Just before the end of the year, we interviewed the organisers of the Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland Culloden Run to hear their thoughts on winning awards and learn why the event is so special. Here is what they told us:
How did it feel to have won at the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards 2013?
Everyone involved with the Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland Culloden Run event was absolutely delighted to have won ‘best sporting event’ at the 2013 HITA awards. As a relatively small and new sporting event, it was wonderfully rewarding to be recognised in this way and it provides a valued appreciation to all those who work so hard over many hours to make the event happen. This prestigious award really enhances the event and also provides positive motivation to the team behind it.
Do you feel, as a tourism business, that winning awards has a positive impact on your event?
Without doubt winning an award enhances the reputation of an event and clearly suggests that a peer review of the event has shown the quality and economic benefits of the event are readily evident against similar events. The award will only enhance subsequent marketing and attracting more entrants and also gives the whole organisation a valued morale boost and sense of pride – both for CHSS and NTS Culloden staff. The award system is a clear benchmarking tool for us.
What makes the Culloden Run such a special event?
The Culloden Run event is a unique partnership between CHSS and the NTS and was designed to have mutual benefits for both parties. The event takes place at an iconic venue and the skills and talents of both parties ensure that the overall experience for participants is as high a quality level as possible and always seeking to improve and enhance the experience.
What can we expect from the event in 2014?
2014 will see the third staging of the award winning Culloden Run event on October 26th and we are aiming to be bigger and better than ever!
We also hope to announce a brand new adrenaline event in the Highlands for summer 2014 but await final confirmation in the next few weeks!
Reading through the answers from Christine and Stuart from Wemyss House has left us feeling really warmed on this cold winter’s morning, not least because of the mentions of homemade bread and marmalade! It has also left us feeling very proud. They are two exceptional people who have created and maintain one of the most outstanding tourism businesses in our region. Read on to learn what they do and how they do it…
Congratulations again on your award win! How does it feel to have won at the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards 2013?
We were surprised and delighted to hear we had been short-listed for the Tourism Awards.
The HITA event in October at the Drumossie Hotel was fantastic and then to find ourselves the winners of the Best B&B/Guest house category was totally ‘mind-blowing’ – we never expected it and it took some while to sink in.
As winners we feel honoured to represent the Highlands and Islands, and totally committed to providing excellent customer service and memorable Tourism experience.
What impact does winning awards have on your business?
The award can do nothing but have a positive impact for our business. In business terms it has put us and Wemyss House ‘on the map’, introduced us to other business providers through direct contact and social media and from those points alone it has and is having a positive benefit.
Also the award has had a positive impact on us, ourselves ,as the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards has recognised the work and attention to detail we have put in and commended us as providing ‘exceptional quality’.
All awards help towards visitor choice. This award, which we advertise on our website, will show prospective visitors and tourists that we have been recognised by the Highlands and Islands as the Best B&B/Guest House and as an indication of quality, will, we hope, lead to increased visitor numbers and returners.
The process of entering the HITA awards was done over a period of time – it is not something which can be done in a hurry. To make it fair across all categories, the questions have to be answered in 400 words so that alone is enough to make you think just what is important to you and your business.
The whole thing proved to be an examination of what, why and how your business operates. You had to think hard about each question, make notes, discuss with your business partner (s) and then encapsulate the answer in a short paragraph. Only the important elements could go forward…no padding!
This self-evaluation was something all businesses should do but probably never find the time to sit down and ask ‘where am I going with this, how can I learn from past events and how can we improve in the future what we are offering the customer?
Tell us a bit about what is most special about Wemyss House?
Our business is special because as a couple, we have been able to address every issue ourselves, making sure that everything is done to our high standards and attention to detail… from the welcome, the cleanliness and comfort of the rooms, the quality of the food and the time we offer to our guests, listening to them and helping them make the most out of their stay. Of course this is also to our benefit as happy and contented guests are the ones most likely to return, and return they do!
When customers give a review about their stay at Wemyss House, they talk about us as hosts, so we know that welcoming, talking and understanding the needs of your guests is paramount.
The other item mentioned by guests, one of our USPs, is the quality and presentation of the food. The food we buy for the guests is of the best quality and preparation. We do not save money by giving them less than we would expect ourselves.
In February 2013 we were awarded a Silver in the World Marmalade Competition in Cumbria, judged by the ex MD of Tiptree Jams. This award proved so worthwhile and has been such a talking point at breakfast. No marmalade was available for sale as we had only made enough for the B&B, but we could have sold many, many jars to guests had we known to make more. We shall know another time!
We think Wemyss House is also special as Stuart has handmade most of the furniture in the bedrooms and around the house. The guests eat dinner and breakfast –with our homemade bread, yogurt, preserves from his handmade table and we have many local works of art, tweeds and pottery around the house. Also the new contemporary entrance extension built by Stuart and myself has proved very popular with guests especially for relaxing evenings chatting and watching the sun go down over the Cromarty Firth.
