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News

FINALISTS READY TO DO BATTLE FOR HIGHLAND TOURISM AWARDS

The finalists in the prestigious Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards have been announced with more than 40 businesses and individuals shortlisted for honours.

The annual awards recognise and reward the best places to stay, eat, drink and enjoy the area’s sporting, historic and cultural events, as well as its nature and scenery.

Scottish music festivals will compete against a celebration of Asian arts and culture in one category, while hotels, guest houses, restaurants, small food outlets, heritage centres, wildlife spotting tours and others will also battle it out for the coveted piper trophies.

Leading the way is Argyll and the Isles, with 16 finalists, with 11 from Inverness/ Inverness-shire and four each from Strathspey and Skye. Sutherland, Ross-shire, Moray, Lochaber and the Outer Hebrides are also represented on the shortlist.

Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards (HITA) chairman Craig Ewan said: “Congratulations to all our finalists. Given the quality of the entries, the businesses and individuals who have made the shortlist can be really proud of their achievement.

“It was another extremely difficult task for the judges to narrow the entries to just 43 contenders and they have another huge challenge ahead in picking our eventual winners.

“The awards showcase the best of the tourism industry in the Highlands and Islands and also inspire operators to continue to raise standards and provide excellence at all times to our visitors.”

Winners will be announced at a ceremony on 2 November in the Kingsmills Hotel, Inverness, which will be attended by Fiona Hyslop, the Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs.

NOTES TO EDITORS

The HITA awards scheme, 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.

Some 163 businesses and individuals have entered or been nominated in 14 categories this year.

The awards scheme 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.

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.

HITA is an industry-led project representing all sectors of tourism. It is overseen by a voluntary board of directors and the independent judging panel is drawn from experienced industry professionals working across the region.

This year’s sponsors also include – VisitScotland, Loch Ness by Jacobite, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Port of Cromarty Firth, Developing the Young Workforce, Royal Bank of Scotland, Scottish Provincial Press, Inverness Hotels Association, The Highland Council, the Federation of Small Businesses, J Thomson Colour Printers, Caledonian Sleeper, Fishers, Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd and NorthLink Ferries. 

The 2018 shortlist is –

Best Self-Catering/Alternative Accommodation Experience

Where Stags Roar, Newtonmore
Portavadie Loch Fyne, Argyll
Clan Cottages, Oban
Morag’s Lodge, Fort Augustus

Best Cultural Event or Festival

Oban Live
Isle of Jura Music Festival
Purvai Festival, Stornoway

Best Heritage Tourism Experience

The Highlanders Museum, Fort George, Inverness
Speyside Cooperage Visitor Centre, Craigellachie
Elgin Museum
Go to St Kilda, Skye

Best Eating Experience

The Seafood Shack, Ullapool
Toravaig House Hotel, Skye
Ninth Wave Restaurant, Mull

Best Outdoor/Adventure Experience

Glenlivet Hill Trek
St Hilda Sea Adventures, Oban
Basking Shark Scotland, Oban
Nature Scotland, Mull
Majestic Line, Argyll

Best Pub/Bar

MacGregor’s Bar, Inverness
Black Isle Bar and Rooms, Inverness
Castle Tavern, Inverness

Best Visitor Attraction

Johnstons of Elgin
Dolphin Spirt, Inverness
Cruise Loch Ness, Inverness

Innovation in Tourism

Portavadie Loch Fyne
Cruise Loch Ness
Inverness Taxis

Most Hospitable B&B / Guest House

Glenegedale House, Islay
Pool House, Achnasheen, Wester Ross
RossMor Guest House, Grantown

Most Hospitable Hotel

Uig Hotel Ltd, Skye
Skeabost Hotel, Skye
Links House at Royal Dornoch, Sutherland

Working Together for Tourism

Fort William Accommodation Marketing Group
Mull Eagle Watch
Argyll and the Isles Tourism Cooperative Ltd

Highland Rising Star

John McNulty, Taynuilt Hotel, Argyll
Euan Walker, Achnagairn Estate, Kirkhill, Inverness
Brian Sharp, Highland Experience Tours

Tourism and Hospitality Hero

Emma Clark, Glenegedale House, Islay
Alice Gill, Lodge on Loch Goil, Argyll
John Easson, Culloden Battlefield

Highland Ambassador

To be announced on the night

News

WHO WILL BE OUR HIGHLANDS AND ISLANDS TOURISM AWARDS FINALISTS

Freda Newton, chair of Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards judging panel

In the next few days, judging for this year’s Highlands and Islands Tourism Awardswill be drawing to a close and we will move nearer to finalising the 2018 shortlist.

