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FINALISTS READY TO DO BATTLE FOR TOURISM AWARDS

More than 50 tourism businesses have taken a step nearer being crowned the best in the Highlands and Islands after being named as finalists in the industry’s annual ‘Oscars’ today (29 Sept).

Competition to win a coveted Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards (HITA) trophy has reached an unprecedented level with entries and nominations this year surpassing previous record-breaking levels.

The 232 businesses and individuals vying for honours was more than 14 per cent up on last year’s figure.

Judges have had the arduous task of narrowing down contenders to a 55-strong shortlist in 16 categories.

Among those to be recognised will be the best places to stay, eat, drink and enjoy the area’s sporting and cultural events, as well as its wildlife and scenery. A new category, Best Heritage Tourism Experience, was introduced in 2017 to mark the Year of Heritage History and Archaeology.

The finalists represent the entire length and breadth of the region – from Shetland to Argyll and from Moray to the Outer Hebrides – and range from castles to pubs and from internationally-renowned visitor attractions to remote get-aways.

Ten of the finalists are from the Inverness area, with nine each from Argyll and Moray and six from Strathspey, while Lochaber, Ross-shire, Sutherland, Skye, Orkney and Shetland all feature.

Craig Ewan, the HITA chairman, said: “Congratulations to everyone who has made the shortlist which is a fantastic achievement given the unprecedented number of quality entries and nominations we received this year. The geographical spread of finalists demonstrates the strength of tourism facilities across the Highlands and Islands.

“The competition is really hotting up now and the judges have a really tough job to pick our winners.”

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.

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.

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.

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