Tag: Tourism Industry


Winners Announced In Highland Tourism ‘Oscars’

The best places in the Highlands and Islands to eat, drink, stay and enjoy the area’s wildlife, culture and scenery have been rewarded in the annual tourism ‘Oscars’.

The winners of this year’s Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards (HITA) range from a seafood stall to a shark spotting experience and from the UK’s first crowdfunded bar to a centre showcasing traditional skills.

In all, winners were announced in 14 categories which had attracted entries and nominations from 163 businesses and individuals.

HITA chairman Craig Ewan said: “Many congratulations to all our winners and those who were shortlisted for awards. It has been another highly successful year for tourism in the Highlands and Islands and this is reflected in the quality of entries and nominations we received.

“The standard rises year on year which shows the strength and confidence of the industry and the level of service provided to visitors.”

For the first time the ceremony was held without a professional host. Instead, Annie Bonney and Fraser Szymborski-Welsh, who are studying BA (Hons) Drama and Performance at Inverness College UHI, part of the University of the Highlands and Islands, jointly anchored the event after winning a competition held during the Year of Young People.

The awards finale, held in front of 300 industry representatives at the Kingsmills Hotel, Inverness, was addressed by Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs.

She said: “I’d like to offer my congratulations to the finalists and winners of the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards (HITA) for their fantastic work in encouraging people to visit the area by providing high quality visitor experiences.  It’s no wonder Lonely Planet recently named the Highlands and Islands as one of the top regions in the world for travellers in 2019.

“I was particularly pleased to see the awards pay tribute to Scotland’s Year of Young People with the impressive young presenters and recognition for young marketing talent. I look forward to working with the industry to build on this tremendous success.

“I also hope the news that hotels across Scotland will benefit from a cap to their business rates until 2022 will be welcomed and will help create a more secure, sustainable future for Scotland’s hospitality sector.”

Inverness and Argyll and the islands enjoyed the most success with five trophy winners, while others went to Ross-shire, Moray, Strathspey and Sutherland.

HITA, which was held in association with SSE for a sixth successive year, is recognised as one of the premier industry hospitality awards programmes in Scotland.

Mike Seaton, SSE’s Director of Development, said: “SSE is now in its sixth year of sponsoring the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards and the quality and calibre of the winners and nominees this year have once again demonstrated that business, talent and innovation are thriving in this region.

“Energy and tourism are two of the most important sectors for the Highland economy. By working together we are able to create a lasting legacy for Highlands and Islands through projects like the South Loch Ness Trail and events like the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards.”

HITA winners (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: “On behalf of the panel, I would like to congratulate all the winners of the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards.

“It is fantastic to see businesses and individuals have their commitment and dedication to tourism in the local region recognised at these prestigious awards, especially coming just a week after the Highlands & Islands was named in the top 10 Best in Travel destinations for 2019 by Lonely Planet.

“I’d like to wish all the HITA winners, the very best for the national final.”

HITA board director Elizabeth Mackintosh, who has made an outstanding contribution to tourism in the north of Scotland for more than five decades was named the 2019 Highland Ambassador.

The owner of Achmony Holidays, which provides self-catering accommodation at Drumnadrochit, Loch Ness, was a pioneer in the self-catering sector and a founding member of the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers. She was a member of the board of Inverness and Nairn area Tourist Board and also of the Highlands of Scotland Tourist Board.

She was the inaugural chairperson of HITA, a post she held for five years, and was also on the steering group to set up VisitInvernessLochNess (VILN) Tourism BID.

Presenting the award, Craig Ewan, the HITA chair, said: “Elizabeth has been a driving force in collaborative thinking and in getting destinations to work together in Highland Tourism for more than 50 years.

“In that time, she has been a guide and a mentor for those setting up a tourism business for the first time, a ‘go-to’ person for advice and someone who is totally passionate about promotion of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland”.

MacGregor’s Bar, in Inverness, which has been operating for only a year and was set up by crowdfunding, took the title for Best Bar/Pub. Judges said: “Appealing to all ages, the history-focused Scottish bar has a great beer garden in the city centre, a menu bursting with unique food and drink combinations and a team dedicated to ensuring that customer satisfaction is at an all-time high”.

The Best Visitor Attraction award went to Cruise Loch Ness, which has taken more than 1.5 million passengers onto the famous waterway since 1968. Judges said: “The continuous re-investment in the business has allowed it to thrive in recent years.  Whilst it has certainly made the most of digital opportunities, other highlights include the commitment to staff training and effective collaboration with others”.

