THE COMPANY responsible for transforming Wigtown into Scotland’s National Book Town more than 20 years ago was named best in the business at Scotland’s biggest awards night in tourism.
Wigtown Festival Company was crowned the winner of the Innovation in Tourism award, sponsored by Geotourist, at the Scottish Thistle Awards National Final last night (14 March).
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.
The festival company behind the Wigtown Book Festival was praised by judges for its work to promote the culture and region to international audiences. They also commended the festival for its positive impact on the local community and region.
Jessica Fox, Cultural Tourism Development Officer for the Wigtown Festival Company, said “We are absolutely delighted to win this Scottish Thistle Award. The success of The Open Book – a Bookshop Holiday has been largely thanks to our wonderful team of staff and volunteers, our partnership with Airbnb, support from Leader D&G, and Wigtown’s fame as Scotland’s Book Town. Bibliophiles from all round the world now come to Wigtown and live their dream of running a bookshop. It has been featured on primetime news channels across USA, Australia and Asia and has become one of Airbnb’s most popular properties in the world.”
VisitScotland Regional Leadership Director Paula Ward said: “I am delighted that Wigtown Festival Company has received this accolade in what has been a fantastic 20th year for the festival. It really has changed the face of Wigtown and helped shine the spotlight on Dumfries & Galloway around the world.
“Congratulations to all of the team involved in putting on this fantastic festival. These awards recognise the drive and passion the industry has for enhancing the region’s tourism offering and attracting more visitors to our region. Tourism is more than a holiday experience – it is the heartbeat of the Scottish economy and touches every community, generating income, jobs and social change.”
American author of the bestselling Outlander series, Diana Gabaldon, was also in attendance at this year’s ceremony 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.
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 TV presenter and former Miss Scotland, Jennifer Reoch. Entertainment was provided by Highlands-based Indie rock band Elephant Sessions.
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.
“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.