Bakewell-born James Berresford has been awarded an honorary degree by the University of Derby in recognition of his career in tourism, which began as a teenaged ice-cream van driver and took him to the chief executive’s office of VisitEngland.
He will receive the award at the annual graduation ceremony in Buxton later this month, where he has just taken on the job of safeguarding the legacy of the £50million project to turn the historic Crescent into the Peak District’s first five-star hotel.
James said: “In my early years, tourism really wasn’t taken all that seriously – it was just seen as a bucket and spade industry. Now that has certainly changed.
“We are in an internationally competitive world and today’s visitors typically are well travelled and have a lot of information. Expectations are much higher than they were 20 to 30 years ago.”
James’ wide-ranging career took in posts at Nottinghamshire County Council, the Heart of England Tourist Board and the North West Development Agency, where he was instrumental in Liverpool’s successful Capital of Culture programme.
That took him to VisitEngland in 2009, where he oversaw tourism policy during two of the nation’s most important events: the 2012 Olympics and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
His experience will be a great asset for Buxton in his unpaid role as chairman of the Buxton Crescent and Thermal Spa Heritage Trust, which will promote the buildings and their heritage, with a focus on their spa tradition.
James said: “It’s very important to create a unique experience, and this is a unique development, not just for Derbyshire, but the UK as a whole.
“The Crescent will be an internationally important visitor attraction. This position will hopefully allow me to make a real contribution to the county I love.”