A gleaming new chrome-and-glass building is now welcoming guests to one of the North-east's premier holiday residences. The guests, though, will not be the two-legged variety but mainly dogs and cats checking in for some pampering while their owners are away on their own vacation.
Triple 'A' Animal Hotel & Care Centre, a past winner in these awards, was clear victor in this year's Consumer Services category at a time when it is about to step up another gear.
The new state-of-the-art facility at its base near Newcastle is planned to be just the first in a nationwide roll-out of pet-care centres, in conjunction with a multinational company whose involvement remains top secret.
Nevertheless, it was on the basis of its achievements to date, rather than future plans, that Triple 'A' was chosen as category winner. This organisation has never stopped innovating, and has a battery of quality and improvement systems in place that few can begin to emulate.
The Triple 'A' story began more than 18 years ago, when founders Anne and Arthur Adlington were about to go on holiday but couldn't find any kennels that they found acceptable to leave their Afghan hound with. They decided to set up their own kennels and were soon embarking on a course that would turn a hobbyist occupation into a serious business run to professional standards.
Among the great product innovations of Triple 'A' have been three-room luxury pet apartments; video recorders in each room, where you, the owners, can leave a video tape of your animal's favourite programme (or even yourselves); and packages where you pay between pounds 10 and pounds 63 per day for a prescribed number of walks and cuddles.
Now Triple 'A' is about to put another great idea into operation: web-cams, so that you can log on to the Triple 'A' web site and have a look at your pet from the beach in Marbella. The idea, characteristically, came from customers, a constant source of advice and feedback, some of whose pets already have their own web sites.
The quality of care that pets receive at Triple 'A' is already legendary.
Everything - eating, behaviour, outputs - is monitored carefully on charts outside their accommodation and carefully reported to the owners on their return. The individual processes involved in looking after pets have long been recorded in reference manuals but are now being fed direct to staff via hand-held terminals.
The centre's operations run like a smoothly oiled machine. Bookings are fed into resource allocation to ensure that both accommodation and human carers are available.
There is seldom an unsmiling face on show at Triple 'A'.
A remarkable system has been designed to spot any problems among staff.
Each week, every staff member provides a brief appraisal of all the others, a process that forces everyone to engage with their colleagues. Each one is given five gold stars to hand out daily to colleagues for good work, and there is public recognition of exceptional service as well as financial rewards for external qualifications achieved.
The real endorsement comes from customers, though, who have consistently showered Triple 'A' with praise and gratitude in letters that are on open display. Every owner gets a follow-up call to check that they are happy with the service they have received. The pets may not be able to speak themselves, but from the wagging tails it is a fair bet that the owners' appreciation is shared.