Author: CN

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10th Annual Tourism Awards Winners Revealed

The Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards (HITA) winners were revealed on Friday 7 November at a glittering ceremony and dinner attended by 300 tourism professionals from the region. The event was held at the Kingsmills Hotel, Inverness and hosted by STV’s Nicola McAlley.
HITA chair, Marina Huggett said: “The exceptional quality of the finalists this year demonstrates how much the visitor product in the Highlands and Islands has improved and continues to improve. On behalf of the board and the judging panel, our most sincere congratulations to all the winners.”

Taking home honours in the accommodation categories were Kinloch Lodge, Isle of Skye for Most Hospitable Hotel, Rockpool House, Ardnamurchan, for Most Hospitable B&B or Guest House and Eagle Brae, Strathglass, for Best Holiday Accommodation.

HITA’s dining out categories went to deserving winners Rockpool Café, Cullen, Moray for Best Informal Eating Experience and Station Road, The Lovat, Loch Ness, Inverness-shire for Best Restaurant Experience.

The award for Best Event or Festival was given to Hebridean Celtic Festival, Isle of Lewis; the Best Outdoor/Adventure Experience award went to Kilda Cruises, Harris and Best Visitor Attraction was won by Eilean Donan Castle, Kyle of Lochalsh.

Our Warmest Welcome Award was taken by Highland Experience Tours who operate throughout the Highlands and the Discovering Scotland Award went to Doreen Brown and the Shetland Collection, Orcadia, Shetland.

This year the panel selected Links House, Dornoch, Sutherland to receive HITA’s Judges Special Award for their “commitment and vision to quality” and “bringing a new level of luxury to the northern Highlands.”

HITA’s prestigious ambassador awards were presented to Isla Urquhart of The Loch Ness Inn for Young Ambassador of the Year 2014 and David Urquhart, non-executive director of Gordon & MacPhail and a leading member of Forres Events Ltd, for Ambassador of the Year 2014.

Headline sponsor and category sponsor of the Young Ambassador of the Year category, SSE’s George Baxter commented: “SSE is proud to support these prestigious awards for the second year running and I am delighted there has again been a record numbers of entries; testament to the growing appetite for recognition of strong businesses in the Highlands and Islands.  The passion and the values that underpin HITA are a natural fit with SSE’s commitment to supporting Highland economies and communities, be it through our hydro and other renewable energy projects, our electricity networks, our commitment to local businesses or our community investment funds. I wish warm congratulations to each of the winners”.

HITA, which now acts as the Highlands and Islands regional heat for the Scottish Thistle Awards, selected the 2014 categories to reflect the importance of the customer experience in the region and also to streamline the route for HITA winners to the national stage. Each HITA 2014 winner, with the exception of the Ambassadors, will automatically become a finalist at the Scottish Thistle Awards 2015, along with the front-runners from the North East, Central South East and Central South West regional heats.

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HITA 2014 FINALISTS ANNOUNCED!

