Tag: Awards

News

Highlands & Islands Tourism Awards 2020 – ENTRIES NOW OPEN!

There is a huge amount to be recognised within the Tourism Industry in the Highlands and Islands, and this is exactly what the HITA awards aim to celebrate. Now in the 16th year of the awards, these accolades aim to promote and celebrate businesses and individuals who work tirelessly to ensure our tourism industry is world class.

Nominations for the 2020 awards are now open, and it is the perfect opportunity to have a think about the story your business wishes to tell, and why it stands out from the crowd. If you operate within the tourism sector in the Highlands, we have a category for you – read on for our full list of our 2020 award categories.

Best Bar/Pub
Best Cultural Event or Festival
Climate Champion
Best Hotel Experience Under 20 Rooms
Best Hotel Experience Over 20 Rooms
Best Informal Eating Experience
Best Outdoor/Adventure Experience
Best Restaurant Experience
Best Self-Catering Accommodation
Best Visitor Attraction
Highland Ambassador
Highland Rising Star
Most Hospitable B&B/Guest House
Tourism & Hospitality Hero

These awards aim to recognise excellence across our fantastic tourism industry here in the Highlands, so whether you are a cutting-edge venue attracting the latest talent in your area or offering a homely feel for your guests’ night after night, we want to celebrate you! Enter here.

Don’t delay, nominations close on the 12th of June, and entries close on the 29th.

Laurence Young 2019 Board Highlands & Islands Tourism Awards
News

Highlands & Islands Tourism Awards 2019 Finalists Revealed

The finalists in the prestigious Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards have been announced with more than 40 firms and individuals in line for a HITA award, after judges whittled down hundreds of entries to create shortlists in categories ranging from best informal eating experience to innovation in tourism.
Highlands & Islands Tourism Awards 2019
News

Highlands and Islands Businesses Embrace the Opportunity for Recognition

Interest in the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards (HITA) was at an all-time high this year as hundreds of businesses and individuals around the region got stuck into their applications for one of the 15 categories.
News

Winners Announced In Highland Tourism ‘Oscars’

The best places in the Highlands and Islands to eat, drink, stay and enjoy the area’s wildlife, culture and scenery have been rewarded in the annual tourism ‘Oscars’.

The winners of this year’s Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards (HITA) range from a seafood stall to a shark spotting experience and from the UK’s first crowdfunded bar to a centre showcasing traditional skills.

In all, winners were announced in 14 categories which had attracted entries and nominations from 163 businesses and individuals.

HITA chairman Craig Ewan said: “Many congratulations to all our winners and those who were shortlisted for awards. It has been another highly successful year for tourism in the Highlands and Islands and this is reflected in the quality of entries and nominations we received.

“The standard rises year on year which shows the strength and confidence of the industry and the level of service provided to visitors.”

For the first time the ceremony was held without a professional host. Instead, Annie Bonney and Fraser Szymborski-Welsh, who are studying BA (Hons) Drama and Performance at Inverness College UHI, part of the University of the Highlands and Islands, jointly anchored the event after winning a competition held during the Year of Young People.

The awards finale, held in front of 300 industry representatives at the Kingsmills Hotel, Inverness, was addressed by Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs.

She said: “I’d like to offer my congratulations to the finalists and winners of the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards (HITA) for their fantastic work in encouraging people to visit the area by providing high quality visitor experiences.  It’s no wonder Lonely Planet recently named the Highlands and Islands as one of the top regions in the world for travellers in 2019.

“I was particularly pleased to see the awards pay tribute to Scotland’s Year of Young People with the impressive young presenters and recognition for young marketing talent. I look forward to working with the industry to build on this tremendous success.

“I also hope the news that hotels across Scotland will benefit from a cap to their business rates until 2022 will be welcomed and will help create a more secure, sustainable future for Scotland’s hospitality sector.”

Inverness and Argyll and the islands enjoyed the most success with five trophy winners, while others went to Ross-shire, Moray, Strathspey and Sutherland.

HITA, which was held in association with SSE for a sixth successive year, is recognised as one of the premier industry hospitality awards programmes in Scotland.

Mike Seaton, SSE’s Director of Development, said: “SSE is now in its sixth year of sponsoring the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards and the quality and calibre of the winners and nominees this year have once again demonstrated that business, talent and innovation are thriving in this region.

“Energy and tourism are two of the most important sectors for the Highland economy. By working together we are able to create a lasting legacy for Highlands and Islands through projects like the South Loch Ness Trail and events like the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards.”

