Major triumphs for core Argyll tourism businesses at VisitScotland Thistle Awards

At the South West Regional Finals of the VisitScotland 2013 Thistle Awards held at New Lanark tonight, no fewer than four representatives of the core business of Argyll and the Isles’ tourism sector won their way to the national finals.

Last year there were only two national finalists from Argyll – and one of those was an Argyll staging of a one-off national event – the British Orienteering Championships held in Lorn.

The significant impact of Argyll tourism businesses in 2013 is further proof of the effectiveness of Argyll and the Isles Tourism Cooperative’s in promoting the quality and the spectrum of the offer to visitors from this unique part of the world.

The winners from Argyll tonight – and through to the national finals – were:

  • Best Restaurant: The Ninth Wave, in Mull
  • Best B&B: The Ardtorna, in Oban
  • Best Self-Catering: Clan Cottages, near Oban
  • Best Training: The Village at Machrihanish Dunes, in South Kintyre.

‘Thistles’ indeed

Since these are the ‘Thistle Awards’, they did lodge a few prickles for VisitScotland to address.

In the Best Sporting Event category, the Tiree Wave Classic and the Coll Half Marathon – both stunning and hugely popular events drawing substantial audiences to these very remote Atlantic Islands – lost to – what?

The 2013 Tour of Britain Cycle Race – a heavily subsidised, big money, major one-off event from elsewhere, whose connection with the South West Region is purely circumstantial.

It is perfectly appropriate and positive to recognise the calibre and the impact of such headline events – but they ought to be in a category of their own.

Awards support and grow the momentum and the self belief of small communities and organisations in remote places, running first class events that are seen by virtually no one except the volumes of aficionados they attract.

The same award was of such little moment to the major event that there was no representative from the Tour of Britain Cycle Race present tonight to collect the award in question. The folk from Tiree and Coll, though, had made the long journey from ‘out there’ to New Lanark.

Then, in the Partnership in Tourism Award, Argyll and the Isles Tourism Partnership lost to VisitLanarkshire – at an event held in New Lanark, with the awards being presented by the Chair of New Lanark.

There seems to be something of the attitude around in VisitScotland that used to be an infuriating breeder of cynicism in the way the judges in the Ice Skating World Championships operated.

Fabulous performances, technically and artistically, by young skaters were, year after year, ignored in favour of long established skaters whose performances, on merit, were good but not memorable.  But they had been around for a long time and had been regular winners.

This is not the point. Awards ought not to be about entitlement  but about performance.

This is not to diss Visit Lanarkshire. It is to insist on due recognition for excellence in performance, regardless of how new a contestant may be.

The concept of being made to wait for recognition has nothing whatsoever to do with performance – but it has a lot to do with the death-dealing ‘buggins turn’ philosophy that has  nothing to do with the spirit of competitive awards.

Argyll and the Isles Tourism is only a few years old  but it has turned around the delivery, the thinking , the profile and the impact of the tourism sector in a place loaded with undeveloped potential of all kinds and to an astonishing level.

The leaders of Argyll and the Isles Tourism are in demand nationally to contribute to the development and targeting of the national tourism offer. Their capability and attack is recognised where it is useful to VisitScotland.

That is very good for Argyll to know and to witness – and our collective appreciation is the best award there is.

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