Scotland’s busiest cruise port has been welcomed aboard as a major sponsor of the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards.
The Port of Cromarty Firth attracted 91 cruise liners last year, which brought over 151,000 visitors into Invergordon and generated more than £15 million for the area’s economy.
Earlier this year it announced a £23 million project including an extension to Berth 5 at the Invergordon Service Base to allow the port to accommodate the largest cruise ships that are currently being built.
It will mean that ships carrying up to 6,000 passengers are able to dock, bringing a further economic injection to the Highlands.
The port has now become a silver sponsor of HITA, which celebrate and reward the leading tourism businesses and individuals in the region. It will support the Best Heritage Tourism Experience Award category.
HITA chairman Craig Ewan said: “The Port of Cromarty Firth has been at the forefront of efforts to develop the cruise industry which is now one of the biggest and fastest growing sectors in tourism.
“So many tourism and hospitality operators benefit from the thousands of cruise passengers who come here every year to enjoy our scenery and attractions.
“We are delighted the port has joined us in helping to identify and honour our best tourism ambassadors. Its help will allow us to develop the awards and promote the industry which is so vital to the Highlands and Islands.”
Last year, Captain Iain Dunderdale, former cruise manager for the Port of Cromarty Firth, who was instrumental in developing the cruise industry, was named Highland Ambassador 2017 at the tourism awards.
Allison McGuire, the new Cruise Manager at Port of Cromarty Firth, said “We are delighted to be sponsoring HITA and recognising the people and organisations who work tirelessly to ensure visitors enjoy their time in the Highlands.
“These experiences keep people coming back year after year; creating jobs and opportunities for local people.”
HITA, 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. It celebrates and honours the best places to stay, eat and drink and enjoy the area’s history and culture.
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.
Mike Seaton, Director of Development, SSE
After last year’s record-breaking Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards, I’m already looking forward to seeing the quality of the entries and nominations for this year’s competition.
SSE is proud to support HITA for the sixth year in a row. We started as lead sponsors of the awards in 2012, and every year we are thrilled to see the event go from strength to strength.
Having helped launch this year’s contest at Culloden Battlefield last month, we are excited at the prospect of another fiercely-fought competition that will demonstrate that business, talent and innovation are continuing to thrive in the region.
HITA awards create a lasting legacy for the businesses and individuals who enter or are nominated, recognising their amazing contributions to tourism in the Highlands, and I would urge people in the sector to take part.
Energy and tourism are two of the most important sectors in the Highland economy and SSE is committed to continuing to work together and learn from each other as industries.
As a responsible and sustainable operator and developer of renewable energy we are passionate about supporting local jobs and businesses that work on our projects across the UK and through our supply chain. Since March last year we have delivered two onshore wind farms in the Highlands, Bhlaraidh and Dunmaglass, helping to bring benefits to the local people, environment and economy.
As we continue to work to bring responsible development into the Highlands and Islands we look forward to working closely with local communities and business owners to help create a successful and sustainable future for the area.
Currently under construction in the Great Glen is our Stronelairg wind farm, one great example of how wind farms and tourism can work together. As part of works associated with the wind farm, SSE played a key role in delivering a section of the South Loch Ness Trail, having constructed a significant section of the path from Fort Augustus to Glendoe. This work, totalling over £570,000, was completed in March 2017. In addition, SSE has provided community funds associated with the renewable energy projects in the Great Glen worth over £1m per year.
To help complete the final four-mile stretch, from Glendoe to Loch Tarff, SSE gifted Visit Loch Ness £50,000. This, combined with £60,000 award from Highland Council and additional funding received from other contributors, means that the South Loch Ness Trail can finally be completed with work having started at the end of February 2018.
We are committed to working positively with our tourism partners in the Highlands and Islands and I am looking forward to celebrating the high business standards consistently seen across the region at the awards ceremony in November.
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.
The Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards have announced two new sponsors as the industry ‘Oscars’ seek to build on last year’s record-breaking year.
Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (HIAL) and the Eastgate Shopping Centre in Inverness have agreed to support the awards, which in 2015 attracted their highest ever number of entries and nominations.
HIAL operates and manages 11 airports across the Highlands and Islands, connecting the north of Scotland to a network of more than 30 UK and international destinations, including Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester, Birmingham, Belfast, Dublin, London, Amsterdam, Bergen and Geneva.
In 2014-15, the group handled more than 1.43 million passengers, including business and leisure travel.
HIAL recently announced details of a £900,000 investment at Inverness Airport, including plans for a purpose-built international arrivals hall to cater for the growing number of international flights at the Highland gateway.
