Tag: Scotland



The 2020 Scottish Thistle Awards took place at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre on the 5th of March where winners from five regional awards competed to find the very best in the Scottish Tourism industry.

The HITA team would like to congratulate all finalists and winners of the night, with a special mention to our Highlands and Islands 2019 winners, Eagle Brae, James Ryan from Culloden Battlefield and Glenegedale House, for bringing their prestigious trophies back home to the Highlands.

The winners of the night were:

The Pot Still – Best Bar/Pub
All-Energy Exhibition and Conference 2019 – Best Business
Paisley Halloween Festival – Best Cultural Event or Festival
Robert Burns Birthplace Museum – Best Heritage Tourism Experience
The Dunstane Houses – Best Hotel Experience
The Real Food Café – Best Informal Eating Experience
Land Rover Experience Scotland – Best Outdoor Adventure Experience
L’escargot blanc – Best Restaurant Experience
Eagle Brae – Best Self Catering Accommodation Experience
Salmon Skyline Scotland – Best Sporting Event
The McManus: Dundee’s Art Gallery & Museum – Best Visitor Attraction
Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2018 – Inclusive Tourism
Invisible Cities – Innovation in Tourism
Glenegedale House – Most Hospitable B&B/Guest House
James Ryan, Culloden Battlefield Visitor Centre – Tourism & Hospitality Hero
Aberdeen International Airport and its Northern Lights Lounge Food and Drink Suppliers – Working Together for Tourism

Congratulations once again, what an achievement!

Nominations and entries are now open for the 2020 Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards and if you’re involved in our region’s tourism industry then we strongly encourage you to enter.  #HITA2020

Highlands & Islands Tourism Awards 2019

HITA 2019 Finalist update

We have some exciting news!  We couldn’t wait until next week to tell you… so we will be announcing the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards 2019 shortlist this Friday!  Head over to the blog and click follow us to be notified first about who the HITA 2019 finalists are.  You’ll also be able to keep up-to-date with any other exciting news on the run up to the awards ceremony in November.  We are so excited to reveal the finalists… 3 days to go! 
Highlands & Islands Tourism Awards 2019

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.
2019 Highlands & Islands Tourism Awards Board

Meet the 2019 HITA Board!

The opportunity to enter the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards is brought to you by the HITA Board of Directors. Each of our twelve Board members offers their time and services on a voluntary basis and is committed to a ‘giving back’ tourism effort.


HITA has an important role to play in promoting business, as well as encouraging and rewarding excellence.

So I would urge business leaders and individuals to enter the awards or nominate someone for recognition. Its only by measuring yourself or your business against the best in the sector that you can learn and improve.

The Highlands and Islands is full of success stories and by highlighting them we not only raise the profile of the winners and the contenders, we also showcase the quality and excellence of the sector as a whole.

I was the most surprised person in the room when I was named Highland Ambassador at last year’s HITA. But I am extremely proud to have been given this prestigious accolade and see it as a reflection on the significant impact the cruise business now has on tourism and the economy in general in Scotland.

From 1989, when Invergordon welcomed just one cruise ship, the cruise business has grown into a multi-million pound industry which brings benefits to many parts of Scotland.

Cruise ships are expected to generate around £80 million in Scotland this year and the impact of the thousands of visiting passengers will be felt well beyond the ports from where they disembark.

Pubs and restaurants, castles, historic sites, distilleries, golf courses and museums will all benefit from their spending power, as well as buses, taxis and hire car firms.

Quality products, attractions and services draw these customers who can influence further visits, so its vitally important we maintain and improve standards and continue to innovate to keep pace with expectations.

HITA’s part in this process cannot be understated. By encouraging and promoting excellence in all areas of tourism and hospitality, it can ensure the Highlands and Islands is a must-see destination for global visitors.



Charlotte Davies, Sommelier & Assistant Restaurant Manager at The Three Chimneys, Isle of Skye, and winner of HITA’s 2017 Rising Star Award

During the Year of Young People 2018, it is really important that more of my contemporaries are given the recognition they deserve and opportunities to advance their careers, across all sectors.

We are the new generation that will be setting the bar even higher for standards and innovative new ideas to ensure that Scotland as a whole continues to thrive.

It is also a time to demonstrate that the tourism and hospitality sector is no longer a ‘stepping stone’ job that you do just to earn a bit of pocket money (although that is fine too if that’s your reason for doing it). It’s a career with incredibly fulfilling job prospects that can take you anywhere in the world if you work hard enough.

There are so many qualifications and apprenticeships that you can take now if you like to learn in a college setting or if, like me, you can dive straight in and learn on the job with the right mentoring and practical skills.

