Chair of Judging Panel gives Top Tips on the Application Process

Winning an award not only feels good, it can offer tangible benefits to your business as well as help spread the word about who you are and what you do.

The Highlands & Islands Tourism Awards – known as HITA – are now in their 15th year and aim to highlight and reward excellence throughout the hospitality industry within the Highlands and Islands.

But how do you go about creating an award-winning entry, one that will really make you stand out from the crowd?

Calum Ross, the proprietor of Loch Melfort Hotel near Oban, is a previous winner of the acclaimed ambassador prize and now chairs the judging panel.

He has spent almost 30 years in the hospitality industry and contributes to a range of organisations pushing to improve tourism in the region and across the country.

He says a good application is easy to read, gives clear and concise information that is supported by the business website and by feedback from users via online content such as TripAdvisor.

“Read the questions very carefully and be sure to answer them fully, providing the information and evidence requested,” he said.

“Use the full word count allocation but don’t exceed it either.“Prepare by researching previous winners’ websites, social media and user-generated content, plus that of who you consider to be your closest competitors.

“Write and submit your own entry – don’t let anyone else or an agency do it on your behalf!”

It’s not only the winners who benefit from the HITA process – just by stopping to think about what part of your business is worth shouting about can help improve how you work.

The awards cover a range of categories and Calum says anyone who wants to grow or develop their business should consider applying.

“Entering for an award is a great way to focus your mind and those of your team on what is really great about your business – and of course perhaps one or two things that you could improve,” he said.

“Any award is a good PR opportunity for any business, so depending on how you use it, it can drive new visits and likes to your website and social media channels.”

The deadline for entries is June 24 and details on the application process can be found here.

Calum has a range of experience to draw on, not only from his own business but from working with others across the industry.

He is the chairman of UKHospitality (Scotland) and a director of its UK arm, he is on the board of the Scottish Tourism Alliance, co-chairs the Oban and Lorn Tourism Alliance and helped set up Argyll and the Isles Tourism six years ago.

“Why?” he said. “A basic belief that if something needs to change then best get on and make it happen rather than relying on others – that plus the power of networking brings benefits to all, both professionally and personally.”

In 2015 Calum was nominated and received the HITA ambassador of the year award for his work in developing and leading the drive for collaborative working across the sector.

“I was personally humbled and honoured to receive the ambassador award – but equally it was great to be recognised for the contribution that I have made (and make) to the industry at large,” he said.

“As an owner of an award-winning tourism business I recognise the value and importance of the HITAs and was delighted and honoured to be asked to join the judging panel a number of years ago.”

A shortlist will be drawn up from this year’s entrants by the judging panel in September ahead of the awards ceremony and dinner on November 1 at the Drumossie Hotel in Inverness.

So take some time to think about your business and what being a HITA winner could mean for you. It could be the start of something special.

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