Malcolm Roughead, Chief Executive, VisitScotland
Scotland can look forward with confidence to a strong tourism year in 2016 following our recent successes.
Last year we overcame some disappointing spring weather to record an increase in visits and spend for the first six months of 2015, while the Year of Food and Drink proved to be a resounding success.
More than 200 Year of Food and Drink events took place with over 1 million people attending activities related to the hugely successful themed year.
This year now gives us the opportunity to highlight, celebrate and promote Scotland’s achievements in a range of other fields during the Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design. From textiles to technology, architecture to fashion and design, the year-long programme is currently shining a spotlight on our greatest assets and icons, as well as our hidden gems.
2016 will also see more direct air routes to Scotland than ever before, including a new British Airways Inverness-Heathrow service and KLM Inverness-Amsterdam flights which will help bring more in-bound visitors to the Highlands and Islands.
We can also look forward to a stellar line-up of global events and conferences in Scotland over the next five years, bringing huge benefits to the economy. Among these major events is the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open, which will be held at Castle Stuart near Inverness for the fourth time in six years, followed by The Open championship at Royal Troon.
Both of these events will generate millions of pounds and the ripple effect from worldwide television coverage will be felt for years to come.
We know our tourism businesses will work to capitalise on these major opportunities and provide the welcome to visitors for which we are renowned. Doing something special, going that extra mile to help the visitor experience is what we do every day.
Initiatives such as the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards are therefore important in helping us to recognise and honour the dedicated businesses and individuals across the region.
I would urge everyone to take the time to enter the awards, or nominate someone for an award, so we can celebrate what makes this industry so special.