Are there any new developments for Wemyss House in the near future we can look out for?
During the winter we are upgrading to enhance the visitor experience with luxury contemporary pieces from Matki and Kohler in one of our double en-suite bathrooms.
January 2014 sees the Seville Oranges come into the shops so marmalade making will be on the agenda …question is do we enter the competition and if so how many jars do we make, in case it is judged to be a good batch? Hummm…
The help from HIE has been put to good effect this year and help from the digital team has set us up with Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. It felt like an uphill journey to begin with but now we have the hang of it we realise the benefits of ‘keeping in the loop’ of Highlands and Islands businesses and providing a good image and offers for guests on our Facebook page. Pinterest can also be utilised to promote tourism (I have added Pictish Cross Slabs). So all in all, 2013 with the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards and great help from HIE has been wonderful and we offer our thanks to all who have made this possible for us.
Thank you HITA and HIE from Christine and Stuart at Wemyss House!
Phone: +44 1862-851212
Facebook: wemyss house B&B
We were delighted to learn that seven of the winners from our 2013 awards programe went on to win in their categories at VisitScotland’s Scottish Thistle Awards 2013 programme, held at Stirling Castle on 15 November.
Wilderness Scotland, Tiree Music Festival, Johnstons of Elgin, The Glenlivet Distillery Visitor Centre, Whitefalls Spa Lodges, Duisdale House Hotel and Aigas Field Centre were all honoured at the ceremony and we think you’ll agree – an exceptional result for these exceptional tourism businesses from the Highlands and Islands!
Congratulations to all!
Sixteen outstanding tourism businesses and individuals were revealed on Friday at the eighth annual Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards (HITA) ceremony and gala dinner at the Drumossie Hotel in Inverness. HITA recognises and rewards businesses and individuals offering superior service levels and customer awareness throughout the Highlands and Islands tourism industry.
Amongst the list of outstanding winners, owner and managing director of the Cobbs group, based at Loch Ness, Fraser Campbell, was awarded the coveted HITA Highlands and Islands Ambassador of the Year award.
The 2013 Awards were opened by HITA Chairperson, Marina Huggett, Minister of Energy, Enterprise and Tourism, Fergus Ewing and Chairman of the Scottish Tourism Alliance, Stephen Leckie, following entertainment from magician, Clive Grewcock, the Black watch 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland and Pipe major Richard Grisdale, and musicians, Ruairidh McDonald and Colin and Alan Train, before the winners were announced. The awards were presented by the master of ceremonies, Robert Lovie.
The full list of HITA 2013 winners are Best Bar, Café or Restaurant Award winner – Café Artysans, Inverness, Best Cultural Event Award winner – Tiree Music Festival, Tiree, Best Sporting Event Award winner – Chest Heart and Stroke Scotland’s Culloden Run, Inverness, Best Shopping Experience – Johnstons of Elgin, Elgin, Best Guest House or B & B Award Wemyss House, Tain, Best Hotel Award winner – Duisdale House Hotel, Isle of Skye, Best Self-Serve Accommodation Award – Whitefalls Spa Lodges, Isle of Lewis, Best Tour Operator Programme award winner – Wilderness Scotland, Aviemore , Tourism Entrepreneur of the Year Award – Boots N Paddles / TreeZone, Inverness, Marketing Campaign of the Year Award – Wilderness Scotland, Aviemore, Best Partnership in Tourism award winner – Highland Experience Tours, Highland-wide operation, Best Nature Based Experience Award – Aigas Field Centre, Inverness-shire, Best Visitor Attraction Award – The Glenlivet Distillery Visitor Centre, Ballindalloch and the winner of the Training and Skills Development Award – Frankie’s Fish & Chips, Shetland. Andrew Whitehouse, Café Artysans, Inverness and Gordon Pearson, WOW Scotland, Inverness were awarded HITA Best Young Ambassador of the Year 2013.
Each of the HITA winners* were automatically given a place on the shortlist of VisitScotland’s national tourism awards scheme, the Scottish Thistle Awards, providing the opportunity for HITA winners to be acknowledged nationally for their achievements. The Scottish Thistle Awards will be held on 15 November this year.
Marina Huggett, chairperson of HITA said: “In this our eighth year of operation, the HITA Board is delighted to report our biggest number of registrations for the awards. This high level coupled with the excellent quality of applicants made the task of our independent judging panel even more challenging.
We would like to say “well done” to every one of our finalists and to the winners “congratulations”. The hard work and determination of businesses like theirs is what puts Scotland on the map and helps us become a “must visit” destination.”
