International Women’s Day takes place today (8th March). Designed to celebrate women’s achievements, while calling out for a more gender-balanced world #BalanceforBetter.
We’ve been catching up with Elizabeth Mackintosh, who has made an outstanding contribution to tourism in the north of Scotland for more than five decades. Liz is the owner of Achmony Holidays, which provides self-catering accommodation overlooking Loch Ness. She’s been a pioneer in the self-catering sector and a founding member of the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers. After 50 years in the industry and with an infectious passion about the promotion of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, it’s no surprise that Liz was named the 2018 Highland Ambassador.
We were intrigued to hear Liz’s experience and whether she’s seen changes in the gender-balance of the industry. Liz said, “2018 marked my 50th year in self-catering and I’m happy to say there is notably more equality in the industry now”.
Liz was a key person in the establishment of the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards (HITA) and from the very beginning there has been a good gender balance with three other women on the Board. “It’s important that HITA is representative of our region, it’s a great success story which a number of women have been a core part of. HITA has evolved from a small scale event to an awarding body that encompasses all businesses in the Highlands and Islands, it’s something we’re really proud of. At the time, it seemed like a big leap of faith to invest time and money in the idea. However it has paid off and it’s great to see tourism businesses benefiting from the network, awards and experience HITA provides”.
“We are truly blessed to live in such a wonderful part of the world. I love to share it with our visitors so that they can experience the beauty and peace in our local surroundings. People leave feeling revitalised after their holiday and this drives me to keep going”.
Liz has become a mentor, guide and role model for many in the industry. So what’s her top bit of advice when it comes to women in business? “The advice I share to people who are just starting out is that they simply need to be the best that they can. Make each visitor to the area feel extra special, give them a warm welcome and a good dose of Highland hospitality. If you go the extra mile, where possible, it keeps guests smiling and hopefully they’ll spread the word, return again and bring their friends”.
We asked Liz if she has a women in mind who particularly inspire her, “There are so many inspiring ladies in the industry, it’s impossible to pick only one of them out. The other ladies that serve on the board (and of course the gentlemen) are all inspirational, working well together and always learning from each other”.
According to a Scottish Government research publication published in April 2018, just over half of the workforce within the Scottish tourism sector are female, although women are underrepresented in management and leadership. In this day and age, there’s still a great movement to fight to change the perception of women in business and we wanted to know how Liz felt about this in the tourism sector. “I believe we’re making progress but we still need to encourage more opportunities where both genders are presented on an equal basis. When I received the HITA Highland and Ambassador Award last year I was so shocked and very humbled. I hope it has encouraged other women in the industry that their hard work and commitment can get recognised. Everything I have done has always been for the greater good and I never ever thought of receiving such an accolade, hence the shock. Everyone was so kind and I received so many lovely cards and comments for weeks afterwards”.
The esteemed HITA are now in their 15th year. The aim is to identify, highlight and reward excellence throughout the hospitality industry within the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. All are encouraged to enter when nominations & entries open on the 15th March 2019.