of the Year and best International Visitor Experience at the Bristol, Bath and Somerset Tourism Awards. The winners were announced last night (19 October) at the Doubletree by Hilton Cadbury House Hotel near Congresbury.
Councillor Patrick Anketell-Jones (Conservative, Lansdown), Cabinet Member for Economic Development at Bath & North East Somerset Council, said: “We’re delighted that the Roman Baths has been recognised as the area’s best large attraction and best experience for international visitors.
“More than a million people visit the Roman Baths every year and of these 40% come from overseas. This award reflects the huge efforts made by staff to ensure that our visitors from around the world receive an outstanding welcome.”
The Roman Baths recently introduced audioguides in four new languages – Dutch, Korean, Polish and Portuguese – bringing the total number of audioguide languages to 12.The take-up of free audioguides is used to monitor changing trends in visitors to the Roman Baths.
The biggest change in recent years has been in an increase in the use of Mandarin audioguides, which has grown from 12,800 visitors in 2005, when they were first introduced, to 84,700 in 2015. This represents more than 8% of total visitors. Mandarin-speaking visitors to the Roman Baths now outnumber French, which until seven years ago was the most widely spoken language.
The Roman Baths works closely with Visit Britain to attract visitors from China, and was a founding member of Visit Britain’s Great China Welcome initiative. The attraction has a Chinese website hosted in China (http://romanbaths.com.cn/) and Chinese social media channels including Weibo and We Chat.
In addition, printed information leaflets are available in more than 30 different languages, and these are also used to help identify emerging overseas visitor trends. For example, Russian was introduced in 2010 and Russian visitation peaked at 15,800 in 2013.
Recent improvements have made the Roman Baths more accessible for visitors with special needs. Four new lifts have been installed, along with handrails, ramps and more places to rest. The provision for wheelchair users has been improved with the availability of wheelchairs for visits to borrow, lowered ticket office counters and accessible toilets.
Visually impaired people now have access to tactile signage, braille and audio-description of key objects. For deaf and hard-of-hearing people there are British Sign Language (BSL) audio tours, induction loops for hearing-aid users and BSL trained staff. The site has also been made more accessible to people on the autism spectrum with detailed guidance on what to expect provided on the website.
The Bristol, Bath and Somerset Tourism Awards were recently launched to help raise the profile of Bristol, Bath and Somerset and recognise the best tourism businesses in the area. There are 20 different categories, reflecting the diversity of the region’s tourism industry.
Entrants went through a three-stage judging process, taking into account websites, reviews, social media and a programme of mystery visits by industry experts. All evidence was then presented to a judging panel.
Award winners will automatically be considered for matching categories in the South West Tourism Excellence Awards in February 2017, with the chance to go on to represent Bristol, Bath and Somerset at the National VisitEngland Awards later in the year.