Visit England Tourism Superstar

St Albans' own Christo Tofalli was a finalist for the VisitEngland TourismSuperstar award! Landlord of the UK's oldest pub, Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, he's worked incredibly hard to preserve and enhance this historic landmark and promote our beautiful St Albans.

Now in its seventh year, Tourism Superstar recognises and celebrates those individuals in the tourism industry who go the extra mile to ensure tourists in England have an amazing and unforgettable visitor experience. Tourism Superstar nominees are passionate about where they work and the destination they live in and consistently set the bar high for the standard of service in England's tourism industry.

Run in conjunction with the Daily Mirror, the campaign champions careers in tourism (for people of all ages) and promotes quality, customer service and excellence within England’s tourism industry.

Christo Tofalli Tourism Superstar VEMeet our finalist

Christo took over the oldest pub in the country in 2012 when it was struggling to attract visitors and has put it back on the map. He has turned the fortunes of this pub around, re-establishing it as an important landmark as well as a fantastic pub/ restaurant, while banging the drum for the city and UK tourism too.

The pub now regularly attracts visitors from as far afield as the USA and Australia. This building of historic significance is in safe hands.

The award was won by 'Dancing Jim': Jim O’Reilly, Customer Service Advisor, Red Funnel Ferries, Southampton/Isle of Wight. Congratulations to Jim!

Christo's nomination in full

Ye Olde Fighting Cocks is in the Guinness Book of Records as the oldest pub in the country.

Christo took over the pub in 2012 when it was struggling to attract visitors and, in the past 5 years he has put Ye Olde Fighting Cocks pub back on the map as an historic building. He has turned the fortunes of this pub around, re-establishing it as an important landmark as well as a fantastic pub/restaurant, while banging the drum for the city and UK tourism at the same time.

The pub now regularly attracts visitors from as far afield as the USA and Australia, as well as people from all over the UK and, of course, the local area.

His efforts have been recognised recently by Visit Herts when back in November, Ye Olde Fighting Cocks won Raising the Bar (Tourism Pub of the Year) Award.

Christo is well-known locally and also in the pub community across the UK, for his passion, energy, personal service, positive nature, massive smile and huge personality. He is determined to ensure that everyone has heard of St Albans, and that when they visit, they have the warmest personal welcome, the highest quality food and drink, and the most fantastic time.

He takes the responsibility as landlord of the country’s oldest pub very seriously, working tirelessly to spread the word about its history and the history of St Albans.

It is important to Christo that the standards of the welcome, the food and the drink are all excellent. To this end, Christo hired a new head chef three and a half years ago, who has worked under Michelin chefs. The reputation of the food in the pub has never been better. It is still quintessentially British pub fare, but it is of excellent quality, mainly locally sourced produce, with the flair and finish of a chef at the top of their game, and looks and tastes beautiful.

Christo is also passionate about his real ale and believes that any British pub, and especially one with the heritage of this one, situated in the home city of CAMRA, should have a fine selection of cask ales on offer. He now has 8 different real ales available, including the pub’s very own beer: Black Listed, created by local brewery Farr Brew.

In 2015, Christo found himself in the unlikely position of defending the pub’s name, when a story about PETA (protection of animals) demanding the pub change its name because of the animal cruelty connotations, became a national, and even international, news story, featuring in every UK national newspaper and on broadcast news programmes as far away as Australia. Christo – a great animal-lover- managed to defend the integrity of the pub’s name, and its place in the history of our country, while at the same time being gracious and supportive of PETA, earning the respect and approval of the media and PETA alike.

He promotes the city and other landmarks to his clientele, supporting events at St Albans Cathedral, the Christmas Market, the Alban Arena, the St Albans Film Festival, and the other pubs and restaurants in the city.

He regularly hosts groups of journalists and has achieved a huge amount of positive national press coverage for the pub and the city, and spoken about the heritage of St Albans on TV and radio news programmes.

An example of this is happening this week in the pub: Warner Brothers Denmark are filming part of a documentary in the pub. Christo is hosting Dom Jolly and Olly Smith, the presenters, and they will interview Christo about the history of beer.

All of this hard work is what led to Christo being nominated in the Raising the Bar (Tourism Pub of the Year) award, which he won.

Christo has also recently started publishing his own ‘pub paper’ – which also contains the pub menu - in a bid to give visitors to the pub information about St Albans and Herts and promote the area. Called YOFC Times, the first newspaper was published in May 2017 with two subsequent editions in July and December. The focus of the newspaper is to give members of the pub community, whether they are individuals, businesses or charities, the opportunity to tell people their story – and to give visitors to the pub interesting news, features and opinion about the local area.

The old coaching inns and alehouses sprung up initially to give travellers sustenance, and local people a place to meet, and share gossip about their local community. They fast became places where news was shared and disseminated across the country, as well as a hotbed of information about the local area. They were also places where newspapers could be bought and sold. In this age of social media and the internet, it seems fitting, therefore, that the oldest pub in the land should issue its own newspaper for the 21st century.

Christo works hard to protect and preserve the unique heritage of the pub, while at the same time continually innovating. He is always a supporter of other tourism events and attractions, complementing them with his own initiatives. So for the St Albans Film Festival, he installed a giant cinema screen in the garden of the pub, and created a pop-up cinema, showing classic horror films for 3 successive nights.

And Christo also embraced VisitEngland's #Homeofsport campaign and placed a giant screen in the pub garden for the duration of the World Cup, showing every match during the tournament. These initiatives demonstrated that you can move with the times, while retaining and celebrating the heritage of such an historic building.

Recently Christo has also added a selection of YOFC merchandise to his offering, so that tourists can take away a hoodie, or a tee shirt that is a memento of their visit to the country’s oldest pub.

All of Christo’s hard work is paying off: in 2017 Ye Olde Fighting Cocks has won the St Albans Food and Drink Festival’s award for BEST PUB, as well as the Hertfordshire Tourism award for RAISING THE BAR (Tourism Pub of the Year).

This building of huge historic significance is in safe hands.

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