The Marks & Spencer Heritage Trail in Leeds has been recognised nationally for its contribution to tourism after being named Tourism Innovation of 2013 in the annual Group Travel Organiser awards.
M&S won the prestigious prize in recognition of its unique partnership approach to create an engaging and successful visitor attraction for the city.
The self-guided Heritage Trail was launched in March 2013 alongside the Leeds Kirkgate Market stall and links the stall and the Marks in Time exhibition at the University of Leeds.
Developed in partnership with Leeds City Council and students from the University of Leeds, the trail takes in places of historic interest for the company around the city such as the former Dewhirst building, home to one of the first suppliers to M&S, Cross Arcade where M&S opened a Penny Bazaar in 1904 and Briggate where M&S has had stores since 1909.
The development of the Heritage Trail showcases the unique partnership between M&S and the University of Leeds and combined the creativity and skills of Leeds students with the expertise and local knowledge of Leeds City Council.
Alison Houston, head of the M&S company archive, said:
“We are delighted to have won this prestigious award.
“It’s a fantastic recognition of all the hard work that went into the Heritage Trail and the distinctive way in which we worked with our partners – both students from the University of Leeds and with Leeds City Council – to produce something really unique.
“As part of the project, we offered paid placement opportunities to two students from History and Design courses, allowing them to apply skills from their courses to a real live project.
“This, in collaboration with the in-depth knowledge of the area from Leeds City Council and M&S’ deep historical links to Leeds, has produced a significant contribution to tourism in the city.”
Peter Stonham, editorial director of Group Travel Organiser (GTO) magazine said:
“We are delighted that the M&S Heritage Trail is the winner of the 2013 Group Travel Award for Innovation.
“The award, given by the editorial team, has been made for the innovative approach of M & S in creating a tourism experience that relates the heritage of the company to that of the city of Leeds, where the business was founded.
“We were impressed with the way the public and private sectors had worked together to create the new heritage trail, which we are sure will be of strong appeal to groups.”
The Group Travel Awards are the longest established event celebrating excellence in the supply of services to group travel organisers. The winners (except for four special editorial awards) are voted for by the readers of GTO magazine, reflecting their personal experiences over the last 12 months.
Councillor Richard Lewis, Leeds City Council executive board member for development and the economy said:
“We’re delighted that the Heritage Trail has stimulated so much public interest and support among shoppers and visitors to Leeds. It is something unique to Leeds, and has proved extremely popular so far.”
Martin Holmes, marketing director for the University of Leeds, said:
“We are delighted with this award which is a great tribute to partnership working.
“The excellence of our students and their ability to apply academic skills in finding practical solutions is a demonstration of how Leeds is meeting the needs of employers and supporting the career prospects of our students.”