Tag: ambassador

News

SMALL BUSINESSES ARE KEY TO HIGHLAND TOURISM

BY AMANDA FRAZER, CHAIR, HIGHLANDS AND ISLANDS REGION, FEDERATION OF SMALL BUSINESSES

A quality visitor experience is one of the key elements underpinning the economy of the Highlands and Islands, where small but ambitious businesses dominate the tourism sector.

The Federation of Small Businesses provides a wide range of support and networking services to many such companies, and our sponsorship for the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards also reflects the importance we attach to constantly encouraging excellence and innovation.

The awards provide an invaluable source of recognition- and a stimulus for increased cohesion in the tourism industry- and they have created a reference point with terrific examples for aspiring industry players.

Around 25 per cent of the FSB’s 20,000-strong Scottish membership is in this sector and its wellbeing is therefore of the greatest interest to us. Last summer, we published the most comprehensive report ever undertaken on Scotland’s small tourism businesses: “Eating, Sleeping, Shopping, Doing – Small Businesses and the Scottish Tourism Strategy.”

The report demonstrated their largely under-recognised degree of ambition, energy and drive, together with their positive growth trend and further prospects, and the fact that they are particularly concentrated in rural areas such as the Highlands and Islands.

Our conclusions from this work included the fact that, though largely self-reliant and highly self-motivated, these businesses can benefit from more joined-up public support, to help address growth barriers including energy costs, transport infrastructure and, most important of all, blanket fast broadband and mobile phone coverage

There remains a need for a more concerted overall approach to tourism development but HITA demonstrates how well our tourism businesses contribute. It shows they are more than capable of performing at very high standards and benefiting the economy through surpassing customer expectations to generate the revenues and profits required for sustainability and further growth.

News

CELEBRATING ONE OF OUR MOST IMPORTANT INDUSTRIES

BY MIKE CANTLAY, CHAIRMAN OF VISITSCOTLAND

Winning a HITA, and progressing to participate in the Scottish Thistle Awards, is a badge of honour and something tourism businesses are rightly proud to be associated with.

Success here demonstrates not only peer recognition of excellence and innovation but it also provides a public recommendation that businesses are doing something special when it comes to welcoming visitors.

Leading lights from the Highlands and Islands are sought out and celebrated through HITA and the entire process – from HITA nominations to the fantastic regional final and the glittering grand Scottish Thistle Awards finale – is a celebration of what is one of our most important industries.

Tourism is more than a holiday experience – it creates jobs, sustains communities and contributes billions of pounds to the Scottish economy.

That’s why we often talk about tourism being everybody’s business. We can all play a part in growing, enhancing and promoting our industry and that’s a role that the HITA organisation, with its board of directors and judges representing many decades of successful tourism experience between them, is helping to fulfil by example and with style.

News

PICKING A HITA WINNER – OUR MOST DIFFICULT CHOICE EVER

Freda Newton, chair of HITA judging panel

With a record number of businesses vying for the coveted piper trophies, judging the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards this year has been harder than ever.

The nine judges submitted their scoring today having scrutinised 190 entries in 15 categories over the last nine weeks. Our final meeting on 3 September will determine this year’s shortlist to be announced on 18 September.

The number of entries and nominations has been boosted this year with the inclusion of part of Argyll, but even without the boundary change the figure is nearly 40 per cent up on 2014, giving the judges an onerous task in deciding the finalists.

It’s an enormous responsibility and no one should under-estimate the time it takes to read, analyse and compare so many entries. Credit is due to the judges for the time they devote to this, especially during such a busy period for their own businesses.

It is, however, an extremely rewarding task. I can honestly say the standard has never been higher and it is hugely encouraging to see so many dedicated and talented people involved in our industry providing such good service to our visitors.

So how are businesses judged? The overarching theme for the HITA and Scottish Thistle Awards is ‘the customer experience’, so we are not looking for who is the biggest, or has spent the most money, but who gives the best experience.

Our judges have been drawn from across the Highlands to represent a variety of geographical locations as well as different aspects of the tourism sector.

Each judge views around 60 entries online and will apply a score to each. In addition they can use personal knowledge, contact peers for further information and can also take into account websites and trip advisor results.

Our meeting on 3 September will formalise the positioning. We could have – and this has happened previously – a tie after the judges scoring and that’s when the debate starts!

Many of us on the judging panel have won HITA or other awards so we know how important winning, or even making the shortlist, can be. That is why we have been – and will be – so dutiful in our deliberations.

 

News

HIGHLAND TOURISM AWARDS HELPS CHAS WITH CHARITY WORK

A voluntary organisation that supports children and their families coping with life-shortening conditions has been selected as the charity beneficiary of the 2015 Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards (HITA).

