Craig Ewan, Chair of the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards

After a record-breaking year in 2016, we have a clear target to surpass to continue the progress of HITA this year.

A fantastic 203 businesses or individuals entered or were nominated for awards last year, the biggest ever response in the event’s history.

I was very proud to have chaired the event in 2016 and I am determined to keep the success and momentum going as we launch this year’s search for the best in the industry.

HITA is highly regarded within the industry as one of the premier awards programmes and our iconic piper trophies are much sought after. They are a symbol of excellence, a sign of quality for visitors and a reward for staff who have achieved a significant standard of service.

Of course, winning is the ultimate goal, but we are reminded every year by businesses and individuals that entering can be an important milestone for them. It encourages a re-assessment of what they are doing and why, stimulates them to raise the bar even higher and prompts innovation to stay ahead in a highly competitive sector.

I am grateful for the hard work and dedication shown by the HITA board, which is made up of industry volunteers who give their time and energy because of their continuing desire to improve tourism in this area.

We are all delighted to have SSE back as a headline sponsor once again. On behalf of all the board I would like to thank SSE for the outstanding job they do in supporting and promoting tourism in this area. It is extremely rewarding to have such an enthusiastic sponsor with whom we work so well.

I also want to thank all our other sponsors who make the awards programme and our prestigious ceremony possible. This year we welcome aboard two new supporters in Historic Environment Scotland and BidFood Scotland and we are grateful for their efforts to help HITA build on our success.

As usual, we will be searching for the best in all aspects of our industry, from food and drink to accommodation and from cultural events to adventure holidays.

This year, in line with Scotland’s themed Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology, we have introduced a new category, Best Heritage Tourism Experience. It’s hard to imagine an area better suited than the Highlands and Islands to excel in this category with our strong links to the Gaelic language, our wealth of ancient sites and our fascinating and colourful traditions. I expect this category to produce some wonderful entries and a hard-fought competition.

It will be another major challenge this year for our judges, but one that we are all looking forward to immensely.

Whoever succeeds in November, they will be worthy representatives of the Highlands and Islands and our proud industry. And it is fantastic that they go on the represent the area and go head-to-head with others from across the country to celebrate excellence in Scotland at the national Thistle Awards.

Good luck everyone

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