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University of Chester Student wins national tourism award after stand-out placement at Chester Zoo

University of Chester Student wins national tourism award after stand-out placement at Chester Zoo

A University of Chester undergraduate has been recognised among the best Tourism students in the UK after winning an award for her learning and input while on placement at the city’s zoo.

In a competitive year of extremely high-quality entries, Annabelle Whitaker has been chosen to receive a Tourism Management Institute (TMI) Student Award.

Annabelle, who has recently completed the second year of her BA (Hons) International Tourism Management (with Spanish) degree, is the winner of the 2022 David Hughes Memorial Award for undergraduates.

The Institute is the national professional organisation for people studying and working in tourism destination management.

The 21-year-old, from Halifax, West Yorkshire, based her application on her successful Work Based Learning placement with Chester Zoo this spring. The judging panel was particularly impressed with how Annabelle used this experience to consolidate her academic learning. 

They outlined how Annabelle “demonstrated a very mature understanding of the visitor journey, the challenges and complexities of visitor management, as well as the key role this leading visitor attraction has within the wider destination”.

The annual Awards are an important way for the TMI to recognise the achievements of both undergraduate and postgraduate students on recognised TMI degree programmes, who have undertaken a relevant work placement or research project as part of their degree. The Awards highlight how they have successfully applied their academic knowledge by actively working with a destination management or tourism organisation in the UK or overseas.

Award winners receive a one-to-one professional mentoring session with a senior member of the TMI as well as a complimentary place at the TMI Annual Convention in October, the opportunity to write a blog for the TMI website on their placement or project, as well as one year’s associate membership of the TMI.

Annabelle, currently beginning a year abroad in Alicante, said: “I enjoyed all of my placement, however I especially enjoyed working with the ‘Travel Trade’ where I learnt how larger groups are organised and looked after in the zoo.

“I feel so blessed to win this Award and I look forward to meeting with my mentor and attending the TMI conference next month.”

She added that she decided to study at the University of Chester due to the wide variety of opportunities such as the Work Based Learning placement and becoming a student ambassador, as well as the beauty and heritage of the city. 

Colin Potts, Programme Leader for International Tourism Management at the University said:

“Annabelle is a thoughtful, hard-working student who makes the most of every opportunity that comes her way. This has included working in Chester’s Visitor Information Centre (VIC), doing her second year work placement at Chester Zoo and spending her third year at a university in Spain.

“Her application for the TMI Award was outstanding. It not only explained what she had learnt but it connected this back to her studies and looked forward to how it could help her in her future career. She made interesting links between her work at the VIC and at the zoo, and made recommendations to help improve the zoo’s customer service. It is no surprise that they wanted to keep her after her placement.”

The TMI described the winners as “very worthy” and praised them for “delivering such high quality projects which have proved to be so valuable to the respective destinations”.

Nicola Said, Commercial Director at Marketing Cheshire, added:

“While working at Chester Visitor Information Centre, Annabelle has shown a real passion and enthusiasm for all things tourism.

“She’s been able to link her work at the VIC to her placement at the zoo and then to her University work as well. She thoroughly deserves this Award and we’re all incredibly proud of her for all of her efforts and achievements. A huge congratulations to Annabelle from everyone at Marketing Cheshire – we’re all excited to see where her career takes her next.”

The Bachelor of Arts (Hons) International Tourism Management degree is delivered by the University’s Business School, recently shortlisted as the Business School of the Year in the 2022 Times Higher Education (THE) Awards. Highly rated by students, the course is placed in the top three in the UK in the 2022 National Student Survey – only one per cent off the top spot – and top four in the 2023 Guardian University Guide, for its subject area.

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