Chester Zoo has been highly commended at the ‘tourism Oscars’.

The zoo was one of five nominees in the running for Large Visitor Attraction of the Year at the 2016 VisitEngland Awards for Excellence, which were held in Blackpool on Tuesday night (March 8).

The Whitworth art gallery in Manchester scooped gold, Brunel’s SS Great Britain in Bristol won silver and the Beamish open-air museum in County Durham took bronze.

The Upton attraction was highly commended along with Salisbury Cathedral.

Related: Chester Zoo revealed as UK's most visited paid-for attraction outside London

Managing director Jamie Christon said the team is thrilled to have been recognised as one of the top five large attractions in England and visitors can expect even more innovations and exhibits in the future.

He said: “The opening of our new Islands zone last year was a landmark moment in zoo history.

“Islands is the UK’s biggest and most ambitious zoo development of all time and it’s not only transforming the way that people can view animals, it's helping us to put a massive spotlight on the many threatened species from South East Asia that we work with out in the field.”

“This year, we’ll continue to offer a range of new visitor experiences, exhibits and developments as we strive to provide visitors with an even better day out.

"As a registered conservation and education charity, supporting 80 conservation projects in 30 different countries around the world, we couldn’t help hundreds of highly endangered species in the wild without our visitors.”

The VisitEngland Awards for Excellence stretch back more than 25 years and celebrate the very best in quality and innovation in the tourism industry, recognising businesses that incorporate best practice and demonstrate excellence in customer service.

Related: Dinosaurs set to return to Chester Zoo this summer