HITA winners (with the exception of the Highland Rising Star and Highland Ambassador) go on to compete at the glittering Scottish Thistle Awards next year.

Rebecca Brooks, Chair of the Scottish Thistle Awards industry panel, said: “On behalf of the panel, I would like to congratulate all the winners of the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards.

“It is fantastic to see businesses and individuals have their commitment and dedication to tourism in the local region recognised at these prestigious awards, especially coming just a week after the Highlands & Islands was named in the top 10 Best in Travel destinations for 2019 by Lonely Planet.

“I’d like to wish all the HITA winners, the very best for the national final.”

HITA board director Elizabeth Mackintosh, who has made an outstanding contribution to tourism in the north of Scotland for more than five decades was named the 2019 Highland Ambassador.

The owner of Achmony Holidays, which provides self-catering accommodation at Drumnadrochit, Loch Ness, was a pioneer in the self-catering sector and a founding member of the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers. She was a member of the board of Inverness and Nairn area Tourist Board and also of the Highlands of Scotland Tourist Board.

She was the inaugural chairperson of HITA, a post she held for five years, and was also on the steering group to set up VisitInvernessLochNess (VILN) Tourism BID.

Presenting the award, Craig Ewan, the HITA chair, said: “Elizabeth has been a driving force in collaborative thinking and in getting destinations to work together in Highland Tourism for more than 50 years.

“In that time, she has been a guide and a mentor for those setting up a tourism business for the first time, a ‘go-to’ person for advice and someone who is totally passionate about promotion of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland”.

MacGregor’s Bar, in Inverness, which has been operating for only a year and was set up by crowdfunding, took the title for Best Bar/Pub. Judges said: “Appealing to all ages, the history-focused Scottish bar has a great beer garden in the city centre, a menu bursting with unique food and drink combinations and a team dedicated to ensuring that customer satisfaction is at an all-time high”.

The Best Visitor Attraction award went to Cruise Loch Ness, which has taken more than 1.5 million passengers onto the famous waterway since 1968. Judges said: “The continuous re-investment in the business has allowed it to thrive in recent years.  Whilst it has certainly made the most of digital opportunities, other highlights include the commitment to staff training and effective collaboration with others”.

Inverness Taxis picked up the Innovation in Tourism award. Judges said the company, which has a fully-computerised system, GPS tracking, free booking app, baggage drop-off service and rucksack and bike forwarding, is a “great example of a company seeking new and innovative ways to benefit the business and the customer”.

The Working Together for Tourism category was won by Mull Eagle Watch, which started in 2000 at Loch Frisa to allow people to get great views of sea eagles without disturbing them. It is now a credited 5-star VisitScotland attraction and works in partnership with a local golf club. Judges said: “The collaboration shows how two very different companies can come together and offer a superb tourism experience.”

Another wildlife company, Basking Shark Scotland, took the Best Outdoor/Adventure Experience title.Based in Oban, it runs boat tours from April to October. Judges said their focus on the wider environment inspires guests who come on their trips to follow their lead in keeping the local area clean: “An active science programme culminated in them having their first scientific paper published in ground-breaking basking shark research.  They also found the time to organise a successful beach clean after discovering a remote beach on the Isle of Mull covered in plastic”.

Oban Live, formed in 2016 and the biggest live music event in Argyll & Bute, won the Best Cultural Event or Festival crown. HITA judges said: “The professional team who run the event have demonstrated dedication and commitment, as well as injecting an economic boost of £1.4 million to the area.”

The Purvai Festival, in Stornoway, which celebrates Asian arts and culture, received a commendation in this category.

Emma Clark, from Glenegedale House in Islay, was named Tourism and Hospitality Hero. Judges said Emma builds up a rapport with each guest long before they set foot over the threshold of the hotel: “This personal touch, from the initial enquiry to the moment they arrive, ensures that all guests feel at home the minute they enter Glenegedale House”.

The Seafood Shack, set up in Ullapool by two local women, won the award for Best Eating Experience. Judges said the team “work hard to ensure customer satisfaction is key with sustainability and provenance at the core of their offering.  With passion, care and enthusiasm, they produce fresh, locally sourced, award winning food every day”.

Also in Wester Ross, Pool House, at Achnasheen, won the title of Most Hospitable B&B/Guest House. Judges said “a truly wonderful experience” awaits guests at Pool House. “A historic house dating back 300 years which provides a truly unique stay for their guests”.