Children’s Hospice Association Scotland (CHAS) assists over 350 families with specialist care across the country, including home care services from a base in Inverness.

HITA Chair Marina Huggett said: “Our board selected CHAS for the unique work done by its staff and volunteers through nursing care, practical help and emotional support, and providing Scotland’s only dedicated hospice services in Scotland for children and young people who have incurable life-shortening conditions.

Here in the north of Scotland, the CHAS at Home team also organises fun gatherings for groups of families, which reflects the organisation’s very flexible approach to helping during times of extreme emotional and other demands, and we are delighted to provide some help for the organisation’s invaluable role.
Each year, HITA identifies a different charity to receive funds to be raised at its November awards dinner that celebrates excellence in tourism activities including hospitality, dining, adventure activities, events and visitor service innovations.  Last year, the association donated £2,250 to the Parkinson’s UK research programme.

CHAS operates through its two hospices, Rachel House in Kinross and Robin House in Balloch, West Dunbartonshire – and also through CHAS at Home which has teams working from both hospices as well as dedicated teams in Inverness and Aberdeen, caring for families in their own homes when they need it most.

Angela Cran, CHAS Fundraiser in Inverness, said: “It’s fantastic news that the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards board has selected CHAS as its charity at this year’s event. Our home care team based in Inverness travels all over the Highlands and Islands and provides a lifeline to families as far away as the Western Isles. This is a wonderful opportunity to tell people about the fantastic work our team is doing every day.”

CHAS services are free and are funded mainly through a large number of fund-raising supporters who help to raise the £9 million it needs each year.

Website –

www.highland-tourism-awards.co.uk
Facebook – www.facebook.com/Highlands.and.Islands.Tourism.Awards~
Twitter – @HiTourismAwards

News

AWARD ENTRIES GROWTH BRINGS WIDER IMPACTS

BY MARINA HUGGETT, CHAIR OF HITA

With an all-time record number of 2015 entries now received, and HITA’s seasoned tourism industry judges getting to work on this year’s particularly tough task of picking winners, there’s an opportunity to reflect briefly on our work and its impacts.

Participation has grown steadily over five years and it’s particularly gratifying to see 190 entries and nominations received this year. This total was boosted with the inclusion of part of Argyll, but even without the boundary change the figure is nearly 40 per cent up on 2014.

Clearly, the awards not only highlight the burgeoning talent and innovation we have here in this area, but they also provide a reward – and a longstanding badge of excellence – for those who work long and hard to provide excellent service and to enhance the visitor experience.

In addition, so many entrants tell us that even the process of entering helps them take a fresh look at the quality, customer perspectives and other aspects of their operations, finding a perspective which is all too often constrained by the day to day demands of business life.

The wider benefits we hear about include the team-boosting effects of competing for and winning professional recognition. In fact, the ‘halo effect’ of receiving HITA awards is also known to extend more widely to local communities, who enjoy having winners in their midst and become a stronger force for customer recommendations and promotion.

The HITA gala evening itself provides a lively networking and mutual learning event for short-listed entrants, and a less-recognised spin-off is its record of fund-raising for charities.

Last year, HITA donated £2,250 to the Parkinson’s UK research programme and previous recipients include Alzheimer Scotland, Birchwood Highland and the Archie Foundation. Very shortly, we will be announcing the 2015 charity to be supported.

HITA has become a positive and progressive force for good amongst our tourism businesses and our communities. For this, there are many people to thank – including our backbone of sponsors, directors, judges and other supporters – and our rapidly-growing numbers of nominators and entrants.

News

HITA HITS THE HEIGHTS WITH RECORD AWARDS ENTRY

A record number of tourism businesses in the Highlands and Islands have entered or been nominated for a prestigious award this year.

Judging began this week on the 190 entries and nominations which have been received for the 2015 Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards (HITA).

The total has been boosted this year with the inclusion of part of Argyll, but even without the boundary change the figure is nearly 40 per cent up on 2014.

It will mean strong competition over 15 categories for the coveted piper trophies which are sought after by operators across the region who are providing the best service and visitor experience.

Past HITA winners say their success in the annual competition has not only raised awareness of their businesses, but has also been an inspiration to further improve their operations.

The awards were launched in April by Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Europe and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop. Judging will continue over the summer ahead of a shortlist being announced on 18 September.

The competition will culminate in a grand ceremony at the Drumossie Hotel in Inverness on 13 November and HITA winners will go on to represent the region at the glittering national final of the Scottish Thistle Awards next year.

