TRADERS in Burnham have been given yet another major boost this week after the town learned it has reached the finals of a national tourism awards contest.

Burnham has been named as one of the top six coach trip destinations in the country as a finalist at the prestigious National Coach Tourism Awards 2014.

This comes on top of the news last week that the town is first in the South- West to be awarded ‘coach-friendly’ status.

The announcement comes after fears that the floods in Somerset would deter tourists from visiting.

But community leaders have praised the “fantastic” community spirit in Burnham and Highbridge for a series of initiatives to bring tourists back into the area.

Ian Jefferies, business and tourism manager for Burnham, said: “We really got hit by the floods but instead of breaking this town it has brought us together.

“One thing about Burnham and Highbridge is that the community spirit is fantastic. Everybody loves the town and is trying to promote it together in a total community effort.”

Les Barber, coach destination manager, said: “To reach the final of such a prestigious awards ceremony with other major industry operators and suppliers is a great achievement for the town.

“New figures from the last three months show the number of coaches visiting our town has risen by more than 125% compared to the same period in 2013. The exposure from this award can only add to this, which in turn will bring even more revenue into our town and its businesses.”

Other initiatives are already underway to attract more visitors to the town. On May 3 a fun lighthouse trail which has become a focal point for many of the town’s clubs, schools and community groups launches. It will see 34 six-foot tall replicas of the town’s iconic lighthouse dotted around, leading residents and visitors alike on a tour around the area.

And Burnham’s pier entrance is to get a striking new look after plans to update the venue were granted permission.

Louise Parkin, owner of Burnham pavilion, said: “Getting planning permission for the pier will make a huge difference. It’s really great news for the area and I hope everyone benefits from it.”

Ms Parkin was also impressed that Burnham received the coach award. She said: “They expanded the category this year so it could include places like the Isle of Wight and Liverpool. To think that we are in the top six is unbelievable. Little old Burnham has got it.”

Burnham Mayor Martin Cox said: “It’s an amazing achievement to gain following on from getting the flag for coach friendly status and to now be in the final of the coach friendliest destination of the year.

“My congratulations go to the coach team with yet another high-profile good news story that will encourage even more coaches into our town.”