Tag: experience



Award-winning celebrity chef Tony Singh will add a touch of spice to proceedings when he hosts this year’s record-breaking Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards (HITA) next month.
The Leith-born, fourth generation Scottish Sikh is a familiar face on television, having appeared on shows including Ready Steady Cook and The Great British Menu. He also recently appeared on the BBC programme A Cook Abroad when he visited India and explored and cooked the traditional food of the Punjab.

Tony has been in the restaurant industry for more than 20 years and is renowned for his contemporary Scottish cooking, which incorporates influences from around the world, and dishes such as his signature haggis pakora.

He has run a number of businesses, including Oloroso, Tony’s Table and the Ugly Brad Bakery and has worked in some of Scotland’s most prestigious restaurants including The Royal Yacht Britannia, The Balmoral Hotel, The Royal Scotsman train and Skibo Castle.

He has also cooked for some of the most famous people in the world, including the Sultan of Brunei, former President Bill Clinton, the Prince of Wales and Prince Albert of Monaco and was also the Scottish Government chef for Tartan Week in New York, for the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi and at the opening of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

As Master of Ceremonies at this year’s HITA gala final in the Drumossie Hotel in Inverness on 13 November, he will oversee the presentation of awards in 15 categories. Each winner will go on to represent the region at the national final of the Scottish Thistle Awards next year.

Tony Singh said
I am delighted to be hosting this year’s HITA awards which is such an important occasion for people involved in the industry. To be recognised by your peers and the people who visit this area is fantastic.

Winning an award gives everyone in a business, the owner and the whole background team involved in making it work, a real boost and shows them they are doing it right.

I’m looking forward to a great night and a real celebration of what the Highlands and Islands has to offer.
Marina Huggett, Chair of HITA, added
Tony Singh’s great humour and extensive knowledge of the hospitality industry makes him an ideal choice to host this year’s awards.

It’s been a great year with record-breaking numbers of entries and nominations for the awards, so each category has been fiercely fought. It has made for an exciting competition and also helps with our continuous quest to raise standards even further across the industry.
Some 190 businesses and individuals entered or were nominated for this year’s HITA awards and 44 were named on the shortlist earlier this month.

Categories recognise quality and service in accommodation types from hotels to B&Bs, as well as experiences such as formal and informal dining and outdoor adventures. They also cover attractions and events, and identify individuals who champion hospitality or are young ambassadors for the industry.

This year four new sections were created to recognise tourism innovation, friendly pubs, outstanding sporting events, and individuals dedicated to hospitality.

The 2015 HITA awards, run in association with SSE, were launched in April by Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Europe and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop. The contest’s area was extended to include part of Argyll this year, but even without the boundary change the number of entries and nominations was nearly 40 per cent up on 2014.

This year’s categories are

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


Facebook – www.facebook.com/Highlands.and.Islands.Tourism.Awards

Twitter – @HiTourismAwards



More than 40 businesses and individuals have been shortlisted for honours in the 2015 Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards, which this year saw a record number of entries and nominations.

The 44 finalists have been named across 14 categories in the annual awards, including four new sections created to recognise tourism innovation, friendly pubs, outstanding sporting events, and individuals dedicated to hospitality.

Shortlisted businesses, projects and people are spread across the region, including a hotel in Shetland, sporting events in Argyll, an adventure business on Skye and visitor attractions in Moray.

Categories recognise quality and service in accommodation types from hotels to B&B’s, as well as experiences such as formal and informal dining and outdoor adventures. They also cover attractions and events, and identify individuals who champion hospitality or are young ambassadors for the industry.

The wider Inverness area accounts for 10 finalists, with others from small islands like Coll and Tiree and even one in mainland Scotland’s most westerly point, at Ardnamuchan, Lochaber.

In all, the judges considered 190 entries and nominations from all parts of the Highlands and Islands. The total was 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.

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

The HITA awards were launched in April by Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Europe and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop, and past winners say success has not only raised awareness of their businesses, but has also been an inspiration to further improve their operations.

Marina Huggett, Chair of HITA, said:
The record number of entries and nominations we received this year has been very encouraging. The extremely high standard has also demonstrated the outstanding level of service we are providing to visitors in the Highlands and Islands.
The independent judging panel is drawn from experienced industry professionals working across the region.

