Audrey Maclennan, Senior Tourism Manager, Highlands and Islands Enterprise
The increase in the number of entries to the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards this year reflects the health and vibrancy of the sector across the region.
HIE is delighted to support HITA as the tourism industry is crucial to the economy of the Highlands and Islands and proportionally more so than in the rest of Scotland.
The industry is worth £411 million to the region and employs 14 per cent of its workforce. Working with partners, especially VisitScotland, HIE is a key player in meeting the national ambitions to grow the value of the tourism sector, equating to an additional £600 million expenditure into the region.
Tourism is an extremely competitive industry, but businesses like those recognised in the awards are setting the standard for Scotland. Our businesses are helping to positions the Highlands and Islands as a premium destination for visitors.
The sector includes a wide range of accommodation establishments; visitor attractions; restaurants, bars and take-away food shops; travel agencies and tour operators; libraries; and sporting and other recreational activities.
Most visitors come to the area because of its natural and cultural heritage, and to participate in outdoor activities such as walking and cycling, mountain biking and even surfing.
Famous destinations such as the Isle of Skye and Loch Ness with its fabled monster attract large numbers of visitors each year. Global whisky companies such as Diageo and Pernod Ricard showcase their individual brands through 5-star visitor centres, distinctive cultural and sporting events and exciting food and drink festivals.
The Highlands and Islands is a top destination for extreme sports enthusiasts. Sponsored events such as the Corona Extra Wave Classic PWA Windsurfing Championships in Tiree, the Nissan World Cup Mountain Bike Championships in Fort William, and the O’Neill Highland Open Surfing Championships in Thurso showcase our sports resources and attractions to a worldwide audience.
Globally, tourism is the world’s largest industry in terms of outputs, creating some eight per cent of jobs worldwide and expanding annually at the rate of four-five per cent.
It will remain a key sector for HIE and one that can make a significant contribution to a competitive region.