Tag: Hebrides



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.




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.



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.




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 –

Facebook – www.facebook.com/Highlands.and.Islands.Tourism.Awards~
Twitter – @HiTourismAwards




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.



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

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



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)

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