There has been a gradual shift over the past few years, but I’m really hoping that, with schemes like HITA, the general attitude and assumptions about hospitality will be seen in a completely new light.

I love my role in hospitality and working with wine (and other beverages!) and I love that every day is different and comes with new challenges.

Hospitality is a career for people who are innately caring and want to create an impeccable experience for their guests. Hospitality is a career for those who want to help make incredible memories.

I hope that more young people will see tourism and hospitality as a career choice and also more will be recognised for the important role they play in the sector.

Winning the prestigious HITA Rising Star award last year was a major achievement for me and has given me the extra motivation to pursue new challenges and goals.

I recently entered the Gold Service Scholarship 2018, the UK’s most prestigious Front of House award. Like HITA, it was a great experience and provided a fantastic opportunity to network with like-minded colleagues within the sector. It was also amazing to represent the whole of the country as the only Scottish finalist.

As well as representing Scotland, I have been given access to incredible opportunities that, without these types of awards, I would never get the chance to experience. For example, this year I will be visiting the famous sweet wine area of Tokaji in Hungary, visiting Mosel in Germany and get to enjoy a chocolate master class.

The HITA honour also gave me the incentive to pursue my next level of wine qualification, the Court of Master Sommeliers Advanced. It will be a tall order to achieve but, having a few people around you that believe in your capabilities, can make all the difference.

The Three Chimneys, and particularly General Manager Paul Hughes, have been incredibly supportive of my involvement in all of these competitions and helping to train and prepare me for them.

There has been a lot of hard work and travelling involved, but it has been worth every minute of the extra time and all the miles.”

I would encourage any young person working in the sector to enter for HITA – and also businesses to nominate members of their young workforce. It could be a milestone in an incredible career journey.




Rebecca Brooks, VisitScotland Board Member and Chair of the Scottish Thistle Awards Industry Panel.

To win a Highlands and Islands Tourism Award is something to be proud of. Not only are you the best in the region but you have the honour of representing the area at the glittering national final.

The 2017/18 Scottish Thistle Awards National Final, which marked the competition’s silver anniversary, was a time to reflect on those individuals, events and businesses who have shown leadership in the sector.

To have four HITA winners pick up national Thistle Awards was a fantastic achievement for the individua businesses and for the region. My congratulations to Eilean Donan Castle, the Hebridean Celtic Festival, the Fort William UCI Mountain Bike World Cup and Portavadie for their success, and to all those who won through to the national final.

The Scottish tourism industry and hospitality sector prides itself on delivering a rewarding experience for visitors.

Our reputation as a world-class destination relies on continued investment and innovation and for the past 25 years the Scottish Thistle Awards has shone a spotlight on the success, innovation and excellence that our Scottish tourism industry delivers.

We need to think bigger about Scotland as a tourism destination to ensure we fulfil our potential – every visitor must get a quality experience every single time.

The Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards (HITA) is an important part of that drive for excellence and last year’s winners reflected the strength and depth at both a regional and national level.

This year is the 2018 Year of Young People. Over the 12 months Scotland will offer inspiration through its young people by celebrating their achievements, valuing their contributions to communities and creating new opportunities for them to shine on a local and global stage.

As well as providing opportunities for the industry to engage with families and younger visitors through a year-long programme of events, it is also a time to celebrate the young talented individuals within Scottish tourism. For they are our aspiring Scottish Thistle Award winners of the future.

Good luck to everyone who enters or is nominated for HITA recognition this year and we look forward to seeing you at the Thistles.



Businesses and individuals are being urged to register their nominations and entries for the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards with the deadlines just days away.

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

This year 16 awards will be presented, with an additional category added, Best Heritage Tourism Experience, to mark Scotland’s themed Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology. 

Friday, 23 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 categories is Friday, 30 June.

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 held in association with SSE, 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.

Last year, 203 businesses or individuals entered or were nominated for awards, the biggest ever response in the event’s history.

Craig Ewan, the HITA chairman, said: “The number of entries and nominations registered to date is extremely strong and I am hopeful of at least matching last year’s record-breaking total.

“As the deadlines approach, I want to encourage everyone working in tourism and providing excellent service to our visitors to take part in the awards to ensure they have a chance to win one of these sought-after trophies.

“Recognising best practice helps maintain high standards in the industry, while inspiring innovation and improvement.”

HITA is regarded as one of the premier industry hospitality awards programmes in Scotland, where the tourism sector is worth more than £4.5 billion to the economy.