Links House at Royal Dornoch was crowned Most Hospitable Hotel, with judges praising the 15-bedroom luxury hotel’s “bespoke customer experience”.

The Best Self Catering/Alternative Accommodation Experience accolade went to self-catering business Where Stags Roar, in Newtonmore, with judges enthusing: “The level of attention to detail, customer satisfaction and repeat business is exemplary and has helped grow this impressive self-catering experience”. 

The Speyside Cooperage Visitor Centre, in Craigellachie, the only working cooperage in the UK where visitors can experience the ancient art of coopering, won the Best Heritage Tourism Experience award. The five-star credited VisitScotland attraction welcomes people from over 70 counties and the judges said it appeals to a mass of ages due to its unique blend of traditional rituals and modern-day technology.

During the Year of Young People, three winners were chosen for the Highland Rising Star award – Brian Sharp, from tour company Scottish Routes; John McNulty, from the Etive Restaurant in Oban; and Euan Walker, from Achnagairn Estate Kirkhill, near Inverness.

The HITA judges said: “We were delighted with the calibre, and emerging talent, of the young people who applied for the Rising Star award.  They showed true commitment and passion, striving to make the Highlands and Islands a world class destination. The three nominees were all so deserving that the unanimous decision was made to award all three as Highland Rising Stars 2018.”

Awards were also presented to students from Inverness College UHI, part of the University of the Highlands and Islands, who won competitions organised in partnership with HITA.

As well as Annie Bonney and Fraser Szymborski-Welsh, who presented the awards, Leanne Munro, a 3rd year BA (Hons) Visual Communication and Design student at Inverness College UHI won a separate competition to create a marketing campaign aimed at attracting the next generation of visitors to the Highlands and Islands. Her design was on display at the awards ceremony.

The full list of winners is

Best Self-Catering/Alternative Accommodation Experience

Where Stags Roar, Newtonmore

Best Cultural Event or Festival 

Oban Live
Commended -Purvai Festival, Stornoway

Best Heritage Tourism Experience

Speyside Cooperage Visitor Centre, Craigellachie

Best Eating Experience 

The Seafood Shack, Ullapool

Best Outdoor/Adventure Experience 

Basking Shark Scotland, Oban

Best Pub/Bar 

MacGregor’s Bar, Inverness

Best Visitor Attraction 

Cruise Loch Ness, Inverness

Innovation in Tourism

Inverness Taxis

Most Hospitable B&B / Guest House 

Pool House, Achnasheen, Wester Ross

Most Hospitable Hotel 

Links House at Royal Dornoch, Sutherland

Working Together for Tourism 

Mull Eagle Watch

Highland Rising Star 

John McNulty, Etive Restaurant in Oban
Euan Walker, Achnagairn Estate, Kirkhill, Inverness
Brian Sharp, Scottish Routes

Tourism and Hospitality Hero 

Emma Clark, Glenegedale House, Islay

Highland Ambassador 

Elizabeth Mackintosh

 

 

News

Drama Students To Take Centre Stage At Highland Tourism Awards

Two young students have talked their way into hosting a prestigious awards ceremony in a first for the event.

Annie Bonney and Fraser Szymborski-Welsh, who are both studying BA (Hons) Drama and Performance at Inverness College UHI, will co-present the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards(HITA) ceremony which will be attended by the tourism minister and more than 300 industry representatives.

To mark the Year of Young People, HITA held a competition to give one student the chance to compere the industry ‘Oscars’ alongside a professional presenter.

However, after hearing student auditions, it was decided that Annie and Fraser should themselves anchor the entire four-hour event, featuring 14 categories – the first time it will have been held without a professional presenter.

Leanne Munro, a 3rdyear BA (Hons) Visual Communication and Design student at Inverness College UHI, part of the University of the Highlands and Islands, won a separate competition to create a marketing campaign aimed at attracting the next generation of visitors to the Highlands and Islands.

Her design will be on display at the awards ceremony, which will be held at the Kingsmills Hotelin Inverness on 2 November with Fiona Hyslop, the Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs, in attendance.

Steve Barron, a HITA board member and one of the competition judges, said: “We were taken aback at the very high standard of entries in both contests.

“We heard some truly amazing presentations, but Annie and Fraser stood out and, although they have very different styles, it was impossible to separate them. We decided, therefore, that they should both have the opportunity to host the ceremony.