Marina Huggett, Chair of HITA, said: “The number of entries and nominations has grown steadily over five years and now has leapt to an all-time high. We are delighted that so many tourism operators have entered or been nominated for awards.

“Even without the inclusion of Argyll this year, the numbers showed a sizeable increase which is extremely encouraging.

“There is clear evidence that the award scheme helps to improve relationships within the industry and also promotes friendly competition which helps businesses push for even greater improvements to the benefit of visitors.

“Good luck to all involved. The judges now have a very difficult task ahead.”

The HITA competition, which is held in association with SSE, is free to enter and businesses or individuals could put themselves forward for recognition, while visitors and peer nomination groups were encouraged to propose businesses they felt deserved an honour.

The categories have developed and evolved each year in line with feedback within the industry and to reflect factors aimed at helping its growth and sustainability. New categories this year are Friendliest Pub, Best Sporting Event, Hospitality Hero and the Innovation Award.

The categories are –

Most Hospitable Hotel
Most Hospitable B&B/Guest House
Best Holiday Accommodation
Best Informal Eating Experience
Best Restaurant Experience
Friendliest Pub/Bar
Best Event or Festival
Best Outdoor/Adventure Experience
Tourism Everyone’s Business
Best Visitor Attraction
Best Sporting Event
Hospitality Hero
Innovation Award
Regional Young Ambassador Award
Regional Ambassador Award

www.highland-tourism-awards.co.uk
Facebook – www.facebook.com/Highlands.and.Islands.Tourism.Awards
Twitter – @HiTourismAwards

News

INVALUABLE RECOGNITION FOR THE LOVAT

Our HITA award for Best Restaurant Experience provided a boost to our team, and particularly junior members, who see invaluable recognition from some of the leading figures in this region’s great tourism industry.

It’s very rewarding to have such feedback from our piers – as well as from our customers – as we work hard to ensure that our Station Road restaurant offers some of the most attractive and exciting menus to be had in the Highlands

We make strong use of Scotland’s wealth of natural culinary ingredients, from seafood to local-reared meat and foraged products such as chanterelles, wild fruit and herbs, and we professionally train and develop our team to ensure that our guests always receive the highest standards of service.

A lot of this work came together in 2014, when we also added ‘Best Restaurant’ in the Highlands & Islands Food & Drink Awards to our  3 AA rosettes for culinary excellence, before gaining the HITA award at the end of the year.

Though our customers are always our most important critics, the organisation of HITA provides an invaluable means of networking and benchmarking with fellow tourism operators to help learn from each other and raise standards overall, which is so important to our long-term sustainable future.

Caroline Gregory, Managing Partner, The Lovat

If you think you have what it takes to be HITA 2015 winner or know someone who passionately works towards making the tourism industry better then you can enter or nominate here www.highland-tourism-awards.co.uk

This year’s categories are –

Most Hospitable Hotel
Most Hospitable B&B/Guest House
Best Holiday Accommodation
Best Informal Eating Experience
Best Restaurant Experience
Friendliest Pub/Bar
Best Event or Festival
Best Outdoor/Adventure Experience
Tourism Everyone’s Business (open to community tourism destination management organisations, destination marketing companies, transport operators, retail and entertainment venues)
Best Visitor Attraction
Best Sporting Event
Hospitality Hero
Innovation Award (open to small or large businesses)
Regional Young Ambassador Award (open to people aged 30 or under)
Regional Ambassador Award (open to people aged 31 or over)

News

A MEASURABLE BOOST FOR ROCKPOOL

CARRIE MACDONALD, CO OWNER OF THE ROCKPOOL CAFE AND RESTAURANT TALKS TO US ABOUT WINNING A HITA 2014 AND WHAT IT’S DONE FOR BUSINESS.

 

Winning the Best Informal Eating experience for 2014 was a big surprise and it was a great honour for us, in confirming that our little cafe/restaurant in Cullen was not only eligible but capable of being the best in this particular class.

It quickly became apparent that the award has measurably increased our sales and also brought customers in from further afield. Cullen already attracts a huge number of visitors each year and tourism is vital for the success of local businesses such as ours.

We have had great support locally, not least because people recognise that tourism is a vital industry for the wellbeing of this area.  Cullen attracts a huge number of visitors each year and this, coupled with an excellent local trade, is really key to the success of our business.

Most of all, winning the award made us reflect on the experience our customers have at Rockpool, and what we can do to make it even better.  The HITA award  therefore gave us some renewed perspectives for continuous improvement,  as well as providing recognition from others in the industry that all the work we and our team of staff have put in to making Rockpool what it is,  has been worthwhile.