It’s been another fantastic competition with 163 businesses and individuals entering or being nominated for awards. The standard keeps improving, making the job of the judges more difficult every year.

HITA is rightly regarded as one of the most prestigious award programmes and those fortunate enough to be among the finalists when we announce them on 27 September will know they have earned a place amongst the elite.

14 categories

The quality of the entries and nominations in each of the 14 categories was again outstanding. We know we have a wonderful product in the Highlands and Islands and a workforce that is dedicated, resourceful, innovative and talented.

However, it is always a delight to be reminded just how high the quality bar is set and how well our valued visitors are served by the industry.

As we know, tourism is vital to this area. It is a highly competitive market and we have to continue to improve and update our offering to ensure we keep pace with customer requirements.

Rewarding excellence

Awards schemes like HITA play an important role in rewarding excellence and new thinking in the industry, but also in encouraging tourism operators to take stock of what they are providing and seeking improvements.

We have had a very healthy entry in each of the categories, indicating the strength of the offering in all aspects of tourism in this area, including accommodation, food and drink, culture, outdoor activities and visitor attractions.

Of particular interest is the high numbers that have entered or been nominated in the Best Eating Experience and Most Hospitable B&B/Guest House and hotels categories, which highlight the fact these sectors are well catered for in the region and our reputation for providing good Highland hospitality remains.

Year of Young People

It is also heartening that, in the Year of Young People, so many nominations were made in the Highland Rising Star category. This illustrates that the industry is in good hands with the next generation and that tourism and hospitality is seen as an appealing and rewarding career choice by young, talented people.

Our judging panel has been considering all these entries and nominations for just over two months. Each judge has been marking the businesses and individuals independently and can use personal knowledge, reviews and information from industry contacts to support details provided with the entry or nomination.

The next stage will see them meet as a team and compare notes, discuss and debate the choices and come to a collective decision on who should make the shortlist for each category.

Joint accolade

We have the even more onerous task of choosing the ultimate winners, such a difficult job when the candidates are of such high quality. For those who take the prizes, there is the joint accolade of not only being voted the best in the Highlands and Islands, but also being chosen to represent the area in the Scottish Thistle Awards next year.

It’s a daunting prospect for us, but one we always relish and are excited about as we’ve proven again this year the industry is being well looked after.

Thank you everyone who entered the awards or nominated someone. See you all at the awards ceremony on 2 November.

 

News

DEADLINES LOOM FOR HIGHLANDS AND ISLANDS TOURISM AWARDS

Businesses and individuals are being encouraged to put forward their nominations and entries for the prestigious Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards with the deadlines just days away.

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

This year 14 honours will be presented in what is regarded as one of the premier industry hospitality awards programmes in Scotland.

Friday, 22 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 other categories is Monday, 2 July.

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 being held in association with SSEfor a sixth successive year, 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.

The 2018 HITA aims to build on the success of last year’s awards which attracted a record 232 entries and nominations – an increase of more than 14 per cent on the 2016 figure and up 70 per cent on 2014.

 

HITA Chairman Craig Ewan said: “The Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards represent a mark of excellence for businesses and individuals working in this important sector.

“We want to ensure that everyone has a chance to be recognised for the tremendous work they do in welcoming our visitors and that means getting nominations and entries in by the deadlines. Good luck to everyone.”

The contest will culminate at a ceremony in the Kingsmills Hotel, Inverness, on Friday,2 November and winners (with the exception of the Highland Rising Star and Highland Ambassador) go on to compete at the glittering Scottish Thistle Awards next year.