“It’s a bold step, and one we have not taken before, but in this Year of Young People it is a brilliant way to showcase exciting local talent.”

The marketing strategy competition challenged students to produce a campaign specifically aimed at inspiring future travellers aged between eight and 25. They were asked to come up with new ideas to engage with young visitors and to make the designs and branding transferrable across social media, digital, print and broadcast platforms.

Leanne’s concept was widely praised by the judges for its design, innovation and creativity. Using the acronym Aye (Adventurous Young Explorers), she envisaged it being used to promote various aspects of a visit, including ‘Aye Explore’, ‘Aye Dance’ and ‘Aye Discover’.

It features a mobile phone app to help find places to stay, visit and eat and also to accumulate exploration points when visiting new places which can then be redeemed for discounts at shops and services. The app could also have a built-in game allowing visitors to find and log virtual versions of mythical creatures.

Steve Barron said: “Leanne’s marketing campaign was stunning and something any professional agency would be proud to present.

“It was incredibly well researched and thought out and ticked all the boxes in terms of hitting the brief.”

Rachel Burgess, lecturer on the BA (Hons) Visual Communication and Design course and programme co-ordinator for Cultural and Creative Industries at Inverness College UHI, said: “The HITA brief was an excellent opportunity for students to exercise their skills of research and strategic design.

“They engaged with the competition on a professional level with a clear understanding of the importance of the project and produced highly imaginative and viable proposals.

“Leanne’s design went that extra step and covered every aspect of the brief to produce a fun and effective solution for the HITA team.”

Lesley Mickel, programme leader for the BA (Hons) Drama and Performance, said: “The HITA competition was a wonderful opportunity for our drama students to display their talent, creativity, and professionalism, as well as their ability to work to a brief to a very high standard.

“Annie and Fraser have very different styles, but complement each other exceptionally well and will do a great job of compering the awards.”

News

FINALISTS READY TO DO BATTLE FOR HIGHLAND TOURISM AWARDS

The finalists in the prestigious Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards have been announced with more than 40 businesses and individuals shortlisted for honours.

The annual awards recognise and reward the best places to stay, eat, drink and enjoy the area’s sporting, historic and cultural events, as well as its nature and scenery.

Scottish music festivals will compete against a celebration of Asian arts and culture in one category, while hotels, guest houses, restaurants, small food outlets, heritage centres, wildlife spotting tours and others will also battle it out for the coveted piper trophies.

Leading the way is Argyll and the Isles, with 16 finalists, with 11 from Inverness/ Inverness-shire and four each from Strathspey and Skye. Sutherland, Ross-shire, Moray, Lochaber and the Outer Hebrides are also represented on the shortlist.

Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards (HITA) chairman Craig Ewan said: “Congratulations to all our finalists. Given the quality of the entries, the businesses and individuals who have made the shortlist can be really proud of their achievement.

“It was another extremely difficult task for the judges to narrow the entries to just 43 contenders and they have another huge challenge ahead in picking our eventual winners.

“The awards showcase the best of the tourism industry in the Highlands and Islands and also inspire operators to continue to raise standards and provide excellence at all times to our visitors.”

Winners will be announced at a ceremony on 2 November in the Kingsmills Hotel, Inverness, which will be attended by Fiona Hyslop, the Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs.

NOTES TO EDITORS

The HITA awards scheme, which is being held in association with SSE for a sixth successive year, is regarded as one of the premier industry hospitality awards programmes in Scotland.

Some 163 businesses and individuals have entered or been nominated in 14 categories this year.

The awards scheme is free and is open to people operating in the Highland, Moray, Orkney, Shetland, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and Argyll & Bute (excluding G postcode areas) local authority areas.

HITA winners (with the exception of the Highland Rising Star and Highland Ambassador) go on to compete at the glittering Scottish Thistle Awards next year.

HITA is an industry-led project representing all sectors of tourism. It is overseen by a voluntary board of directors and the independent judging panel is drawn from experienced industry professionals working across the region.

This year’s sponsors also include – VisitScotland, Loch Ness by Jacobite, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Port of Cromarty Firth, Developing the Young Workforce, Royal Bank of Scotland, Scottish Provincial Press, Inverness Hotels Association, The Highland Council, the Federation of Small Businesses, J Thomson Colour Printers, Caledonian Sleeper, Fishers, Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd and NorthLink Ferries. 

