Craig Ewan, Chair of the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards

I have the great honour this year of chairing HITA at a time that the tourism industry in the region is in very good shape.

It is a privilege to have succeeded Marina Huggett who was chair for four years and under whose guidance the awards have grown in stature, culminating in last year’s record-breaking entry.

HITA 2016 launch

Marina remains on the industry panel of the Scottish Thistle Awards and we are delighted to have her expertise and knowledge representing the Highlands and Islands on the national body and reporting back to the HITA board.

My aim as chairman is to continue Marina’s work in developing HITA as a major part of the industry’s calendar and for the iconic “piper trophies” to be the most sought-after in the business.

I will be helped by the hard working and enthusiastic HITA board which is made up of industry volunteers who give their time and energy because of their passion for tourism. Joining the board this year are Ivan Franssen, general manager at the Drumossie Hotel, Inverness; Inglis Lyon, managing director of Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd; Lorna Maclennan, strategic officer with The Highland Council’s Township Heritage Project; and Steve Christie, director and co-owner of Wilderness Scotland. It is great to welcome new faces and their fresh thinking to our discussions. I enjoy working in the Highlands with so many likeminded individuals where we strive to promote the Highlands as a region and to support each other in this endeavour.

Our vision is to deliver a unique and outstanding celebratory event which recognises the very best in the industry in this region. Whilst we have Scotland’s largest geographical region, we have the smallest by population. Despite this, I would however aim to attract the highest number of award nominations this year. A HITA award is now widely recognised as a significant achievement by customers, guests, staff and the business community which can be a fantastic boost to every business’s marketing activities.

We will openly promote and encourage excellence within Highlands and Islands tourism, formally recognising best practice in all sectors of this most important industry, through fair, open and honest judging. We will facilitate the process by which our area exemplars will progress to the national stage and will be accountable through demonstrating honesty and integrity at all times.

The awards will honour the best of the tourism businesses of all sizes in our region where visitor income is so essential to the economy. Against increasing competition worldwide we have to continue to improve and innovate to ensure facilities and customer service matches customer expectation.

We are lucky to live and work in a beautiful part of the world with priceless scenery and outstanding natural attractions but we also have to excel in customer care to ensure people stay here longer and return for more.

Winning, and even being shortlisted for a HITA, is a great achievement and one that can bring a number of business benefits. As well as being recognised amongst the best in your field, the process of entering can itself be a useful development tool as it can help highlight business strengths and identify areas for improvement.

Success can of course improve confidence in the workforce, help to gain valuable publicity and assist with recruiting more customers as well as with employee recruitment.

Finally, on behalf of the HITA board, I would like to offer our sincere thanks to all of our sponsors. Without their support for these awards, our prestigious ceremony to recognise the region’s top performers would not be possible.





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