Inverness Taxis picked up the Innovation in Tourism award. Judges said the company, which has a fully-computerised system, GPS tracking, free booking app, baggage drop-off service and rucksack and bike forwarding, is a “great example of a company seeking new and innovative ways to benefit the business and the customer”.

The Working Together for Tourism category was won by Mull Eagle Watch, which started in 2000 at Loch Frisa to allow people to get great views of sea eagles without disturbing them. It is now a credited 5-star VisitScotland attraction and works in partnership with a local golf club. Judges said: “The collaboration shows how two very different companies can come together and offer a superb tourism experience.”

Another wildlife company, Basking Shark Scotland, took the Best Outdoor/Adventure Experience title.Based in Oban, it runs boat tours from April to October. Judges said their focus on the wider environment inspires guests who come on their trips to follow their lead in keeping the local area clean: “An active science programme culminated in them having their first scientific paper published in ground-breaking basking shark research.  They also found the time to organise a successful beach clean after discovering a remote beach on the Isle of Mull covered in plastic”.

Oban Live, formed in 2016 and the biggest live music event in Argyll & Bute, won the Best Cultural Event or Festival crown. HITA judges said: “The professional team who run the event have demonstrated dedication and commitment, as well as injecting an economic boost of £1.4 million to the area.”

The Purvai Festival, in Stornoway, which celebrates Asian arts and culture, received a commendation in this category.

Emma Clark, from Glenegedale House in Islay, was named Tourism and Hospitality Hero. Judges said Emma builds up a rapport with each guest long before they set foot over the threshold of the hotel: “This personal touch, from the initial enquiry to the moment they arrive, ensures that all guests feel at home the minute they enter Glenegedale House”.

The Seafood Shack, set up in Ullapool by two local women, won the award for Best Eating Experience. Judges said the team “work hard to ensure customer satisfaction is key with sustainability and provenance at the core of their offering.  With passion, care and enthusiasm, they produce fresh, locally sourced, award winning food every day”.

Also in Wester Ross, Pool House, at Achnasheen, won the title of Most Hospitable B&B/Guest House. Judges said “a truly wonderful experience” awaits guests at Pool House. “A historic house dating back 300 years which provides a truly unique stay for their guests”.

Links House at Royal Dornoch was crowned Most Hospitable Hotel, with judges praising the 15-bedroom luxury hotel’s “bespoke customer experience”.

The Best Self Catering/Alternative Accommodation Experience accolade went to self-catering business Where Stags Roar, in Newtonmore, with judges enthusing: “The level of attention to detail, customer satisfaction and repeat business is exemplary and has helped grow this impressive self-catering experience”. 

The Speyside Cooperage Visitor Centre, in Craigellachie, the only working cooperage in the UK where visitors can experience the ancient art of coopering, won the Best Heritage Tourism Experience award. The five-star credited VisitScotland attraction welcomes people from over 70 counties and the judges said it appeals to a mass of ages due to its unique blend of traditional rituals and modern-day technology.

During the Year of Young People, three winners were chosen for the Highland Rising Star award – Brian Sharp, from tour company Scottish Routes; John McNulty, from the Etive Restaurant in Oban; and Euan Walker, from Achnagairn Estate Kirkhill, near Inverness.

The HITA judges said: “We were delighted with the calibre, and emerging talent, of the young people who applied for the Rising Star award.  They showed true commitment and passion, striving to make the Highlands and Islands a world class destination. The three nominees were all so deserving that the unanimous decision was made to award all three as Highland Rising Stars 2018.”

Awards were also presented to students from Inverness College UHI, part of the University of the Highlands and Islands, who won competitions organised in partnership with HITA.

As well as Annie Bonney and Fraser Szymborski-Welsh, who presented the awards, Leanne Munro, a 3rd year BA (Hons) Visual Communication and Design student at Inverness College UHI won a separate competition to create a marketing campaign aimed at attracting the next generation of visitors to the Highlands and Islands. Her design was on display at the awards ceremony.