The 2018 shortlist is –

Best Self-Catering/Alternative Accommodation Experience

Where Stags Roar, Newtonmore
Portavadie Loch Fyne, Argyll
Clan Cottages, Oban
Morag’s Lodge, Fort Augustus

Best Cultural Event or Festival

Oban Live
Isle of Jura Music Festival
Purvai Festival, Stornoway

Best Heritage Tourism Experience

The Highlanders Museum, Fort George, Inverness
Speyside Cooperage Visitor Centre, Craigellachie
Elgin Museum
Go to St Kilda, Skye

Best Eating Experience

The Seafood Shack, Ullapool
Toravaig House Hotel, Skye
Ninth Wave Restaurant, Mull

Best Outdoor/Adventure Experience

Glenlivet Hill Trek
St Hilda Sea Adventures, Oban
Basking Shark Scotland, Oban
Nature Scotland, Mull
Majestic Line, Argyll

Best Pub/Bar

MacGregor’s Bar, Inverness
Black Isle Bar and Rooms, Inverness
Castle Tavern, Inverness

Best Visitor Attraction

Johnstons of Elgin
Dolphin Spirt, Inverness
Cruise Loch Ness, Inverness

Innovation in Tourism

Portavadie Loch Fyne
Cruise Loch Ness
Inverness Taxis

Most Hospitable B&B / Guest House

Glenegedale House, Islay
Pool House, Achnasheen, Wester Ross
RossMor Guest House, Grantown

Most Hospitable Hotel

Uig Hotel Ltd, Skye
Skeabost Hotel, Skye
Links House at Royal Dornoch, Sutherland

Working Together for Tourism

Fort William Accommodation Marketing Group
Mull Eagle Watch
Argyll and the Isles Tourism Cooperative Ltd

Highland Rising Star

John McNulty, Taynuilt Hotel, Argyll
Euan Walker, Achnagairn Estate, Kirkhill, Inverness
Brian Sharp, Highland Experience Tours

Tourism and Hospitality Hero

Emma Clark, Glenegedale House, Islay
Alice Gill, Lodge on Loch Goil, Argyll
John Easson, Culloden Battlefield

Highland Ambassador

To be announced on the night

News

DEADLINES LOOM FOR HIGHLANDS AND ISLANDS TOURISM AWARDS

Businesses and individuals are being encouraged to put forward their nominations and entries for the prestigious Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards with the deadlines just days away.

The annual tourism ‘Oscars’, which were launched in March, celebrate and honour the best places to stay, eat and drink and enjoy the area’s history and culture.

This year 14 honours will be presented in what is regarded as one of the premier industry hospitality awards programmes in Scotland.

Friday, 22 June is the closing date for nominations in three categories – Tourism and Hospitality Hero, Highland Rising Star and Highland Ambassador.

The deadline for entries in all other categories is Monday, 2 July.

To nominate a deserving business or individual, or enter your own business without being nominated, visit the HITA website www.highland-tourism-awards.co.uk

The awards scheme, which is being held in association with SSEfor a sixth successive year, is free and is open to people operating in the Highland, Moray, Orkney, Shetland, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and Argyll & Bute (excluding G postcode areas) local authority areas.

The 2018 HITA aims to build on the success of last year’s awards which attracted a record 232 entries and nominations – an increase of more than 14 per cent on the 2016 figure and up 70 per cent on 2014.

 

HITA Chairman Craig Ewan said: “The Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards represent a mark of excellence for businesses and individuals working in this important sector.

“We want to ensure that everyone has a chance to be recognised for the tremendous work they do in welcoming our visitors and that means getting nominations and entries in by the deadlines. Good luck to everyone.”

The contest will culminate at a ceremony in the Kingsmills Hotel, Inverness, on Friday,2 November and winners (with the exception of the Highland Rising Star and Highland Ambassador) go on to compete at the glittering Scottish Thistle Awards next year.

News

A TIME TO CELEBRATE OUR YOUNG MEMBERS OF STAFF

Craig Ewan, chair of Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards

This year a particular focus will be on our younger staff and visitors and I’m looking forward to seeing how the future stars in the tourism sector can influence the industry and give us an insight into how it will develop in future.

The Year of Young People 2018 provides a platform for young people to have their talents celebrated and their voices heard.

Our sector relies on young staff members and we want to ensure the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards reflects the outstanding contribution they make to the overall visitor experience.

Our Highland Rising Star award is specifically aimed at recognising and rewarding young talent and I hope as many of our young professionals will enter or be nominated so their achievements to date and their potential can be highlighted.

