The company that provides lifeline ferry service to Orkney and Shetland has been welcomed aboard as a major new sponsor of the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards.

NorthLink Ferries

NorthLink Ferries has agreed to support the 2016 industry awards as the organisers aim to build on last year’s record-breaking number of entries and nominations.

The Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards (HITA) have urged businesses and individuals to ensure they have an opportunity to be recognised this year with deadlines looming. Nominations for individual merit awards close on Friday, 17 June and entries for all other categories can be made until 1 July.

NorthLink Ferries operates daily sailings from Scrabster to Stromness as well as regular services from Aberdeen to Kirkwall and Lerwick.

Stuart Garrett, Managing Director at NorthLink Ferries, said: “We are very pleased to be sponsoring this year’s Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards.

“The annual event is well recognised across the industry and offers a number of local businesses the opportunity to celebrate their great achievements. I would like to wish all of the entrants the best of luck in what is set to be another competitive and exciting event.”

NorthLink Ferries joins Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd and the Eastgate Shopping Centre in Inverness as new sponsors of the awards this year.

Craig Ewan, chairman of HITA, said: “We are delighted that NorthLink Ferries has joined a growing number of businesses supporting the awards. With its support we will be able to develop the competition further and continue to raise the quality bar in this area where tourism is such an important industry.

“There are so many people who deserve to be honoured for their hard work and dedication to the sector so, as the closing dates approach, I want to emphasise the importance of registering your entries and nominations in time.”

This year’s awards, now in their 12th year, were launched in March by the then tourism minister Fergus Ewing. Organisers are taking encouragement from last year’s best ever response to make 2016 an even bigger event.

The awards, which are held in association with SSE, are free to enter and businesses or individuals have until 1 July to put themselves forward for recognition in 15 categories via the HITA website at

Nominations can be made in three categories – Tourism and Hospitality Hero, Highland Rising Star and Highland Ambassador – by 17 June.

A shortlist will be announced in September and the event will culminate in a grand final at the Kingsmills Hotel on 4 November.

HITA winners will go on to represent the region at the glittering national final of the Scottish Thistle Awards next year

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.

The 2016 categories are –

  • Most Hospitable Hotel
  • Most Hospitable B&B/Guest House
  • Best Accommodation Provider
  • Best Informal Eating Experience
  • Best Restaurant Experience
  • Friendliest Pub/Bar
  • Best Cultural Event or Festival
  • Best Outdoor/Adventure Experience
  • Tourism and Hospitality Hero
  • Best Visitor Attraction
  • Working Together for Tourism
  • Best Sporting Event
  • Innovation in Tourism
  • Highland Rising Star
  • Highland Ambassador

Facebook –

Twitter – @HiTourismAwards

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