The full list of winners is

Best Self-Catering/Alternative Accommodation Experience

Where Stags Roar, Newtonmore

Best Cultural Event or Festival 

Oban Live
Commended -Purvai Festival, Stornoway

Best Heritage Tourism Experience

Speyside Cooperage Visitor Centre, Craigellachie

Best Eating Experience 

The Seafood Shack, Ullapool

Best Outdoor/Adventure Experience 

Basking Shark Scotland, Oban

Best Pub/Bar 

MacGregor’s Bar, Inverness

Best Visitor Attraction 

Cruise Loch Ness, Inverness

Innovation in Tourism

Inverness Taxis

Most Hospitable B&B / Guest House 

Pool House, Achnasheen, Wester Ross

Most Hospitable Hotel 

Links House at Royal Dornoch, Sutherland

Working Together for Tourism 

Mull Eagle Watch

Highland Rising Star 

John McNulty, Etive Restaurant in Oban
Euan Walker, Achnagairn Estate, Kirkhill, Inverness
Brian Sharp, Scottish Routes

Tourism and Hospitality Hero 

Emma Clark, Glenegedale House, Islay

Highland Ambassador 

Elizabeth Mackintosh





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.



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.




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.






Craig Ewan, chair of Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards

This year a particular focus will be on our younger staff and visitors and I’m looking forward to seeing how the future stars in the tourism sector can influence the industry and give us an insight into how it will develop in future.

The Year of Young People 2018 provides a platform for young people to have their talents celebrated and their voices heard.

Our sector relies on young staff members and we want to ensure the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards reflects the outstanding contribution they make to the overall visitor experience.

Our Highland Rising Star award is specifically aimed at recognising and rewarding young talent and I hope as many of our young professionals will enter or be nominated so their achievements to date and their potential can be highlighted.

HITA has an excellent reputation within the industry for promoting excellence and helping to raise quality standards in tourism.

We have an enviable track record of winners going on to pick up national Thistle Awards. This year was no exception, with four of our regional winners triumphing at the Thistles in March – Eilean Donan Castle (Best Heritage Tourism Experience); the Hebridean Celtic Festival (Best Cultural Event or Festival); the Fort William UCI Mountain Bike World Cup (Best Sporting Event) and Portavadie, Loch Fyne (Best Accommodation Provider).

I hope this success will encourage more companies and individuals to enter or nominate this year and continue to promote the best the Highlands and Islands has to offer.

HITA has enjoyed incredible growth over the last few years, with a 14 per cent rise in entries and nominations last year and a 70 per cent rise since 2014.

We aim to continue that trend in 2018 so that as many of our fantastic operators and attractions as possible reap the benefits of being part of the awards process.

On behalf of the HITA board, I would urge everyone to enter, or nominate someone or somewhere you think deserves to be honoured.



Freda Newton, chair of Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards judging panel
Another record-breaking year; another record-breaking challenge for the judges.

The Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards just keep getting bigger. This year we’ve received 232 nominations and entries – up 14 per cent on last year’s previous best-ever total, and an amazing 70 per cent rise since 2014.
This fantastic response demonstrates a confidence within the industry and highlights the growing number of high quality tourism establishments and services provided for our visitors.
HITA is one of the most well-respected award programmes and it is heartening to see so many businesses coming forward, or being nominated, to be open to scrutiny and ultimately try to be named as the best in the industry in this area.
As tourism is so vital to the Highlands and Islands, it is essential that we continue to improve standards and bring fresh ideas into the sector. HITA encourages and rewards good business practice, which provides visitors with high standards of service, and also innovation, which can elevate a business beyond the ever-increasing tourism expectations and demands.
For 2017 we have introduced a new category, Best Heritage Tourism Experience, as part of the themed Year of History Heritage and Archaeology, and to celebrate the extraordinary wealth of historic assets we have in the Highlands and Islands.
Demonstrating the region’s strength in this particular sector of tourism, we have received 15 entries in the new category. Other categories have also attracted large entries, including Best Accommodation Provider with more than 30.
Judging this amount of entries, particularly as the standard just keeps getting higher, is an enormous task for our 12 judges who are drawn from all parts of the Highlands and Islands and from all sections of the industry.
So, how do we choose the winners?
Over the coming weeks, we will examine all these entries and start forming opinions on who we think deserve to pick up the trophies. Each judge marks the entries independently online, and can use personal knowledge, reviews and information from industry contacts to support details provided with the entry or nomination.
When we meet up on 13th September we will compare notes, discuss and debate our choices and come to a consensus on who should make the shortlist for each category, and who in our combined opinions have gone that little bit further to be crowned winners.
From experience, some of these decisions are easier than others and a few intense conversations await as we narrow down our choices. All, or nearly all, will be revealed on 29 September when we announce the shortlists.
Thank you to everyone for giving us this onerous but highly rewarding task, and good luck.



