Following their success at the East of England Tourism Awards 2022-2023, we find out what winning the awards meant to two local businesses. 

Experience of the Year  
Sponsored by Insight6  
Winner: PrimEvil  

PrimEvil is Norfolk’s biggest scare attraction and gets bigger and better every year.  

In its first year, PrimEvil, based in Lenwade, Norfolk, had three mazes – Mutants, Insanitarium and Dino Haunt, which was family friendly.  

It was the first year that Ben Francis, who is now creative director at PrimEvil, first visited the attraction.  

“The second year, I applied to be an actor,” said Ben. “We had three mazes for five nights. We used to think it was really hard work!”  

In 2023, it will be Ben’s 13th year of being involved. This year, PrimEvil will run for 17 nights around Halloween.  

“In my first year, there was a team of six of us,” added Ben. “Now there’s 150 actors, a production team of three and a tech team of six.  

“Everything has developed to keep up with expectations. People always want more.”  

Eastern Daily Press: Diags from The Only Way is Essex at PrimEvil last yearDiags from The Only Way is Essex at PrimEvil last year (Image: Ross Allen)

Ben said he and the team were “quite shocked” to win Experience of the Year at the East of England Tourism Awards.   

“We went to the awards en masse as we were proud to be nominated,” he said. “It was overwhelming to win. It cemented how good a production PrimEvil is and how good it is for Norfolk, tourism and the local economy, especially employment. It validated it for us.”  

This year’s PrimEvil, which is suitable for visitors aged 12 and over, has been in the planning since January and will include a new maze – Werehouse 51: Toxic Mutation.  

All of the other mazes – The Crypt, Circus of Terror, Route 666, and Mayhem Manor, are having a revamp. Plus there’ll be live music, with a different local band performing each week, as well as other entertainment and a food court. Tickets are on sale now.  

“We are very grateful to the East of England Tourism Awards and would like to thank them,” he added. “We’d also like to thank all of our guests and visitors. It’s their expectations which push us to be bigger and better year on year. We’re always trying to be the best.”  

Eastern Daily Press: Retreat East is a sanctuary of relaxationRetreat East is a sanctuary of relaxation (Image: Retreat East)

Ethical, Responsible and Sustainable Tourism Award  
Winner: Retreat East

Retreat East, in Hemingstone, Suffolk, is a former 16th century dairy farm, which today is a luxury retreat for anyone who wants to escape from the chaos of modern life.  

The retreat is home to country-chic barns, a triple-height oak restaurant and wellbeing spa, all set in 35 acres of countryside.  

Retreat East’s ethos has always been to be a sanctuary of relaxation where guests can immerse themselves in nature, wholesome food and spend their time unwinding and recharging.   

Speaking after their win at the East of England Tourism Awards, Steph Jones, Retreat East’s marketing manager, said: “We were absolutely delighted to be awarded with such a prestigious award. Having worked hard in all areas of the business to become as sustainable and responsible as possible, it truly solidified our vision and ambitious future plans.   

“Our team and the owners have worked so hard to ensure Retreat East is a place of eco-escapism. Our vision and focus have always had sustainability and the environment in mind, so it was brilliant to be recognised for our contribution towards this in the East of England.   

“Our commitment to sustainability is ongoing, but we were delighted to receive such recognition for our hard work. From our organic kitchen garden, ‘no-waste’ kitchen, solar panels, water conservation, organic products, re-wilding, habitat protection and sustainable materials to name a few!”  

Eastern Daily Press: Retreat East's new shepherd's hutsRetreat East's new shepherd's huts (Image: Retreat East)

There is continual investment in the site to improve, enhance and develop its offering.   

This year, five new shepherd’s huts have opened, offering guests a different experience to try. Situated in meadows adjacent to the existing field barns, they boast a king-sized bed, spacious ensuite, wood-burning stove and a private deck where visitors can soak up the Suffolk sunshine.   

The venue is also available exclusively for weddings. A wedding showcase is taking place on September 3.   

And where better to tie the knot? As well as its Tourism Awards win, Retreat East was named the most Romantic Hotel of the Year by The Times and The Sunday Times in December.  

The East of England Tourism Awards 2023-2024 will launch for entries in July.