It comes as British Airways and KLM prepare to launch new services to London Heathrow and Amsterdam Schiphol respectively, and easyJet expands its services to London, bringing a major boost to tourism in the area.
Inglis Lyon, HIAL’s Managing Director, said: “The tourism market is a very important part of HIAL’s business and will grow significantly with the expansion at Inverness Airport and the new planned air routes. Supporting the HITA scheme is a natural fit for us and we hope we can help the awards develop even further.”
Eastgate Shopping Centre is the biggest indoor shopping area in the Highlands and Islands. Each year the centre welcomes over 8 million visitors including local people, those from the wider Highlands and Islands and tourists. The centre has just achieved World Host status as it realises the importance of a good welcome to tourists who have such an economic impact on the city.
Since acquiring Eastgate last July, Scoop has been busy developing plans for Falcon Square into a “continental-style” civic space which would include an enhanced restaurant and leisure offer. This development seeks to bring vibrancy back to the city centre, creating a city square where local residents, visitors and tourists alike can meet, socialise and enjoy leisure time.
Jackie Cuddy, the Centre Manager, said the centre is delighted to be sponsoring the Informal Eating Experience category at this year’s awards ceremony.
She said: “As the centre moves into this market by adding restaurants to Falcon Square it’s appropriate that we honour the informal eating experience that exists already within Inverness.”
The new sponsors were announced as businesses in the north of Scotland were encouraged to share in the success of HITA.
‘Maximising Your Opportunities’, held at the Inverness Campus, was attended by about 40 businesses including HITA winners and sponsors who gave insights into how being involved with the awards has benefitted them.
HITA Chair Craig Ewan said: “The HITA awards have grown significantly over the years and help recognise all that is good in this vital industry. We are delighted to welcome our new sponsors and, with their help, we will develop the awards and raise the quality bar in this area even further.”
Mr Ewan, who is also general manager of the Kingsmills Hotel in Inverness, told the meeting how winning a HITA award helped raise the profile of the hotel and also boosted staff morale.
He said: “It gave us all a sense of achievement and raised the quality bar for us. It also raised the expectations of our guests which keeps us on our toes and helps us improve further.”
Steve Barron, Group Publications Manager, Scottish Provincial Press, advised the audience on gaining media exposure by being associated with HITA, and Peter Kane, Managing Director of Lucid PR, Events and Marketing, explained how and why businesses should embrace social media.
Stuart Black, Director of Development and Infrastructure at the Highland Council, also gave details on how the recently-announced City Deal for Inverness will benefit the Highlands and the region’s businesses.
Other speakers were Roddy Hendry, Deputy Principal of Inverness College UHI, which sponsored the event, and Tommy Gibson, Regional Hydro Group Manager with SSE, HITA’s headline sponsor.
This year’s Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards, now in their 12th year, were launched last month by tourism minister Fergus Ewing.
The awards, which are held in association with SSE, are free to enter and businesses or individuals can put themselves forward for recognition or be nominated by customers or other individuals in 15 categories via the HITA website at www.highland-tourism-awards.co.uk
The event will culminate in a grand ceremony for finalists at the Kingsmills Hotel on 4 November.
Last year 190 entries and nominations were received. The total was boosted by the inclusion of part of Argyll for the first time, but even without the boundary change the figure was nearly 40 per cent up on 2014.
HITA winners will go on to represent the region at the glittering national final of the Scottish Thistle Awards next year
It was a night to remember, not least for our award winners. So here a selection of photographs courtesy of sponsors SPP, some of the main moments to treasure again. Thank you everyone who helped make this record breaking year so special.
BY MURDO MCGHIE, DIRECTOR, SSE RENEWABLES
As an energy business with firm roots in the Scottish Highlands, SSE has ‘grown up’ hand in hand with the bourgeoning tourism industry in this unique part of the world.
HITA is about recognising excellence and SSE shares its aspiration of promoting the best possible standards across the region.
Like the tourism trade, SSE would be nothing without its people, who live and work in the areas we serve. Our understanding of the Highlands runs deep because our business has been embedded here for a very long time, delivering the first electricity lines to remote communities and harnessing ‘power from the glens’ for over 70 years.
This beautiful part of the world is home to communities who are resourceful and resilient, and we all want to see its economy thrive and its reputation for quality continue to grow.
Towards that end, SSE is supporting HITA as flagship event sponsor for the third year running, in their work to find and publicly salute the companies, events, venues and individuals that have made visitors’ experiences extra-special and memorable.
We wish everyone at HITA and the wider tourism industry another successful and rewarding year and are thrilled to be supporting them in 2015.