A TOURISM chief found herself in deep water when she agreed to present an award to a leading attraction – after being asked to do so under water in a shark tank.
Alison Barham, quality manager at VisitBritain, the national tourism marketing agency, was at Blue Planet Aquarium in Ellesmere Port to present managers with the prized VAQAS – Visitor Attraction Quality Assurance Service – accreditation.
But little did she know that staff would ask her to don a wetsuit and mark the occasion underwater in the aquarium’s famous shark tank.
VAQAS is a consumer-focused scheme which was set up by VisitBritain and is supported locally by Visit Chester & Cheshire Tourism to recognise the British attractions which give visitors the highest quality experience.
Each attraction is assessed by mystery shopper-style inspectors and have their accreditations reviewed annually.
Alison, who had travelled to the aquarium from VisitBritain’s London headquarters, said inspectors had visited Blue Planet and found the aquarium to be great fun.
Their report stated: “Children were certainly enjoying the experience. The Aquatheatre and tunnel are iconic.
“The overall presentation is lively and quite unlike the traditional TV tank style of older aquaria.
“It’s conservational credentials are well brought out. It was an enjoyable and informative experience.”
At the aquarium to present a special VAQAS accreditation plaque, Alison added: “The VAQAS award shows consumers that they can choose the attraction in confidence, knowing that their expectations of quality will be met and encourage them to visit time and time again.
“Blue Planet Aquarium is a worthy recipient of VAQAS accreditation, and I was only too pleased to be able to come here to present the certificate in person.
“Doing so while surrounded by sharks certainly made it a presentation that I won’t forget in a hurry.”
Andy Hygate, park director at Blue Planet, said: “Our collection of sharks is one of the largest in the world, and is clearly a big part of the attraction here, so it seemed only right that they got their share of the limelight.
“Joking aside, being VAQAS accredited is a huge honour for us and we believe it is a fitting reward for many years of hard work by the whole team here.
“It is also a great start to what we are hoping will be another fantastic year for Blue Planet Aquarium and tourism in general across the North West.”