HITA has an excellent reputation within the industry for promoting excellence and helping to raise quality standards in tourism.

We have an enviable track record of winners going on to pick up national Thistle Awards. This year was no exception, with four of our regional winners triumphing at the Thistles in March – Eilean Donan Castle (Best Heritage Tourism Experience); the Hebridean Celtic Festival (Best Cultural Event or Festival); the Fort William UCI Mountain Bike World Cup (Best Sporting Event) and Portavadie, Loch Fyne (Best Accommodation Provider).

I hope this success will encourage more companies and individuals to enter or nominate this year and continue to promote the best the Highlands and Islands has to offer.

HITA has enjoyed incredible growth over the last few years, with a 14 per cent rise in entries and nominations last year and a 70 per cent rise since 2014.

We aim to continue that trend in 2018 so that as many of our fantastic operators and attractions as possible reap the benefits of being part of the awards process.

On behalf of the HITA board, I would urge everyone to enter, or nominate someone or somewhere you think deserves to be honoured.

News

HITA CHAIR WINS DIRECTOR OF YEAR TITLE

HITA Chairman Craig Ewan has been named Regional Director of the Year by the Institute of Directors for his “exemplary” service. 

Craig, Operations Director at the Kingsmills Hotel, won the Inverness regional category at the prestigious Scotland Director of the Year Awards.

The awards honour those individuals whose creativity, leadership or innovative business practices have led to success for their organisation and the communities they serve.

On presenting the award, sponsored by Highlands and Islands Enterprise, judges said: “Craig Ewan has consistently improved the performance of the hotel. His track record is exemplary.”

Craig, who has been general manager of different properties over the last 16 years, and became a director with Kingsmills Hotel in September 2017, said he was thrilled and delighted to be awarded the title.

He added: “I have worked for Tony Story, my chairman, owner, mentor and friend for the last ten years.  He has been inspirational and really helped me develop as a business leader.  If I did not have Tony’s support and backing I would not be the leader and manager that I am today.

“Working in the corporate world was great but working for an independent hotelier really teaches you all the business skills that you need to be successful.

“Tony and I have a great working relationship and I look forward to working for him on our future and very exciting expansion plans in Inverness over the next decade.”

 

 

 

 

News

RECORD ENTRIES MEAN ANOTHER CHALLENGE FOR AWARDS JUDGES

Freda Newton, chair of Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards judging panel
Another record-breaking year; another record-breaking challenge for the judges.

The Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards just keep getting bigger. This year we’ve received 232 nominations and entries – up 14 per cent on last year’s previous best-ever total, and an amazing 70 per cent rise since 2014.
This fantastic response demonstrates a confidence within the industry and highlights the growing number of high quality tourism establishments and services provided for our visitors.
HITA is one of the most well-respected award programmes and it is heartening to see so many businesses coming forward, or being nominated, to be open to scrutiny and ultimately try to be named as the best in the industry in this area.
As tourism is so vital to the Highlands and Islands, it is essential that we continue to improve standards and bring fresh ideas into the sector. HITA encourages and rewards good business practice, which provides visitors with high standards of service, and also innovation, which can elevate a business beyond the ever-increasing tourism expectations and demands.
For 2017 we have introduced a new category, Best Heritage Tourism Experience, as part of the themed Year of History Heritage and Archaeology, and to celebrate the extraordinary wealth of historic assets we have in the Highlands and Islands.
Demonstrating the region’s strength in this particular sector of tourism, we have received 15 entries in the new category. Other categories have also attracted large entries, including Best Accommodation Provider with more than 30.
Judging this amount of entries, particularly as the standard just keeps getting higher, is an enormous task for our 12 judges who are drawn from all parts of the Highlands and Islands and from all sections of the industry.
So, how do we choose the winners?
Over the coming weeks, we will examine all these entries and start forming opinions on who we think deserve to pick up the trophies. Each judge marks the entries independently online, and can use personal knowledge, reviews and information from industry contacts to support details provided with the entry or nomination.
When we meet up on 13th September we will compare notes, discuss and debate our choices and come to a consensus on who should make the shortlist for each category, and who in our combined opinions have gone that little bit further to be crowned winners.
From experience, some of these decisions are easier than others and a few intense conversations await as we narrow down our choices. All, or nearly all, will be revealed on 29 September when we announce the shortlists.
Thank you to everyone for giving us this onerous but highly rewarding task, and good luck.

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