News

A TIME TO CELEBRATE OUR YOUNG MEMBERS OF STAFF

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.

News

DEADLINES LOOM FOR HIGHLANDS AND ISLANDS TOURISM AWARDS 

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.”

News

SSE PROUD TO SPONSOR HITA 2017

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.

News

HITA BUILDING ON PREVIOUS SUCCESS

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

News

SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT PRAISE IMPACT OF HIGHLANDS AND ISLANDS TOURISM AWARDS

The Scottish Government has praised the work of the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards for helping to raise standards of excellence in the industry as this year’s search begins to find the industry’s leading stars.

The 2017 HITA scheme was launched at the Great Loch Ness Tea Party, an event to celebrate the future of the local tourism industry in collaboration with students of the Inverness College UHI hospitality department.

Pic caption: HITA chair Craig Ewan (seated centre) with HITA board members Marina Huggett (left) and Lorna Maclennan and Inverness College UHI students (left to right) Edward Holmes, Adam Nicolson and Lewis Mapplebeck

Tourism Secretary Fiona Hyslop declared her support for HITA in a message to the awards organisers.

She said: “Tourism is a vital and growing economic mainstay of the Highlands and Islands, supporting some 30,000 jobs and generating vital substantial revenue, and the industry’s reach into every corner of the area means that tourism is everybody’s business.

“The Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards highlight the very best businesses and individuals who go beyond normal standards to ensure superb visitor experiences, whether through hospitality, catering, events, activities or other pioneering industry work.”

Now in their 13th year, the awards celebrate excellence across all sectors of the industry in the Highlands and Islands. Last year, 203 businesses or individuals entered or were nominated for awards, the biggest ever response in the event’s history.

HITA chair Craig Ewan said: “Tourism operators have to constantly improve, develop and innovate to stay ahead in a highly-competitive industry. HITA does the same to ensure we reward the very best and promote the fantastic work being done by people across our region to provide excellent service for our guests.

“Last year was our most successful in terms of entries and nominations and we aim to build on that success to involve even more businesses and individuals who deserve to be recognised.”

HITA, which is run in association with SSE, is recognised 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.

The famous piper trophies will be awarded in 16 categories, with winners going on to compete at the glittering Scottish Thistle Awards next year.

This year, in line with Scotland’s themed Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology, there is a new category, Best Heritage Tourism Experience.

Nominations and entries can be made from today via the HITA website www.highland-tourism-awards.co.uk

Nominations close on 23 June and the entries deadline is 30 June. The event will culminate in a grand ceremony for finalists at the Drumossie Hotel, Inverness, on 3 November.

News

HIGHLANDS AND ISLANDS TOURISM FIRMS SCOOP NATIONAL HONOURS

HIGHLANDS AND ISLANDS TOURISM FIRMS SCOOP NATIONAL HONOURS

Five businesses from across the Highlands and Islands have picked up national honours at the Scottish tourism ’Oscars’.

The five category winners in the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards in November went on to win at the national finals of the Scottish Thistle Awards, held at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre on Friday.

The Ninth Wave Restaurant in Mull was voted Best Restaurant Experience; The five-star Ardtorna bed and breakfast in Oban was named Most Hospitable B&B /Guest House and the family-run Kylesku Hotel in Sutherland was chosen as Most Hospitable Hotel.

The award for Friendliest Pub/Bar went to the Applecross Inn in Wester Ross, while Tiree Music Festival received a special commendation in the Best Cultural Event or Festival category.

Craig Ewan, Chair of the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards, said: “Having five of our category winners recognised at the national finals is a great achievement for the individual businesses and also for the industry in the north of Scotland.

“Congratulations to all those who won and were shortlisted for awards.”

This year’s Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards, now in their 12th year, were launched last week by tourism minister Fergus Ewing.

He said he expected HITA to build on a record-breaking 2015 which saw the highest number of entries and nominations in 15 categories.

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 for the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards. 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

News

CHIVAS RAISES A GLASS TO HITA SUCCESS

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.

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