The shortlist is –

Best Cultural Event or Festival

Commando Spirit, Lochaber
Forres Events Ltd, European Pipe Band Championships, Moray
Orkney Folk Festival
Tiree Music Festival

Best Holiday Accommodation

Ardgour Estate, Lochaber
Coillabus Lodges, Islay
Torrisdale Castle Estate, Argyll

Best Informal Eating Experience

Applecross Inn, Wester Ross
Coll Hotel
The Mountain Café, Aviemore

Best Outdoor / Adventure Experience

Glenlivet Hill Trek, Speyside
Skye Adventure
WOW Scotland Tours Ltd, Inverness

Best Restaurant Experience

Kinloch Lodge Hotel and Restaurant, Skye
Ninth Wave Restaurant, Mull
Scalloway Hotel, Shetland

Best Sporting Event

Celtman Extreme Scottish Triathlon, Wester Ross
Mull of Kintyre Half Marathon and 10K
Argyll Tiree Wave Classic
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup, Fort William

Best Visitor Attraction

Aberlour Distillery, Speyside
EcoVentures, Cromarty
Loch Ness Centre Exhibition,
Drumnadrochit Scottish Dolphin Centre, Moray

Friendliest Pub / Bar

Applecross Inn, Wester Ross
The Anderson, Fortrose
The Old Mill Inn, Moray

Hospitality Hero

Emma Clark, Glenegadale House, Islay
Eleanor Harcus, Lodges at the Mains, Inverness
Andrew Mackay, The Caithness Collection

Innovation Award

Caledonian MacBrayne
Gordon Castle, Moray
North Highland Initiative, Caithness and Sutherland

Most Hospitable B&B / Guest House

Ardtorna, Oban
Inverglen Guest House, Inverness
Rockpool House, Ardnamurchan

Most Hospitable Hotel

Kylesku Hotel, Sutherland
The Kingsmills Hotel, Inverness
Uig Hotel, Skye

Tourism Everyone’s Business

Johnstons of Elgin, Moray
Morag’s Lodge Loch Ness, Fort Augustus
WOW Scotland Tours Ltd, Inverness

Young Ambassador of the Year

Christina Smith, Kingsmills Hotel, Inverness
Kyle Beattie, Boots n Paddles, Inverness
Alan Ewen, Inverness Airport
Adam McMaster, Lochness Country House Hotel, Inverness


Facebook – www.facebook.com/Highlands.and.Islands.Tourism.Awards

Twitter – @HiTourismAwards



Well the word is well and truly out. Winning a HITA – or just setting your sights on one – not only yields industry and consumer recognition but also boosts the quality of the tourism product, generates team spirit and stimulates local community support.

This year’s record entry for the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards reflects their growing practical value, and tomorrow’s announcement of the shortlists across 15 categories will reveal the elite participants for 2015.

Lucid is delighted to have helped achieve the near-40 per cent increase in entries and nominations in our first year working with HITA.

As well as promoting the awards and individual entrants via traditional media, we have stimulated conversations through social media among the candidates, friendly rivals and others in the sector.

The HITA judges had to analyse nearly 200 entries and nominations this year, from diverse mainland and island localities.

Tomorrow, 44 of those will be another step nearer to getting their hands on one of the iconic stainless steel piper trophies. Then, at the 13 November HITA gala night in Inverness’s Drumossie Hotel, they will find out if they have triumphed in their category.

These best of the best will go on to represent the Highlands and Islands in the Scottish Thistle Awards, whose winners are announced next year.

Lucid is delighted to be presenting HITA’s Best Sporting Event award. This is particularly apt for us given our work with Castle Stuart Golf Links, which will host the Scottish Open next year for the fourth time in six years. We also work with Highland Golf Links, which includes Castle Stuart, The Nairn Golf Club and Royal Dornoch Golf Club as well as three major hotels in the Highlands, to promote quality Stay and Play packages for golfing visitors.

We well understand the critical importance of tourism for the Highlands and Islands and, having viewed the standard of entries this year, we know that the finalists and winners will be fitting ambassadors for the industry and its wellbeing.


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By Thelma Henderson, Managing Director, Scottish Provincial Press
Tourism plays such an important role in the economy of the Highlands and Islands and, like many businesses in this area, its success impacts on our success.
As publisher of 15 weekly newspapers in the north of Scotland, Scottish Provincial Press is one of the biggest independent newspaper groups in the country. Tourism is vital to every area in which we operate and we actively support and help promote the people and the businesses that make such a valuable contribution to this part of the world.

We are proud to be able to celebrate and publicise the best of the Highland tourism business community by again being a sponsor of the HITA awards. Our involvement in the sector also included publishing a 12-page supplement to launch HITA in April and a collaboration with VisitScotland to produce a suite of 18 regional Explore (What to See & Do) guides for visitors.

As the record number of entries and nominations this year demonstrates, there is a wealth of talented individuals and quality businesses in the Highlands and Islands and many good news stories to tell. An annual awards event not only rewards the best, but it also stimulates healthy competition which produces even better results for our visitors.

SPP will continue to be a supportive partner for HITA and raise awareness of those who strive to offer the ultimate visitor experience and help make the Highlands one of the best places to holiday.



Stuart Black, Director of Development and Infrastructure, The Highland Council
Tourism is the most significant industry in our region, which is why The Highland Council is a leading supporter.

The council is a key partner in the Highland Area Tourism Partnership and shares its vision for the Highlands to be a destination of first choice for a high quality, value for money and memorable customer experience, delivered by skilled and passionate people. It also works closely with VisitScotland and local destination management organisations throughout the area in support of the sector.