Winners will receive the famous piper trophies at a ceremony in the Drumossie Hotel, Inverness, on Friday,3 November and (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: “The Scottish Thistle Awards is a chance to celebrate those who work tirelessly to ensure that all visitors, whether from Scotland or further afield, enjoy a truly memorable experience.

“Tourism is more than a holiday experience, it creates jobs and sustains communities. I’m delighted that these awards continue to recognise the shining lights within our industry.

“This year marks a very special anniversary for the Scottish Thistles Awards, it is our 25th anniversary. In that time, we have recognised the dedication, talent and success of over 350 winners and this year is no exception.

“We would urge all our fantastic tourism businesses to go online, find out what category or categories they think best represents them and enter.”



Mike Seaton, SSE Director of Generation Development
SSE is delighted to support for the Highlands and Islands Tourism awards for a fifth consecutive year.

Since we started as lead sponsors of the awards in 2013 we have been excited to see the event go from strength to strength.
With increases in both the number of nominations, as well as demand for tickets to come along to one of the highlights in the industry’s calendar, it’s fair to say that being nominated for this event is a prestigious accolade.
These awards recognise excellence and promote and celebrate the high business standards consistently seen across the Highlands and Islands. After 2016’s record breaking year for nominations, I’m looking forward to seeing the quality and calibre of this year’s winners and their fellow nominees who demonstrate yet again that business, talent and innovation are thriving in this region.
Energy and tourism are two of the most important sectors in the Highland and Islands economy and SSE is committed to continuing to work together and learn from each other as industries.
As a responsible operator and developer of renewable energy we are committed to working with local communities, to provide local jobs, support the supply chain and local businesses, and to contribute to a successful and sustainable future for the region.
For example, and in conjunction with our project partners, we have already started work on the Beatrice Offshore wind farm, one of the largest ever private investments in Scottish infrastructure.
We are looking to make a positive and sustainable impact on the communities close to the project by hiring locally and offering supply chain opportunities for local businesses, where possible.
One aspect of the project is restoring the iconic Thomas Telford buildings on Wick’s harbour quay for our operations and maintenance base.
We are also delighted to have recently opened a brand new visitor centre at Pitlochry Dam – which will be a major tourism attraction for the area. Although slightly out of the HITA region we extend an open invitation to everyone to see it for themselves.
Here’s to celebrating another successful year for the Highlands and Islands Tourism industry.



Craig Ewan, Chair of the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards
After a record-breaking year in 2016, we have a clear target to surpass to continue the progress of HITA this year.
A fantastic 203 businesses or individuals entered or were nominated for awards last year, the biggest ever response in the event’s history.
I was very proud to have chaired the event in 2016 and I am determined to keep the success and momentum going as we launch this year’s search for the best in the industry.
HITA is highly regarded within the industry as one of the premier awards programmes and our iconic piper trophies are much sought after. They are a symbol of excellence, a sign of quality for visitors and a reward for staff who have achieved a significant standard of service.
Of course, winning is the ultimate goal, but we are reminded every year by businesses and individuals that entering can be an important milestone for them. It encourages a re-assessment of what they are doing and why, stimulates them to raise the bar even higher and prompts innovation to stay ahead in a highly competitive sector.
I am grateful for the hard work and dedication shown by the HITA board, which is made up of industry volunteers who give their time and energy because of their continuing desire to improve tourism in this area.
We are all delighted to have SSE back as a headline sponsor once again. On behalf of all the board I would like to thank SSE for the outstanding job they do in supporting and promoting tourism in this area. It is extremely rewarding to have such an enthusiastic sponsor with whom we work so well.
I also want to thank all our other sponsors who make the awards programme and our prestigious ceremony possible. This year we welcome aboard two new supporters in Historic Environment Scotland and BidFood Scotland and we are grateful for their efforts to help HITA build on our success.
As usual, we will be searching for the best in all aspects of our industry, from food and drink to accommodation and from cultural events to adventure holidays.
This year, in line with Scotland’s themed Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology, we have introduced a new category, Best Heritage Tourism Experience. It’s hard to imagine an area better suited than the Highlands and Islands to excel in this category with our strong links to the Gaelic language, our wealth of ancient sites and our fascinating and colourful traditions. I expect this category to produce some wonderful entries and a hard-fought competition.
It will be another major challenge this year for our judges, but one that we are all looking forward to immensely.
Whoever succeeds in November, they will be worthy representatives of the Highlands and Islands and our proud industry. And it is fantastic that they go on the represent the area and go head-to-head with others from across the country to celebrate excellence in Scotland at the national Thistle Awards.
Good luck everyone

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