The finalists for the 2014 Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards have been announced!Congratulations to all.Most Hospitable Hotel: Links House (Dornoch, Sutherland), Premier Inn (Inverness), Kinloch Lodge (Isleornsay, Skye)Most Hospitable B&B/Guest House: Ard Daraich (Fort William), Rockpool House (Ardnamurchan, Wester Ross), The Dulaig Bed & Breakfast (Grantown on Spey), Lochshore House Bed & Breakfast (Portree, Skye)Best Holiday Accommodation: The Brochs of Coigach (Achiltibuie, Ross-shire), Morag’s Lodge (Fort Augustus, Inverness-shire), Old Granary and Puffin Quoy (Orphir, Orkney), Eagle Brae (Strathglass, Inverness-shire)Best Informal Eating Experience: Rockpool Café (Cullen, Moray), The Trawler (Golspie, Sutherland), The Loch Ness Inn (Loch Ness, Inverness-shire), The Pier Café (Lairg, Sutherland)Best Restaurant Experience: Scalloway Hotel (Scalloway, Shetland) The New Drumossie Hotel (Inverness), Station Road (The Lovat, Loch Ness), Red Poppy Restaurant (Strathpeffer, Ross-shire)Best Event or Festival: Forres Events Ltd – Piping Hot Forres (Forres, Moray) Celtman Triathlon (Wester Ross) Hebridean Celtic Festival (Lewis) Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival (Speyside).Best Outdoor/Adventure Experience: Experience 4×4 (Lochduntelchaig, Inverness-shire), Paddle Lochaber (Glencoe) Kilda Cruises (Harris), Cruise Loch Ness (Loch Ness, Inverness-shire)Our Warmest Welcome Award: Distant Hills Guest House (Spean Bridge, Fort William), Highland Experience Tours (operating throughout the Highlands), Skye Batiks (Portree, Skye)Best Visitor Attraction: Eilean Donan Castle (Kyle of Lochalsh), Hebrides Art (Harris) Craggan Outdoors (Grantown on Spey), Strathisla Distillery – Chivas (Keith, Moray)Discovering Scotland Award: Shetland Collection (Orcadia, Shetland), Majestic Line (Oban), Highland Wifi (Portree, Skye), WOW Scotland (Inverness)Young Ambassador of the Year: Carlyn Kearney of Frankie’s Fish & Chips, Eilidh Todd of North Highland Initiative, Isla Urquhart of The Loch Ness InnEntries for the nationally awarded Creative Ambition category have been passed to the Scottish Thistle Awards for consideration along with their shortlisted peers from the other regional heats in Scotland.The winner of the Ambassador of the Year accolade will be announced at the HITA ceremony and gala dinner at the Kingsmills Hotel, Inverness on Friday 7 November 2014 with the other category winners.Each HITA 2014 winner, with the exception of the Ambassadors, will automatically become a finalist at the Scottish Thistle Awards 2015, along with the front-runners from the North East, Central South East and Central South West regional heats.www.highland-tourism-awards.co.uk  

News

It is almost DEADLINE day for nominations! Who do you love?

DEADLINE: Tuesday 13th May for nominations! Who do you love? Who delivers the best experience and warmest welcome? Do you have a favourite eatery or bar, accommodation provider, festival or event, visitor attraction or outdoor activity provider?

Nominate them for an HITA award at www.highland-tourism-awards.co.uk

Businesses can still self-register and create their entries until 13th June here: www.highland-tourism-awards.co.uk/signup

Good luck everyone!

 

 

 

News

HITA 2014 Categories and How To Nominate

HITA have been working on an entirely new and refreshing approach to rewarding and recognising the excellence that exists within the Highlands and Islands tourism industry. In 2014 we are offering the opportunity for anyone to nominate a business or person that they feel deserves recognition. Tourism businesses will still be able to register and complete an entry without being nominated.

The new award categories have been selected to reflect the importance of the customer experience in our region and also to streamline the route for our winners to the national stage at the Scottish Thistle Awards. Each HITA 2014 winner, with the exception of our Ambassadors, will automatically become a finalist at the Scottish Thistle Awards 2014.

Most Hospitable Hotel
Most Hospitable B&B/Guest House
Best Holiday Accommodation
Best Informal Eating Experience
Best Restaurant Experience
Friendliest Pub/Bar
Best Event or Festival
Best Outdoor/Adventure Experience
Our Warmest Welcome
Best Visitor Attraction
Creative Ambition Award (Regional nominations for national presentation, no regional winners drawn in this category)
Discovering Scotland Award (National award, no regional winner)
Young Ambassador Award (30 years old and under)
Ambassador Award (30 years old and over)

Nominate now!

Anyone can nominate a company or individual or register themselves* by completing the form online at www.highland-tourism-awards.co.uk
The winners will be announced at the HITA ceremony and gala dinner in Inverness on Friday 7 November 2014 at the Kingsmills Hotel, Kingsclub & Spa in Inverness.

 

*Young Ambassador and Ambassador hopefuls cannot enter themselves, they must be nominated by another party.