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.”



Shirley Spear, owner and retired head chef of The Three Chimneys Restaurant with Rooms in Skye and former HITA Ambassador of the Year.
I greatly support the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards as the scheme encourages and rewards our best business operators. Awards help to push the quality bar higher by focusing on excellence at every level.  HITA rewards success, but also inspires our industry to constantly seek business improvements, which in turn, benefit their employees and enhance the wider visitor experience.
How times have changed throughout my business lifetime. This year Eddie and I celebrate 32 years running a small business and exactly 18 years since we opened our luxury bedrooms in The House Over-By and were awarded a 5-Star grading by VisitScotland, one of the very first in the Highlands and Islands.
This was the beginning of a whole new era for the region; the beginning of a new approach towards creating a unique, high-quality destination, open all-year-round and an unmissable experience for visitors coming to Scotland.
Our tourism and hospitality industry had been more of a poor relation in the economic scheme of things prior to this change of heart.  A whole new emphasis was placed upon the importance of small business in rural areas.  A new drive to develop the standards of accommodation, customer service, food, drink and overall visitor experience everywhere, soon followed.  Along with this we were encouraged to join new schemes and compete for awards, which all helped to drive forward our reputation.
In my opinion, this new emphasis was a great move and long overdue.  I was delighted that tourism and hospitality was being treated on a much more serious scale, offering great employment and career development for young people and opportunities for those with entrepreneurial spirit to gain a step on the ladder to success.
Today, tourism in the Highlands and Islands remains a crucial element of the on-going Scottish success story, with a wealth of businesses of many kinds and many hundreds of people directly employed throughout our diverse sector. We play a very important role, supporting the nation’s economy and in many places, building micro-economies on a significant scale.
Accommodation at every level, food and drink service of all kinds, visitor attractions large and small, adventurous and explorative outdoor activities, all combine together to create a unique visitor experience.
We must never forget how dependent we are upon one another in business. The overall visitor experience is a combination of everything our customers and guests experience throughout their stay in the Highlands and Islands.  It is so important that we all work hard together, collaborating with one another, to create the best visitor experience we can.
This is why it is also important for all of us to work at the top of our game in every way, in order to maintain the Highlands and Islands as a fantastic destination.
We should be proud to recognise and reward our best tourism operators and that is what schemes like the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards are all about. I hope everyone will feel encouraged to highlight their own success stories by entering an award category this year.
Also, as it is the year of History, Heritage and Archaeology, there may be a particular business or person you wish to nominate for the role they have played over the years towards building the region’s profile as a special destination experience.
The Highlands and Islands is thriving in 2017 as a great destination experience and we should continue to work hard and raise our game towards a very positive future.
Be proud to play your part and enter this year’s awards!



By Rebecca Brooks, VisitScotland Board Member and Chair of the Scottish Thistle Awards Industry Panel.
After a hugely successful 2016/17 Scottish Thistle Awards, highlighting the fantastic work of the tourism and hospitality sector across the length and breadth of the country, we are now embracing the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology.

The year will celebrate both our tangible and intangible heritage – everything from our buildings and archaeological sites to our diverse stories, traditions and culture – which will both involve and inspire the tourism sector.
In addition, this year’s theme will be reflected by the introduction of a Best Heritage Tourism Experience category.
It is appropriate that in the year which looks to Scotland’s past, the Scottish Thistle Awards marks its own historical milestone. For a quarter of a century, the excellence, innovation and tireless work that goes into creating a world class visitor experience in Scotland has been recognised by the tourism industry with the annual awards.
The Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards (HITA), now in their 13th year, play a crucial role within this historical movement by not only being a regional heat for the Scottish Thistle Awards National Final but also reflecting the importance of customer experience in the region.
To receive a HITA nomination is a huge honour and something that those select few should be proud of and share with visitors and the industry. Past recipients such as Scotland’s Best B&B, Mull Eagle Watch, Glenlivet Distillery Visitor Centre, Hebridean Celtic Festival and Eilean Donan Castle, reveal the real strength and depth of quality that the Highlands and Islands has to offer.
Each year, the awards continue to grow in strength, and we look forward to a bumper competition in 2017 following last year’s record-setting number of entries – and the chance for Highlands and Islands businesses to make their own history in the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology.



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.

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