The authority’s new programme ‘Highland First’ emphasises the importance of the tourism industry to the regional economy. It states it will “strive to grow tourism by working with partners to retain and develop world class events and promote destination management”.

The council has also been a supporter of the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards since their inception. In a highly competitive industry visitors can choose from thousands of destinations and in order to continue to attract visitors local businesses need to maintain exceptionally high standards and continue to innovate. The sponsorship of awards that recognise quality is therefore an appropriate part of our contribution to the industry.

The HITAs recognise and reward excellence across this vital industry which reaches all parts of our area. Tourism supports 17,000 jobs in the Highlands and generates revenues worth over £740 million per annum and the council is keen to see these figures continue to grow.

Communities lie at the heart of a successful Highlands and a successful tourism industry. We generally support awards that recognise the role of community-based activity or that encourage innovation. A key attraction of the HITAs is that they have always been open to communities or businesses of any size and over the years we’ve seen some wonderful nominees and winners.

This year, despite the challenging financial climate, the council has reaffirmed its commitment to the 2016 World Mountain Biking Championships and the 2016 Scottish Open at Castle Stuart. Both these high profile events not only attract thousands of people to the area, they offer marketing exposure which helps ensure further visits over many years.

The council firmly believes that tourism is everyone’s business and is delighted to support the HITA awards in 2015.





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.



By Caroline Mitchell, Visitor Centres Manager, Chivas Brothers.
This year Chivas Brothers is sponsoring the Best Cultural Event or Festival category at the HITA awards. As a key player and major supporter of tourism in the Highlands and Islands, we are proud to be backing the awards for a sixth successive year.

We have four whisky distilleries in the HITA area – Strathisla, The Glenlivet and Aberlour, in Speyside, and at Scapa in Orkney which opened to the public for the first time in its 130-year history.

These centres make a valuable contribution to the local economies and to the tourism industry in general. In the year until the end of June 2015, more than 76,000 people visited the four distilleries and spent over £2.5 million.

Across Scotland generally, whisky distilleries are attracting more visitors from the UK and abroad than ever before. Some 1.5 million people called at visitor centres in 2014, a rise of six per cent on the previous year and 15 per cent on 2010, according to a survey by the Scotch Whisky Association.

The importance of this market is demonstrated by the fact visitors to distilleries spent £50 million last year on tours and in shops and cafes, up from £27 million in 2010.

With these significant figures in mind, we are constantly improving facilities to make sure our visitors have the best possible experience in the Highlands and Islands when learning about our national drink and the people who help make it.

And we know what it takes to win a prestigious piper trophy. In 2013 the Glenlivet Visitor Centre picked up a HITA in the Best Visitor Attraction category, eventually going on to win the national Thistle Award .

The HITAs are fitting rewards for everyone who promotes tourism and helps raise standards for our visits guests and we wish everyone success this year.



Our company is proud to have been a sponsor of the HITA’s every year since we first opened our Inverness customer service office to serve the North of Scotland in 2008.
For us, it’s a great way to support this industry and help showcase the innovation, hard work and attention to detail that make it so special.

The HITAs enable the Highland tourism sector to highlight and celebrate the many success stories that come from within this diverse and exciting industry, and we have never ceased to be impressed by the high calibre of nominations and the imagination and creativity which is continually displayed.

Across Scotland as a whole the tourism sector is important to J Thomson Colour Printers, and this is especially true of the Highlands, where it supports so much of our economy. We supply many attractions, accommodation providers and government bodies associated with tourism with high quality marketing collateral, which is a critical element of delivering the visitors who are the lifeblood of any enterprise.

Tourism will always play an important role in the Highland economy, where we and our customer businesses continually strive to improve our collective offerings.

The HITA’s provide a unique industry platform whereby success in this process can be shared, acknowledged and learned from.



Freda Newton, managing director, Jacobite Cruises Ltd

Ceud Mìle Fàilte, the traditional Gaelic greeting of One Hundred Thousand Welcomes, is particularly apt for Loch Ness by Jacobite. Each year, our crews welcome that many people to the Highlands and help them experience one of Scotland’s greatest visitor attractions.

We have been doing this for 40 years, during which time tourism, and the provision of services for visitors, has improved significantly in this area.

The raising of standards is noticeable in the growth of the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards and the record number of entries and nominations received this year in a variety of different areas.

Jacobite has been proud winners of a HITA award and has also sponsored individual categories in the annual contest, including Best Visitor Attraction this year.

We feel it is important to encourage other operators to enter the awards and to keep raising the bar and promote our excellent visitor attractions in the Highlands.

Winning an award gives employees a great sense of pride in their product and the knowledge that what they are achieving and contributing is recognised by their peers. It inspires everyone to improve further which benefits all concerned, particularly our visitors.

When we at Jacobite won a HITA award, everyone wanted then to be successful in the national awards which we were fortunate to do. I hope many of our award winners this year will find success at a national level also as a reward for their hard work and to further demonstrate the level of quality we have in the Highlands and Islands’ tourism sector.





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.

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