UKinbound announce winners of inaugural Young Excellence Award

UKinbound Young Excellence Award winners James Berry Ryan Sanders
UKinbound Young Excellence Award winners James Berry Ryan Sanders

UKinbound has named Ryan Sanders from Brunel’s SS Great Britain, Bristol’s number one attraction, and James Berry from MBNA Thames Clippers, London’s leading river bus service, joint winners of its first ever Young Excellence Award.

The accolades were awarded at UKinbound’s annual Awards for Excellence Gala Dinner, held at the Glasgow City Chambers on Thursday 7 February. The talented young professionals were presented their awards by Scottish stand-up comedian and television/radio presenter Des Clarke, and Jon Bagby from Continuum Attractions (who sponsored the award) in front of an audience of over 250 delegates from the UK tourism industry

UKinbound received a significant number of high calibre nominations, demonstrating that skilled young people are entering and prospering in the tourism industry.

The Young Excellence Award entries were assessed by a panel of independent judges – Kurt Janson, director, Tourism Alliance; Cheryl McCain, executive director, Tourism Society; Dr Karen Thomas, Director, Tourism and Events Research Hub, Canterbury Christ Church University.

In no more than 500 words, UKinbound members were welcomed to nominate a young person (aged 25 and under) in their organisation that had demonstrated or achieved any of the following; innovative thinking and/or generation of new ideas, exceptional customer service, taking the initiative and a commitment to the tourism industry.

With both entries so compelling and inspiring, the judges announced them as joint winners.

The winners’ stories

Ryan Sanders

Ryan Sanders’ story is one of both professional and personal success. Diagnosed with Asperger when he was seven, Ryan found developing certain interpersonal skills challenging, but he joined SS Great Britain as a volunteer in 2015, determined to develop his confidence and deliver excellent customer service. Since then he has excelled, taking up a full-time position as a visitor experience assistant. Ryan has a positive and inspiring attitude to work, and his enthusiasm for the ship and its history is contagious.

During the last four years he’s developed many innovative ideas to improve the customer experience and received a standing ovation for an inspiring speech in-front of 130 people at the company’s annual training day, all while negotiating the daily challenges of Asperger’s. Ryan’s success has had a positive effect on others, as shown when a class of adults with learning disabilities visited. He proudly told them he was Asperger’s and provided them with amazing customer service, inspiring the group. He’s always seeking to better himself, and his career progression and development show his commitment to the tourism industry.

James Berry

A wise head on young shoulders; at 21 James Berry has risen through the ranks at MBNA Thames Clippers becoming a class 5 master and the company’s youngest captain. At 16 he joined as a deck customer services assistant, progressing to a relief mate and then mate within just two years. James took the responsibility of being a mate in his stride, and his attitude and dedication towards providing an amazing experience has resulted in excellent passenger feedback. He also showed great courage when rescuing a person from the Thames, alongside his master.

James was confident and vocal about his plans to become a master and, after completing his Boat Master’s Licence course at 19, his dreams of becoming a captain came true. Since then he has taken on the role of Charter Master, commanding a luxury launch for transporting VIPs in style; and showed great initiative when a ship broke down, resolving the issue by transporting passengers with the VIP launch. James’s first-class work ethic has continued throughout his career at the company.

Joss Croft, CEO UKinbound commented: “James and Ryan’s stories are incredibly inspiring and we’re very proud to name them joint winners of our inaugural Young Excellence Award. They’ve both shown a passion for customer service, great initiative and a willingness to learn and develop their skills.

“Tourism offers an array of job and career opportunities for talented young people, and the high calibre of entries demonstrates that skilled workers in the UK are entering the industry. However, as there is likely to be a restriction on employing EU nationals post Brexit (upon which our industry heavily relies), it is imperative that we invest in training our domestic skills base and enhancing the image of the sector as a career of choice. This is just one of many key areas included in the Tourism Sector Deal that we’re urging Government to implement, as it will aid the long-term productivity and success of our industry.”

Ryan Sanders said It has been an honour to have been nominated and to have won this award. It’s a fitting tribute to my incredible journey so far working at Brunel’s SS Great Britain. The support I have had from my friends, family and colleagues have helped me overcome some of the challenges I face with Asperger’s. The SS Great Britain is my second home and I am grateful for each day I spend here.”

James Berry said “I couldn’t be happier to receive the first Young Excellence Award together with Ryan. It is truly rewarding to be recognised but this accolade wouldn’t be possible without the supportive team that works with me at MBNA Thames Clippers. I would also like to encourage anyone looking for a career path to consider the marine industry. It’s a place of camaraderie that nurtures and allows you to grow.”

During the evening eight additional awards were presented to companies and organisations that have made a significant contribution to the UK’s inbound tourism industry in the past 12 months. These were:

  • Tour Operator of the Year – Angela Shanley Associates
  • Individual Attraction of the Year – The Beatles Story
  • Accommodation Provider of the Year – glh Hotels
  • DMO of the Year – Experience Oxfordshire
  • Service Provider of the Year: Transport & Sightseeing – Evan Evans
  • Service Provider of the Year: Restaurants, Retail & Ticketing – Azzurri Group
  • Service Provider of the Year: Professional Services – TravelBeat
  • Regional Member of the Year – Tourism South East
  • Chairman’s Award – Tristram Yarde-Leavett, managing director, Tourwise

The Awards for Excellence were presented during the association’s Annual Convention, which took place at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on Wednesday 6 and Thursday 7 February.