Celebrating the best in tourism in the South of Scotland

20/04/2023
Wigtown Festival Company

Call for businesses to enter the first dedicated South of Scotland Scottish Thistle Awards 

TOURISM and events businesses in the South of Scotland are being encouraged to enter this year’s Scottish Thistle Awards, the premier tourism and events awards in Scotland, which this year includes a dedicated south of Scotland regional awards for the first time. 

The Scottish Thistle Awards celebrate the very best of the tourism and events industry, helping to shine the spotlight on this vital part of the local economy. 

Today, VisitScotland and the South of Scotland Destination Alliance (SSDA) have teamed up to spread the word about the new South of Scotland Thistle Awards and to encourage as many people to enter as possible before entries for the 2023 Awards close on 12 May. 

The awards champion innovation, collaboration and sustainable practices and shine a spotlight on individual businesses and people working in the tourism and events industry, which is worth £11.5 billion to the Scottish economy. 

The Scottish Thistle Awards are delivered by VisitScotland in partnership with regional awards programmes. This year will see the introduction of a dedicated South of Scotland Thistle Awards, delivered in partnership with the South of Scotland Destination Alliance and supported by South of Scotland Enterprise, inviting entries from the tourism and events industry in the Scottish Borders and Dumfries & Galloway. 

VisitScotland will continue to deliver two regional finals for Central and East; and West.  Winners from all five regional awards, which also include the Highlands and Islands Thistle Awards (HITA) and the Aberdeen City and Shire Thistle Awards (ACSTA) progress to the National Final, taking place in December 2023.

For almost 30 years, the Scottish Thistle Awards, which are sponsored by Johnstons of Elgin and include a media partnership with News Scotland, have helped shine a spotlight on individual businesses, people and partnerships working together. 

After a two-year break due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they returned with a bang last year, culminating in the crowning of 17 winners at the National Final in February 2023.

VisitScotland Destination Development Director Gordon Smith said: The South of Scotland Thistle Awards offer the opportunity for individuals and businesses in the Scottish Borders and Dumfries & Galloway to gain recognition for all the work they do to make the region and Scotland such a fantastic place to visit and stay. 

“They mark an important celebration of the best in our industry as we continue to move towards recovery. Now more than ever, the Scottish Thistle Awards showcase the very best of Scotland’s tourism sector, helping to ensure that tourism, and the individuals who work in the industry, are recognised for the positive impact they bring to the country and our communities.

“I would encourage those working in tourism and events in the region to get their entries in and help shine a spotlight on our area.”

David Hope-Jones OBE, Chief Executive of the South of Scotland Destination Alliance (SSDA) said: “These are very exciting times for the South of Scotland, which only a few months ago was hailed by Lonely Planet as one of the top 30 ‘Best in Travel’ destinations in the world for 2023. Bringing the Thistle Awards to our region is further recognition of all the south has to offer: it’s about inspiring and celebrating the fantastic quality that exists across our destination.  

“Having our very own South of Scotland Thistle Awards will allow us to raise awareness of the many incredible businesses across our visitor economy and help us make the South of Scotland a thriving, year-round sustainable destination, driving economic and community prosperity. We’re calling on the hundreds of truly excellent tourism businesses our region boasts to help us put the South of Scotland firmly on the destination map by entering the Thistle Awards for 2023 and gaining the recognition they so deserve.”

Adrian Turpin, Artistic Director at Wigtown Festival Company, which scooped a prestigious National Thistle Award for Innovation in Tourism in 2018/19, said: “We were chuffed to bits even to make it to the national finals so to actually win the award was just brilliant! We were so proud to bring a national Thistle Award home to the South of Scotland and having this accolade has definitely given our event a real boost when it comes to seeking external funding and working with new partners.”

The Southern Uplands Partnership equestrian tourism project Ride Scottish Borders won a regional Thistle Award in 2019/20 for Working Together in Tourism. Gowan Miller, Ride Scottish Borders Project Coordinator, said: “The Thistle Awards are an excellent way of recognising and celebrating the power of collaboration by tourism enterprises. It meant the world to us to win the award and to have that wider recognition and exposure, helping us to increase awareness of the potential of having quality equestrian tourism products in the region.”

Queensberry House in Moffat, Dumfries & Galloway was named Best B&B or Guest House Experience, sponsored by Abbey UK at the West Regional Final of the Scottish Thistle Awards in 2022. Judges praised the B&B for driving local community engagement across the Moffat area.  

Caroline Egan and Miles Hargreaves, co-owners of Queensberry House, said: “It’s been such a whirlwind for us since we won this award for our small business, our feet have hardly touched the ground. We’ve definitely seen an uptick in enquiries and bookings on the back of it and even just going along to the awards event was so beneficial in terms of chatting to fellow business owners and sharing ideas. Anyone pondering whether or not to put themselves forward – do it!”

Caroline Raeburn, Hotels Manager at Peebles Hydro Hotel, was crowned Tourism & Hospitality Hero at the Scottish Thistle Awards regional finals for Lothian & Borders in 2022. She was praised by judges for putting “the interests of the visitors to the hotel, staff and colleagues at the heart of everything she does.” She was also described as demonstrating a commitment to the local community and recognising the importance of the hotel to the region. 

On receiving the award, Caroline Raeburn, Hotels Manager, Peebles Hydro, said: “I’m shocked but over the moon to have won the Tourism & Hospitality Hero award. My guests and my team have been my passion for 30 years and I couldn’t do what I do without their support. Thank you!”

Responsible tourism is at the heart of the Scottish Thistle Awards, supporting the aim for Scotland to be recognised globally as a leader in this field. Entrants to all 17 categories must evidence how they have embraced best practice covering the four key areas of a low carbon economy, inclusivity, thriving communities and Scotland’s natural and cultural heritage. New awards for this year include the Climate Action Award, the Inclusive Tourism Award and the Celebrating Thriving Communities Award. 

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