Whilst tourism remains to be a key contributor to our economy, visitors’ expectations are continually growing and becoming more sophisticated. They want the best, any why shouldn’t they? They looking for experiences delivered to a consistently high quality at each step in the customer journey from arrival through to departure.

With this in mind, it is increasingly important to raise our game in Highlands and Islands tourism, so we maintain and further grow our reputation for service excellence and hospitality. The opportunities are there to accelerate growth and fulfil our potential – we need to grab these opportunities.

HITA’s philosophy is ultimately to reward businesses and individuals working within the Highlands and Islands tourism industry who strive to deliver quality authentic visitor experiences and provide inspiration for others to follow. We want to encourage every tourism business in the Highlands and Islands to be the best they can be. The Awards scheme not only provides a platform for the best businesses to be rewarded, but also communicates those businesses, their passion and success to peers, potential partners and customers locally and nationally.

I would like to ask all tourism business operating in our region to consider entering this year’s Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards. Each category is carefully considered,  is vitally important and is relevant to our industry . There is a category suitable for most (if not all) tourism businesses in our region.  I feel strongly that tourism is everyone’s business and last year there were some new categories introduced. It would be heartening to see more entries for the Best Shopping Experience this year. The retail sector plays a huge part in the success of our tourism industry and they need to be identified and recognised for their efforts!

Congratulations again to our 2012 winners who were all regional finalists at the Thistle Awards in Kelvingrove, Glasgow.  CairnGorm Mountain, Baxters Loch Ness Marathon and Festival of Running and Morag’s Lodge each succeeded in becoming Thistle Award winners. A high five to the three!

Each year it becomes more challenging to raise the funding to run our independent industry Board led awards scheme, and we are eternally grateful to all our sponsors for the unfailing loyalty and support they provide. I would also like to thank our independent judging panel in advance of their efforts for the 2013 scheme for their expertise and time.

The 2013 Awards ceremony and dinner will take place on 4th October 2013 at the Drumossie Hotel, Inverness – I look forward to welcoming you on the night.

Marina Huggett, chairperson of Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards

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