Diana Gabaldon at Culloden House
Diana Gabaldon at Culloden House

Scottish tourism industry Oscars were presented

The great and the good of Scotland were honoured at a special awards ceremony.

Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open, ‘Paws for a Break’ from the Association of Scotland’s Self Caterers and Cruise Loch Ness were crowned national winners at the Scottish Thistle Awards National Final.

Scottish tourism’s premier awards ceremony took place at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre, where 15 individuals, businesses and events were honoured for their innovation, excellence and success in the hospitality and tourism sector.

American author of the bestselling Outlander series, Diana Gabaldon, was also in attendance to receive a special honorary Thistle award in recognition of her International Contribution to Scottish tourism. The award was granted in recognition of the phenomenal success of the Outlander TV series, based on Ms Gabaldon’s novels, and the resulting impact on Scottish tourism in recent years.

2019 also marks VisitScotland’s 50th anniversary and the development of the Tourism Act. Over the last 50 years tourism has become the bedrock of the Scottish economy – now attracting 15 million visitors and generating £11 billion for the Scottish economy.

Edinburgh International Conference Centre – the location for the National Final – was awarded the CAT Media – Best Business Event award, for hosting the European Orthodontic Society Congress 2018.

The Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open took home Best Sporting Event. The event attracted more than 60,000 spectators to Gullane in 2018 which judges commended for its global media coverage and economic impact.

Willie Cameron, founding director of marketing for Visit Loch Ness and founding director of the Cobbs Group, took the prestigious Caledonian MacBrayne Silver Thistle Award this year, which was presented by the Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop, and George McNeil, Managing Director of Retail for Johnstons of Elgin.

Mr Cameron was described as a ‘Mr Loch Ness’ and praised for ‘playing an important part in the promotion of food and drink, hospitality and film development, both in the Highlands and in Scotland.’

Diana Gabaldon at Culloden House

Other national award winners included Celtic Connections (Best Cultural Event or Festival), Cruise Loch Ness (ScotRail – Best Visitor Attraction), Kieran Rose of Borthwick Castle in Midlothian (Tourism and Hospitality Hero) and Sweeney’s Cruise Co (Best Outdoor/Adventure Experience).

The 2018/19 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.

Scottish actor, writer and comedian, Greg McHugh, co-hosted the evening with STV presenter and former Miss Scotland, Jennifer Reoch. Entertainment was provided by Highlands-based Indie rock band Elephant Sessions.

Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop said: ‘I would like to offer my congratulations to all of the winners of this year’s awards. These are very well deserved and recognise the significant contributions these organisations and individuals have made to the success of Scotland’s tourism sector.’

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 a wonderful opportunity to celebrate and recognise their achievements in what is a special year for tourism in Scotland as VisitScotland marks its 50th anniversary.

‘Congratulations to all of our national winners of the 2018/19 Scottish Thistle Awards. We were honoured to have Diana Gabaldon amongst our guests who 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.’

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, the Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions, 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.

Since its creation, VisitScotland (and previously Scottish Tourist Board) along with the wider tourism industry have helped position Scotland as a must-visit destination in international and UK markets.

Full results are:

Best Bar / Pub – sponsored by J. Thomson Colour Printers, MacGregor’s Bar, Inverness.

Best Business Event – sponsored by CAT Media, European Orthodontic Society Congress 2018 at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre, Edinburgh.

Best Cultural Event or Festival – sponsored by Kinrara Distillery, Celtic Connections Festival, Glasgow.

Best Eating Experience – sponsored by Caledonain MacBrayne, Eat on the Green, Ellon, Aberdeenshire.

Best Heritage Tourism Experience – sponsored by Historic Environment Scotland, The Real Mary’s Kings Close, Edinburgh.

Best Outdoor / Adventure Experience, Sweeney’s Cruise Co, Loch Lomond.

Best Self Catering Accommodation Experience – sponsored by Bruce Stevenson Insurance Brokers, Leny Estate, Callander, Stirlingshire.

Best Sporting Event, European Tour – Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open, Gullane.

Best Visitor Attraction – sponsored by ScotRail, Cruise Loch Ness, Inverness.

Innovation in Tourism – sponsored by Geotourist, Wigtown Festival Company, Wigtown.

Most Hospitable B&B / Guest House – sponsored by Criton, Newton Farm Holiday & Tours, Forfar, Angus.

Most Hospitable Hotel – sponsored by Fishers, Meldrum House Country Hotel and Golf Course, Oldmeldrum, Aberdeenshire.

Tourism and Hospitality Hero, Kieran Rose, Borthwick Castle, Gorebridge, Midlothian.

Working Together for Tourism – sponsored by Edinburgh Airport, Association of Scotland’s Self Caterers – Paws for a Break, Perth.

The Johnstons of Elgin Silver Thistle Award was presented to Willie Cameron.

Special commendations were awarded to Nuart Aberdeen (Best Cultural Event or Festival – sponsored by Kinrara Distillery), The Real Mary King’s Close (Best Visitor Attraction – sponsored by ScotRail) and History of Edinburgh in 101 Objects in the Working Together for Tourism category – sponsored by Edinburgh Airport.