News

Putting the Highlands and Islands firmly on the map in 2014

 

By Marina Huggett
Chair of HITA 2014:

We are delighted to announce the launch of the 10th Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards. The success of the awards has grown each year and in 2013 seven of our winners went on to become champions in the national Thistle Awards programme. This clearly demonstrates the high quality of visitor experience within the area. This is the year the Highlands and Islands will have the chance to “welcome the world” with the Commonwealth Games and the Ryder Cup being hosted in Scotland. In addition the Lewis and Harris was very recently voted Top Island in Europe and one of the top five in the world on Tripadvisor. We can therefore be optimistic that the future of tourism in our region is officially on the up and has never before felt so alive.

At HITA we try our best to practice what we preach and to never stand still or be complacent. After listening to feedback from participants, we have been working on an entirely new and refreshing approach to rewarding and recognising the excellence that exists within the region. In 2014 the revisions offer an opportunity for anyone to nominate a business or person that they feel deserves recognition.

The award categories have been selected to reflect the importance of the customer experience as highlighted in the Scottish Tourism Alliance 2020 strategy for growth within the industry. The vision is to make Scotland the first choice destination for those looking for a high quality, value for money and memorable visitor experience. The whole thrust of the industry’s 2020 strategy is maximising the potential of our Scottish assets to create rich experiences for visitors.  In 2014, the judges will be focusing on the customer experience.  They are looking for ways in which the people operating Highlands and Islands tourism businesses have used our nature, heritage and ingenuity to “go the extra mile” for visitors in creating something particularly positive in terms of customer service excellence.

This refreshed approach will be followed through by inviting the nominated businesses to complete a few simple questions as evidence to back up their nomination.

We would encourage everyone to nominate or self nominate the businesses or individuals whom they feel go the extra mile for our visitors and demonstrate passion and quality in the visitor experience.

www.highland-tourism-awards.co.uk

News

Ten Years Recognising Tourism Excellence Celebrated

HITA launches 10th Tourism Awards Programme for the Highlands and Islands

In 10 years, the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards (HITA) has grown from a fledgling and aspiring tourism recognition programme, to what it is today, a nationally respected awards series, privately funded and steered by a board of industry leaders from across the Highlands and Islands.

“We are delighted to announce our annual tourism awards programme open for submissions. This year is a big year for celebration. Not only is it HITA’s 10th anniversary, but tourism in the Highlands and Islands, and in Scotland as a whole, has never felt so alive, with the Commonwealth Games and the Ryder Cup being hosted here.” said Marina Huggett, HITA 2014 chair.

“In addition, Lewis and Harris was very recently voted Top Island in Europe and one of the top five in the world on Tripadvisor. These are strong indicators that the future of tourism in our region is officially on the up.”

The continuous and support from sponsors, affiliates and a dedicated board of directors has meant that every year since 2005 HITA have been able to reward and showcase the depth and breadth of tourism talent we have in the region. In addition, the awards programme has managed to maintain the ‘free to enter’ process for entrants every year.

George Baxter of lead sponsor SSE commented: “SSE is proud to be headline sponsor of the prestigious Highlands and Islands Tourism awards for the second year running.  Last year’s competition saw a record number of entries which is testament to the growing appetite for recognition of strong businesses in the region; let’s hope interest will be even higher in 2014, HITA’s 10th year.  Rooted in the north of Scotland, SSE has evolved in partnership with the Highland tourism sector.  The passion and the values that drive these awards are a natural fit with our commitment to supporting the Highland economy and communities, be it through the responsible development of our hydro and other renewable energy projects, our electricity networks, our work with local businesses or our community investment funds.”

HITA have been working on a new approach to rewarding and recognising the excellence that exists within the Highlands and Islands tourism industry. In 2014, HITA offer the opportunity for anyone to nominate a business or person that they feel deserves recognition. Tourism businesses will still be able to register and complete an entry without being nominated.

HITA’s new award categories have been selected to reflect the importance of the customer experience in the Highlands and Islands region and also to streamline the route for HITA winners to the national stage at the Scottish Thistle Awards. Each HITA 2014 winner, with the exception of the Ambassadors, will automatically become a finalist at the Scottish Thistle Awards 2015.

