An Italian restaurant in Gisburn will represent Lancashire at an illustrious awards ceremony.

VisitEngland has announced the finalists who will go forward to compete for the tourism industry’s annual National Awards for Excellence.

Amongst the finalists are three Lancashire businesses who were victorious at the regional Lancashire Tourism Awards and qualified for the national industry awards. 

La Laconda, in the running for the Taste of England award, is the only East Lancashire business to have made it to this stage.

It is also the only Lancashire eatery to have made it to this stage.

Maurizio and Cinzia Bocchi, owners of La Locanda, said: “We are honoured to be representing Lancashire as finalists of Visit England’s Award for Excellence.

"Having celebrated our restaurant’s 20th anniversary last year, this achievement is the cherry on the cake.

"We have always felt very much at home in East Lancashire. The villages remind us very much of Italy, from the April showers to the friendly, welcoming people.

"Although we are Italian, we feel very much Lancastrian too.”

Other businesses representing Lancashire are Secret Garden Glamping in Skelmersdale, which is up for the best camping, glamping and holiday park of the year award.

Winter Gardens in Blackpool is representing Lancashire for the business events venue of the year award.

The VisitEngland Awards for Excellence champion the very best of England’s tourism industry celebrating quality, innovation, best practices, and exceptional customer service.

The 48 finalists, announced following a rigorous judging process by handpicked tourism industry experts, now go on to compete in 16 core categories at the national awards.

VisitEngland director, Andrew Stokes, said: “I am always impressed by the tourism businesses who make it onto our list of finalists with their innovative approaches to ensuring people have the most amazing experiences while delivering outstanding customer service across England. 

“I congratulate all the finalists and wish them the very best of luck.”

The awards' categories range from ‘large visitor attraction of the year’ and ‘small hotel of the year’ to ‘new tourism business of the year’ and ‘pub of the year’.

Applications to the awards were put forward for judging from businesses including hotels, self-catering accommodation providers, B&Bs, glamping operators, visitor attractions, restaurants, pubs and museums.

In addition to the 16 core categories, four special awards are also being presented including an ‘outstanding contribution to tourism award’, a ‘travel content award’, the ‘tourism superstar award’ and a ‘trailblazer award’.

All finalists are invited to attend the national awards ceremony, this year being held at Rum Warehouse at The Titanic Hotel Liverpool on June 5, where gold, silver and bronze winners will be announced at the black-tie event.

This year’s Awards aligned with 16 local competitions from across England with winners automatically put forward for the national awards.

Vikki Harris, marketing and partnerships director of Marketing Lancashire, which organises the annual Lancashire Tourism Awards, said: “What a wonderful affirmation of the world-class tourism offer in Lancashire.

“La Locanda, Secret Garden Glamping and Blackpool Winter Gardens, now go on to represent the county in the most prestigious awards for the tourism industry in England.

"These hard-working, brilliant businesses are at the top of their game and demonstrate the quality, invention, and warm welcome that we’re renowned for in Lancashire.

“Each of the finalists will take home either gold, silver, or bronze at this year’s VisitEngland Awards for Excellence and we couldn’t be prouder or happier for them.”