For more information please log on to www.highland-tourism-awards.co.uk
From award-wining food writers and hoteliers to kilt makers and even the Loch Ness Monster, The Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards (HITA) have received a wealth of worthy nominations over the years for their highest accolade, The Highlands and Islands Ambassador of the Year Award.
The HITA board are now calling for nominations from the community for the 2013 Ambassador of the Year Award, presented at the HITA ceremony and gala dinner on 4 October at the Drumossie Hotel, Inverness. The award is traditionally kept under-wraps until the night of the awards ceremony and no short-list is drawn for the category.
Marina Huggett, chairwoman, HITA, encourages nominations for potential 2013 Ambassadors from across the Highlands and Islands and highlights the importance of the accolade: “The Highlands and Islands Ambassador of the Year award is a very significant one in our programme. It is the people in our industry that drive excellence forward and these people must be recognised and encouraged to keep going.
“We know that many of our previous Ambassadors feel that receiving the award has enabled them to further their tourism mission and gain greater profile for the tourism work they are involved in. For this award, we are looking to identify an individual who has dedicated their time and energy to making a marked difference to tourism in the Highlands and Islands.”
The criteria states that nominees for this category should be 31 years or over on 1st November 2013 and should have demonstrated commitment in their chosen field and business community. They should have a track record of inspiring and leading others to create a more sustainable tourism industry.
Previous HITA Highlands and Islands Ambassadors have been Shirley Spear of award winning restaurant ‘The Three Chimneys’ in Skye in 2012, Grant Sword, director at the Royal Golf Hotel in Dornoch and partner at Castle Stuart Golf Links in 2011, Lady Claire Macdonald, acclaimed cook and food writer in 2010, Gavin Ellis, owner of the Knockomie Hotel, Forres in 2009, Freda Newton, managing director of five star visitor attraction, Jacobite, Inverness in 2008, Duncan Chisholm, kilt maker, in 2007, Hamish Swan, chairman of CairnGorm Mountain Ltd (1997-2011), in 2006 and Willie Cameron, director, business development director, Cobbs Group in 2005.
Those wishing to nominate should send the name of the nominee and write, in 750 words or less, what the candidate has contributed to tourism in the Highlands and Islands. Nominations should be sent to email@example.com by Friday 30 August 2013.
We asked three 2012 winners who went on to victory at the Scottish Thistle Awards in 2012 what it means to win an industry award, and this is what they told us:
“The process of pulling together an awards application is a very holistic way of assessing what you are doing well as a business and is also a useful tool in identifying any areas you need to be working on in the future.
“Winning the HITA award was a tremendous confidence boost for the whole team as it generated a collective sense of pride. Winning the Thistle award was the icing on the cake which rewarded the team and confirmed that their efforts were recognised at a national level”.
Ian Whitaker, CEO CairnGorm Mountain Ltd.
“Morag’s Lodge, Loch Ness has had an incredible year by winning ‘Best Self-Serve Accommodation 2012’ at the HITA 2012 which then led to winning a Thistle Award in the same category last year. We are extremely proud of the team who work very hard to keep the concept of Highland Hospitality alive.”
Claire Christie, manager, Morag’s Lodge, Loch Ness, Fort Augustus
“We are delighted that the Baxters Loch Ness Marathon & Festival of Running won the ‘Best Sporting Event’ category at the 2012 Highlands & Islands Tourism Awards and Scottish Thistle Awards. Our aim is to provide the best participant and spectator experience for those that travel from around the UK and the rest of the world to the event. “Thanks must go to the amazing team of volunteers from around the Highlands that are instrumental in making the event so memorable and special”.
Malcolm Sutherland, race director, Baxters Loch Ness Marathon & Festival of Running
To enter visit www.highland-tourism-awards.co.uk Deadline 3 May 2013.
Dounreay Communities Fund and FSB Host Awards Workshop
for Caithness and Sutherland Businesses
The Federation of Small Businesses, in association with the Highlands & Islands Tourism Awards, will pilot an awards workshop for businesses in Caithness and Sutherland on Tuesday 16 April at Traill House,Thurso.
The event, sponsored by the Dounreay Communities Fund, will comprise of presentations, a workshop and open discussion delivered by Marina Huggett FIH, of Tourism Excellence Consultancy and chair of the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards, and Catherine Bunn of award-winning business, Highland Campervans.
The event is free to attend and offers an opportunity for businesses to learn how to present awards submissions in the most compelling way whilst adhering to the criteria set and to hear what judges look for when identifying award winning entries.
To reserve a place contact Joan Campbell by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 01641531231.
Date: Tuesday, 16 April 2013
Time: Registration Tea/Coffee at 11.00am, finishing with a networking lunch at 1.30pm.
Venue: Traill House, 7 Olrig Street, Thurso KW14 7BJ.
The Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards deadline for entries is 03 May 2013. All categories are free to enter and submissions should be made online at www.highland-tourism-awards.co.uk.