There are 14 categories for the 2014 awards programme: Most Hospitable Hotel, Most Hospitable B&B/Guest House, Best Holiday Accommodation, Best Informal Eating Experience, Best Restaurant Experience, Friendliest Pub/Bar, Best Event or Festival, Best Outdoor/Adventure Experience, Our Warmest Welcome, Best Visitor Attraction, Discovering Scotland Award, Young Ambassador Award, Ambassador Award and the Creative Ambition Award.

Anyone can nominate a company or individual or register their own business by completing the form online at www.highland-tourism-awards.co.uk. The winners will be announced at the HITA ceremony and gala dinner at the Kingsmills Hotel, Inverness on Friday 7 November 2014.

News

We caught up with The Culloden Run!

Just before the end of the year, we interviewed the organisers of the Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland Culloden Run to hear their thoughts on winning awards and learn why the event is so special. Here is what they told us:

How did it feel to have won at the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards 2013?
Everyone involved with the Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland Culloden Run event was absolutely delighted to have won ‘best sporting event’ at the 2013 HITA awards. As a relatively small and new sporting event, it was wonderfully rewarding to be recognised in this way and it provides a valued appreciation to all those who work so hard over many hours to make the event happen. This prestigious award really enhances the event and also provides positive motivation to the team behind it.

Do you feel, as a tourism business, that winning awards has a positive impact on your event?
Without doubt winning an award enhances the reputation of an event and clearly suggests that a peer review of the event has shown the quality and economic benefits of the event are readily evident against similar events. The award will only enhance subsequent marketing and attracting more entrants and also gives the whole organisation a valued morale boost and sense of pride – both for CHSS and NTS Culloden staff. The award system is a clear benchmarking tool for us.

What makes the Culloden Run such a special event?
The Culloden Run event is a unique partnership between CHSS and the NTS and was designed to have mutual benefits for both parties. The event takes place at an iconic venue and the skills and talents of both parties ensure that the overall experience for participants is as high a quality level as possible and always seeking to improve and enhance the experience.

What can we expect from the event in 2014?
2014 will see the third staging of the award winning Culloden Run event on October 26th and we are aiming to be bigger and better than ever!

We also hope to announce a brand new adrenaline event in the Highlands for summer 2014 but await final confirmation in the next few weeks!

www.thecullodenrun.com

News

What does Homecoming Scotland 2014 have in store for our region?

 With more than 430 Homecoming Scotland events planned so far, 2014 is shaping up to be an action packed year for both locals and visitors. To share the sense of building excitement from those at the heart of the planning, Director of Homecoming Scotland 2014 Caroline Packman takes a look at what the year has in store for us.

What is Homecoming Scotland 2014?         

For those who aren’t so familiar with Homecoming, it’s a celebration of Scotland; an opportunity for each and every one of us to celebrate our ‘home’, but also for those with links to Scotland to explore their heritage. Launched under a fire and light spectacular across the country on Hogmanay, Homecoming Scotland 2014 brings twelve exciting months of fantastic events celebrating all that’s great about our country and placing the spotlight on our greatest assets and icons.

At the heart of the year lies an inspirational programme of events and festivals which fall under five themes: ancestry, natural, active, food and drink and creative.  Running until 31st December, 2014, we’ve made sure the event programme has something for everyone, whether it’s longing to hear the skirl of the bagpipes at Piping Live, sampling a traditional Highland Games, climbing to the top of the Forth Road Bridge as part of the Forth Bridges Festival, sipping on a single malt as part of Whisky Month, or mixing with the best of today’s music performers at The MTV Europe Music Awards.  We have so much to look forward to!

