British hotelier Clive Cummings has succeeded against the odds in becoming a rare foreign recipient of the Bronze Tourism Medal awarded by the French government.
Being presented with the accolade is an exceptional achievement for Cummings, who with his wife, Tanith, opened the 10-bedroom Abbaye de la Bussière in the heart of Burgundy in 2006. Normally, only French citizens who have been working in a given region for 12 years are considered for the award.
However, it was decided that the renovation work carried out at the 12th-century abbey - which now has 17 bedrooms and employs 34 staff - over five years has had a major impact on the regional economy and on the area's touristic attractiveness.
Cummings said that he was humbled and honoured to have received the award. "After all, I'm simply an Englishman who is running a hotel and restaurant in France who aims to bring out the best in a great team of staff and ensure the customers leave happy," he said.
"It has been bloody hard to get the business up and running, especially with all the French bureaucracy and not initially speaking the language, but it has all been a matter of gritting our teeth and getting on with it. As a result, we've managed to gain the respect of both our staff and the locals.
Cummings, who was previously manager of Amberley Castle in West Sussex, intends to further develop the abbey by increasing it to 28 bedrooms.
By Janet Harmer
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