Carrie Macdonald, Co-Owner, Rockpool Café and Restaurant

If you think you have what it takes to be a HITA 2015 winner or know someone who passionately works towards making the tourism industry better then you can enter or nominate here www.highland-tourism-awards.co.uk

This year’s categories are –

Most Hospitable Hotel
Most Hospitable B&B/Guest House
Best Holiday Accommodation
Best Informal Eating Experience
Best Restaurant Experience
Friendliest Pub/Bar
Best Event or Festival
Best Outdoor/Adventure Experience
Tourism Everyone’s Business (open to community tourism destination management organisations, destination marketing companies, transport operators, retail and entertainment venues)
Best Visitor Attraction
Best Sporting Event
Hospitality Hero
Innovation Award (open to small or large businesses)
Regional Young Ambassador Award (open to people aged 30 or under)
Regional Ambassador Award (open to people aged 31 or over)

News

RECORD BREAKING AND AWARD WINNING YEAR FOR EILEAN DONAN CASTLE

DAVID WIN, CASTLE KEEPER AT EILEAN DONAN CASTLE TELLS US WHAT WINNING A HITA MEANT TO THEM.

Our whole team were absolutely thrilled and delighted to win the award for Best Visitor Attraction 2014, a year in which we enjoyed yet another record-breaking season at Eilean Donan, with over 380,000 visitors to the site.

Tourists are our lifeblood, pure and simple, and this award truly represents the icing on the cake after working steadily at continuous improvement, over quite a number of years, to enhance our visitors’ experience.

I personally consider it as hard won recognition of the efforts that everyone here has put in, and the fact that this award is judged by our industry peers is fabulous recognition of the entire team’s efforts and commitment.

It also assists us by helping to highlight and effectively communicate the quality of the visitor experience at Eilean Donan to a wider audience. In our case, apart from providing additional marketing opportunities, we have also seen new potential business partners and collaborators come forward on the back of it.

A HITA award is a measure of the commitment (that often goes un-noticed) to excellence and a desire to keep improving a quality visitor experience.

David Win, Castle Keeper, Eilean Donan Castle

If you think you have what it takes to be HITA’s 2015 Ambassador of the Year or know someone who passionately works towards making the tourism industry better then you can enter or nominate here www.highland-tourism-awards.co.uk

This year’s categories are –

Most Hospitable Hotel
Most Hospitable B&B/Guest House
Best Holiday Accommodation
Best Informal Eating Experience
Best Restaurant Experience
Friendliest Pub/Bar
Best Event or Festival
Best Outdoor/Adventure Experience
Tourism Everyone’s Business (open to community tourism destination management organisations, destination marketing companies, transport operators, retail and entertainment venues)
Best Visitor Attraction
Best Sporting Event
Hospitality Hero
Innovation Award (open to small or large businesses)
Regional Young Ambassador Award (open to people aged 30 or under)
Regional Ambassador Award (open to people aged 31 or over)

News

WONDERFUL MEDIA AND ONLINE PUBLICITY FOR THE SHETLAND COLLECTION

DOREEN BROWN, OWNER AND DESIGNER AT SHETLAND COLLECTION TALKS TO US ABOUT WHAT WINNING A HITA MEANT FOR HER BUSINESS.

We are delighted with the positive response that our Discovering Scotland Award has generated, including new orders for our traditional and contemporary knitwear, some wonderful media and online publicity, and a lot of congratulatory messages.

The award and media coverage are very important for us, our 30 knitters around the islands and for Shetland as a beautiful and welcoming destination, and I’m sure it will help encourage others to go into quality business ventures when they see what can be achieved.

Tourism visitors are vital for our business, particularly during the summer months, and we see a lot of them on their way to or from Sumburgh airport, as our shop and workshop is close by and just off the main road.

Now, our award stands proudly in a prominent position for them all to see – right beside the now world-famous picture of our Shetland Ponies wearing their specially-kitted Fair Isle sweaters.

Doreen Brown, Designer and Owner, Shetland Collection

If you think you have what it takes to be HITA 2015 winner or know someone who passionately works towards making the tourism industry better then you can enter or nominate here www.highland-tourism-awards.co.uk

This year’s categories are –

Most Hospitable Hotel
Most Hospitable B&B/Guest House
Best Holiday Accommodation
Best Informal Eating Experience
Best Restaurant Experience
Friendliest Pub/Bar
Best Event or Festival
Best Outdoor/Adventure Experience
Tourism Everyone’s Business (open to community tourism destination management organisations, destination marketing companies, transport operators, retail and entertainment venues)
Best Visitor Attraction
Best Sporting Event
Hospitality Hero
Innovation Award (open to small or large businesses)

 

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