The Highlands & Islands have a number of fantastic events as part of this year’s programme including:

Whisky Month (May) which includes Spirit of Speyside Festival (1-5 May)
Orkney Nature Festival (10-18 May)
Year of Ancient Ancestors (15-25 May)
Hebridean Celtic Festival (16-19 July)
Shetland Fiddle Frenzy (3 – 8 August)
Harris Tweed Hebrides Tattoo (8-9 August)
Celebration of the Centuries (9-10 August)
2014 World Sheepdog Trials (3-6 September)
The Inverness Highland Meeting (12-14 September)
Baxters Loch Ness Marathon & Festival of Running (27-28 September)
Highland Homecoming (1 Sep-31 October)

For all the Homecoming event listings please visit www.homecomingscotland.com

Something for everyone!

For me, what makes 2014 so special is the fact that there really is something for everyone – why not have a look through the varied events programme or check out the Homecoming Scotland advert on a TV screen near you – catch it here.  As well as the TV advert, a promotional campaign has been launched on radio and in print.  We also have a special Homecoming App, enabling users to search events, bookmark favourites, and check in while at events and take photos to seamlessly share with friends and family. Visitors can also download a special e-brochure.

You can reap rewards too

Of course, the Homecoming programme isn’t just geared up for visitors – tourism businesses can reap the rewards too! Scotland is taking centre stage with a programme of global events that represent an unprecedented opportunity for Scottish tourism businesses – for example, in 2009; the first Year of Homecoming saw 71% of Scottish Tourism businesses report a benefit.  These events are not just an opportunity for big attractions or city-based businesses

The Homecoming Toolkit is also available on visitscotland.org  and contains a range of free to use marketing tools to help support events and businesses.

So all that’s left to say is get at least one event in your diary, but most of all enjoy!

News

We talk to the multi-award winning Tiree Music Festival organisers…

Having just won another prestigious accolade over the weekend at the 2013 Scots Trad Music Awards, we think the Tiree Music Festival can safely attach ‘Multi-award winning’ to its name! Last week the organisers were kind enought to let us interview them for the HITA blog and here is what they told us…

Congratulations Tiree Music Festival!

How did it feel to win ‘Best Cultural Event’ at the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards 2013?
We have been very fortunate to have collected four awards this year at different ceremonies however the HITA night was very special as it was the biggest shock to us, we honestly didn’t think we stood a chance against the Belladrum Festival.

Returning to Tiree, there were a group of locals waiting at the ferry terminal to meet the team and award which was a very special moment.

Do you feel, as a tourism business, that winning awards has a positive impact on your business?
As for positive impact, our next festival is not until 2014 and so we will not be able to comment on how it has affected numbers or sales. It has definitely affected exposure and social media growth.

Creating an award entry was a fantastic way of evaluating our event; it allows a slick summary of the event and highlights the key stats that form the basis of our decision making for future events

What do you think is most special about the Tiree Music Festival?
The Island (Tiree) is the most special part of TMF. Aside from that, we need to give a special mention to our team who have shown incredible commitment and drive to improving the festival year on year.

From our feedback survey, we know that what makes TMF special is the atmosphere at the event. Being a small festival it is very important that it is a relaxed, safe atmosphere.

Any other news? And what’s next for the Tiree Music Festival?
We are currently working on a new site layout for TMF2014. Can’t say any more than that just now as it is top secret…

Since winning at HITA, we won the national Scottish Thistle Award for ‘Best Cultural Event’, which was an incredible achievement and then most recently, we won our fourth award of the year at the Scots Trad Music Awards, held on Saturday 7 December.

The Tiree Music Festival will take place from 18 – 20 July 2014.

Get in touch with the Tiree Music Festival:

Call them: 07789902373

Visit them: www.tireemusicfestival.co.uk

Like them: www.facebook.com/TireeMusicFestival

Tweet them: @TireeMusicFest

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Wemyss House – We talk to the owners of the best B&B/Guest House in the region!

Reading through the answers from Christine and Stuart from Wemyss House has left us feeling really warmed on this cold winter’s morning, not least because of the mentions of homemade bread and marmalade!  It has also left us feeling very proud. They are two exceptional people who have created and maintain one of the most outstanding tourism businesses in our region. Read on to learn what they do and how they do it…

 

Congratulations again on your award win! How does it feel to have won at the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards 2013?
We were surprised and delighted to hear we had been short-listed for the Tourism Awards.

