One of Scotland’s most iconic castles, a rural arts trail through Rob Roy country and a record-breaking mountain bike championships were among those named best in the business at Scotland’s biggest awards night in tourism.
Eilean Donan Castle, Loch Earn Tourism Information BLiSS Trail 2017 and the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in Fort William received the accolades at the Scottish Thistle Awards National Final held last night (15 March).
Scottish tourism’s premier awards ceremony took place at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre, where 16 individuals, businesses and events were honoured for their innovation, excellence and success in the hospitality and tourism sector. In celebration of the Scottish Thistle Awards’ 25th anniversary, ten past Silver Thistle winners were also in attendance.
Willie Macleod, executive director of the British Hospitality Association (BHA) in Scotland and former chair of the New Lanark Trust, took the prestigious Caledonian MacBrayne Silver Thistle Award this year, which was presented by Tourism Secretary Fiona Hyslop.
Mr Macleod was described as a “leading advocate and campaigner for the industry, ensuring that tourism and hospitality businesses in Scotland thrive and prosper” in a career that included time as director at VisitScotland and a committee member of The Historic Environment Forum.
Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre picked up the inaugural M&IT / CAT Media - Best Business Event, for hosting the Alzheimer’s Research UK Conference, the largest dementia research conference in the UK.
The 2016 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup took home Best Sporting Event, presented by world-record breaking cyclist Mark Beaumont. The championship broke all previous attendance records in its 15-year history to deliver a world-class weekend of action and entertainment for more than 20,000 spectators in the iconic Scottish Highlands.
Other national award winners included Hebridean Celtic Festival (Caledonian MacBrayne - Best Cultural Event or Festival), Dewar's Aberfeldy Distillery (ScotRail - Best Visitor Attraction), Peter Wilson of Cruise Forth (Tourism and Hospitality Hero) and Foxlake Adventures (Best Outdoor/Adventure Experience).
The 2017/18 Scottish Thistle Awards, in association with Fishers, rewards hotels, restaurants, B&Bs, visitor attractions, business and consumer events, and individuals who go that extra mile to provide customers with exceptional service.
Still Game and River City star Sanjeev Kohli co-hosted the evening with STV presenter and former Miss Scotland, Jennifer Reoch. Entertainment was provided by ventriloquist and comedian Paul Zerdin, winner of America’s Got Talent 2015, and Hannah Rarity, BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year 2018.
Tourism Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “The Scottish Thistle Awards are the most coveted accolades in the tourism industry, celebrating quality, innovation and excellence across the industry.
“For 25 years the awards have recognised the significant value the sector contributes to the visitor economy and VisitScotland’s continued delivery underlines the organisations commitment to quality and success across the industry.”
Rebecca Brooks, chair of the Scottish Thistle Awards Industry Panel and VisitScotland Board member, said: “The Scottish Thistle Awards are Scotland’s premier awards for the tourism industry and for 25 wonderful years they have been shining a spotlight on success, innovation and excellence.
“Congratulations to all of our national winners of the 2017/18 Scottish Thistle Awards. We are delighted to celebrate with them during this milestone year. They represent the best of Scottish tourism and epitomise the strength and depth of the sector which continues to innovate and excel in giving visitors a high quality experience.
“Tourism is more than a holiday experience – it creates jobs and sustains communities. The Scottish Thistle Awards lets us recognise the unsung heroes of our industry who show real dedication and enthusiasm for Scotland’s tourism industry.”
Scott Inglis, Commercial Director at Fishers, said: “This was our second year as proud headline sponsor of the Scottish Thistle Awards and we think it is important to recognise those who go the extra mile to provide Scotland’s visitors with world class hospitality.
“At Fishers we don’t just think of ourselves as a laundry company, we know that we are an important part of Scotland’s tourism industry and we’re thrilled to show our support to other businesses in the sector.
“Last night we celebrated all the hard work that goes into making tourism a success in Scotland and there is a great deal to be proud of. All of the finalists deserve praise for ensuring Scotland’s visitors get the best experience possible and we would like to extend our congratulations to all of the winners.”
Paul Bush OBE, Director of Events, said: “Congratulations to all the nominees and winners at this year’s Scottish Thistle Awards National Final, including our three event winners. The awards are a wonderful celebration of our vibrant tourism industry and the events and festivals sector plays an important role by delivering amazing world-class events that provide positive impacts both socially and economically for Scotland.”
This year marked the Scottish Thistle Awards’ silver anniversary and saw a record-breaking 750 entries to the competition.
The Scottish Thistle Awards is led by a panel of industry experts from several organisations including VisitScotland, Aberdeen City and Shire Tourism Awards, Highlands & Islands Tourism Awards, the Hospitality Industry Trust Scotland, Scotland Food and Drink, Scottish Tourism Alliance, the Scottish Licensed Trade Association, sportscotland and Wild Scotland.
The regional finals were: Central, Fife & Tayside; Lothians & Borders; West; Highlands and Islands, organised by the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards; and Aberdeen City and Shire, organised by Aberdeen City and Shire Tourism Awards.