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Record entries and a new charity partner for tourism awards announced!

By Features Reporter

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Launching the Awards charity partnership with Mikeysline is Connor Rodden, Mikeysline CEO Emily Stokes, Ricardo Downer and operations director of the Kingsmills Group, Craig Ewan. Picture: Callum Mackay
Launching the Awards charity partnership with Mikeysline is Connor Rodden, Mikeysline CEO Emily Stokes, Ricardo Downer and operations director of the Kingsmills Group, Craig Ewan. Picture: Callum Mackay

The return of the Highlands & Islands Tourism Awards (HITA) for 2022 has seen a record number of entries.

The Awards, sponsored by Royal Bank of Scotland, cover every aspect of the industry – from food and drink to visitor attractions, accommodation and hospitality to cultural events, festivals and, new for 2022, efforts to combat climate change in our beautiful part of Scotland.

But more than that, the Awards recognise the high standards of excellence, professionalism and dedication of the people that not only strive to make their businesses a success but have an impact on their local area.

It is now over to the judges to make the difficult choice of whittling down the record entries into a shortlist which will be announced on Monday, September 5. The winners will be revealed at the Awards night on Friday, November 4 at the Kingsmills Hotel, Inverness.

The winners of 13 out of the 15 HITA categories will go forward to the national finals of VisitScotland’s Thistle Awards. HITA winners have gone on to win multiple awards at a national level. In addition, there are four other Thistle Award national-only categories which businesses from across the Highlands and Islands can enter directly via VisitScotland by Friday, September 2:

  • Outstanding sporting event.
  • Best business event.
  • Responsible tourism award.
  • Best luxury experience.

HITA, sponsors and partners are all delighted the return of the Awards had drawn such support from businesses and individuals right across the Highlands as the industry recovers from the devastating impact of the pandemic.

It has been the most challenging period for the sector in recent times which has not only taken a physical toll but has also brought into sharp focus the importance of the mental wellbeing of those working across the industry too. Highland mental health charity, Mikeysline (www.mikeysline.co.uk) has given its support to this year’s Awards and is the HITA charity partner for 2022.

Craig Ewan, operations director at the Kingsmills Group, Inverness and HITA director, said the partnership with Mikeysline has come at a time when the need to raise awareness about the importance of having good mental health and being able to receive support when people are struggling is vital.

“The pandemic has taken its toll on the mental health of so many people, including those working in our own tourism and hospitality sector. Raising awareness about mental health and combating the stigma of seeking help when you’re struggling has never been more important.

“People must have someone to turn to, in person or at the end of the phone, to get support when they need it. We’re delighted to partner with Mikeysline which provides that support without any judgement, however big or small an issue may be.”

The charity has been supporting folk struggling with mental health across the Highlands since 2015 through a range of innovative resources, including text and multimedia support to its crisis centre in Inverness, The Hive. Such has been the demand for its services, Mikeysline has opened outreach Hives in Tain, Alness and Nairn, and works closely with schools and guidance teachers across Highland and Moray with workshops, one-to-one support for pupils and training for staff.

And with demand growing, every donation to Mikeysline makes a difference. Just £5 can fund a call for help from someone struggling to cope, £1000 can help cover the costs of face-to-face visits to every secondary school in Highland and Moray.

Emily Stokes, chief executive officer at Mikeysline, said: “We are delighted to have been chosen as charity partner for these awards and look forward to celebrating the successes achieved over the past two years in such demanding circumstances for this industry. Anyone of us at any time can struggle with our mental health and wellbeing, and the importance of being able to talk openly and reach out for support at an early stage is paramount.

“Funds raised from the charity raffle will not only help us to continue with our crucial work in providing direct support 365 days of the year, but also in our awareness raising and anti-stigma work in communities, businesses and schools throughout the Highlands and Islands, and Moray.”

For more about the 2022 Awards and sponsorship opportunities visit highland-tourism-awards.co.uk

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