With an all-time record number of 2015 entries now received, and HITA’s seasoned tourism industry judges getting to work on this year’s particularly tough task of picking winners, there’s an opportunity to reflect briefly on our work and its impacts.

Participation has grown steadily over five years and it’s particularly gratifying to see 190 entries and nominations received this year. This total was boosted with the inclusion of part of Argyll, but even without the boundary change the figure is nearly 40 per cent up on 2014.

Clearly, the awards not only highlight the burgeoning talent and innovation we have here in this area, but they also provide a reward – and a longstanding badge of excellence – for those who work long and hard to provide excellent service and to enhance the visitor experience.

In addition, so many entrants tell us that even the process of entering helps them take a fresh look at the quality, customer perspectives and other aspects of their operations, finding a perspective which is all too often constrained by the day to day demands of business life.

The wider benefits we hear about include the team-boosting effects of competing for and winning professional recognition. In fact, the ‘halo effect’ of receiving HITA awards is also known to extend more widely to local communities, who enjoy having winners in their midst and become a stronger force for customer recommendations and promotion.

The HITA gala evening itself provides a lively networking and mutual learning event for short-listed entrants, and a less-recognised spin-off is its record of fund-raising for charities.

Last year, HITA donated £2,250 to the Parkinson’s UK research programme and previous recipients include Alzheimer Scotland, Birchwood Highland and the Archie Foundation. Very shortly, we will be announcing the 2015 charity to be supported.

HITA has become a positive and progressive force for good amongst our tourism businesses and our communities. For this, there are many people to thank – including our backbone of sponsors, directors, judges and other supporters – and our rapidly-growing numbers of nominators and entrants.

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