The HITA event in October at the Drumossie Hotel was fantastic and then to find ourselves the winners of the Best B&B/Guest house category was totally ‘mind-blowing’ – we never expected it and it took some while to sink in.

As winners we feel honoured to represent the Highlands and Islands, and totally committed to providing excellent customer service and memorable Tourism experience.

 

What impact does winning awards have on your business?
The award can do nothing but have a positive impact for our business. In business terms it has put us and Wemyss House ‘on the map’, introduced us to other business providers through direct contact and social media and from those points alone it has and is having a positive benefit.

Also the award has had a positive impact on us, ourselves ,as the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards has recognised the work and attention to detail we have put in and commended us as providing ‘exceptional quality’.

All awards help towards visitor choice. This award, which we advertise on our website, will show prospective visitors and tourists that we have been recognised by the Highlands and Islands as the Best B&B/Guest House and as an indication of quality, will, we hope, lead to increased visitor numbers and returners.

The process of entering the HITA awards was done over a period of time – it is not something which can be done in a hurry.  To make it fair across all categories, the questions have to be answered in 400 words so that alone is enough to make you think just what is important to you and your business.

The whole thing proved to be an examination of what, why and how your business operates.  You had to think hard about each question, make notes, discuss with your business partner (s) and then encapsulate the answer in a short paragraph. Only the important elements could go forward…no padding!

This self-evaluation was something all businesses should do but probably never find the time to sit down and ask ‘where am I going with this, how can I learn from past events and how can we improve in the future what we are offering the customer?

 

Tell us a bit about what is most special about Wemyss House?
Our business is special because as a couple, we have been able to address every issue ourselves, making sure that everything is done to our high standards and attention to detail… from the welcome, the cleanliness and comfort of the rooms, the quality of the food and the time we offer to our guests, listening to them and helping them make the most out of their stay. Of course this is also to our benefit as happy and contented guests are the ones most likely to return, and return they do!

When customers give a review about their stay at Wemyss House, they talk about us as hosts, so we know that welcoming, talking and understanding the needs of your guests is paramount.

The other item mentioned by guests, one of our USPs, is the quality and presentation of the food. The food we buy for the guests is of the best quality and preparation. We do not save money by giving them less than we would expect ourselves.

In February 2013 we were awarded a Silver in the World Marmalade Competition in Cumbria, judged by the ex MD of Tiptree Jams. This award proved so worthwhile and has been such a talking point at breakfast. No marmalade was available for sale as we had only made enough for the B&B, but we could have sold many, many jars to guests had we known to make more. We shall know another time!

We think Wemyss House is also special as Stuart has handmade most of the furniture in the bedrooms and around the house. The guests eat dinner and breakfast –with our homemade bread, yogurt, preserves from his handmade table and we have many local works of art, tweeds and pottery around the house. Also the new contemporary entrance extension built by Stuart and myself has proved very popular with guests especially for relaxing evenings chatting and watching the sun go down over the Cromarty Firth.

 

Are there any new developments for Wemyss House in the near future we can look out for?
During the winter we are upgrading to enhance the visitor experience with luxury contemporary pieces from Matki and Kohler in one of our double en-suite bathrooms.

January 2014 sees the Seville Oranges come into the shops so marmalade making will be on the agenda …question is do we enter the competition and if so how many jars do we make, in case it is judged to be a good batch? Hummm…

The help from HIE has been put to good effect this year and help from the digital team has set us up with Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. It felt like an uphill journey to begin with but now we have the hang of it we realise the benefits of ‘keeping in the loop’ of Highlands and Islands businesses and providing a good image and offers for guests on our Facebook page. Pinterest can also be utilised to promote tourism (I have added Pictish Cross Slabs). So all in all, 2013 with the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards and great help from HIE has been wonderful and we offer our thanks to all who have made this possible for us.

Thank you HITA and HIE from Christine and Stuart at Wemyss House!

 

Wemyss House
Phone:       +44 1862-851212

Web:           www.wemysshouse.com

Facebook:  wemyss house B&B

Twitter:      @wemysshouse

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