Local tourism stars shine bright at Scottish Thistle Awards

Tourism businesses in Ayrshire & Arran have earned recognition from the leaders in their field at the Scottish Thistle Awards.


A total of five tourism businesses and individuals from Ayrshire and Arran struck gold at the Scottish Thistle Awards regional finals for the West, which took place last night (Thursday 28 November) at Òran Mór in Glasgow.


The Scottish Thistle Awards, now in their 27th year, help shine the spotlight on individuals and businesses going above and beyond to create a destination and visitor experience worth talking about amongst our valuable tourism industry. They champion the very best of the Scottish tourism industry, celebrating innovation, success and excellence in the sector.


2019 saw almost 600 entries submitted, including more than 1,000 nominations from  members of the public keen to give hotels, restaurants, B&Bs, visitor attractions and individuals the opportunity to earn the recognition they deserve from their own industry peers.


Heads of Ayr Farm Park was awarded the Best Visitor Attraction accolade, sponsored by Scotrail. The farm and adventure park, which features more than 80 species of animals, also boasts a range of activities and play areas for all ages. Judges praised the visitor attraction for continually developing its product and for building experiences around the publication of a book.

Heads of Ayr Farm Park

Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in Alloway received the Best Heritage Tourism Experience award, sponsored by Historic Environment Scotland. The museum encompasses five interlinked sites, encouraging visitors to discover the spaces and stories that provided inspiration to Burns. The museum also runs a creative programme of events and activities. Judges praised the museum for providing an authentic experience and the creative use of visitor feedback.


Robert Burns Birthplace

Auchrannie Resort on the Isle of Arran received two awards. The resort, which offers a range of facilities including restaurants, leisure clubs, spa, an adventure centre and playbarn, received the Best Hotel Experience award, sponsored by Fishers. Judges praised the resort for its strong emphasis on community and for investment across a number of different areas.


Auchrannie Resort

Co-founder and Managing Director of Auchrannie, Linda Johnston, received the Regional Ambassador Award, sponsored by Johnstons of Elgin. Linda was praised by the judging panel for working with the wider industry to build up a highly successful and internationally-recognised business, and ensuring the benefits are spread across the wider region.


Linda Johnston

Ralph Porciani, General Manager at Trump Turnberry, received the Tourism & Hospitality Hero award. Ralph has worked at the luxury hotel since 2004 and in the role of General Manager since 2014. Judges praised his commitment to guest services, as well as ability to listen to guest feedback.


The regional winners have earned their place at the prestigious National Final in March, where they will join the country’s tourism elite to be honoured with the highest accolade in the Scottish hospitality and tourism sector.


Ralph Porciani

Rebecca Brooks, chair of the Scottish Thistle Awards Industry Panel and VisitScotland Board member, said: “On behalf of the panel, I’d like to congratulate all our regional winners. The Scottish Thistle Awards give businesses and individuals working within tourism in Scotland the opportunity to earn the recognition and appreciation they deserve from their own industry peers. They celebrate those people and businesses throughout the country responsible for offering the warmest of welcomes that Scotland is famous for.


“Tourism is more than a holiday experience, it creates jobs and sustains communities. These awards let us recognise the unsung heroes of our industry who show real dedication and enthusiasm for Scotland’s tourism industry.


 “I would like to wish all our regional winners the very best for the next stage of the competition.”


The Scottish Thistle Awards are led by Scotland’s national tourism organisation, VisitScotland, and supported by a panel of industry representatives including the Aberdeen City and Shire Tourism Awards, Highlands & Islands Tourism Awards, the Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions (ASVA), the Hospitality Industry Trust Scotland, Scotland Food and Drink, Scottish Tourism Alliance, the Scottish Licensed Trade Association, sportscotland and Wild Scotland.


Regional finals will take place in different locations around Scotland covering areas such as Central Fife and Tayside, Lothian & Borders, West, the Highlands and Islands, organised by the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards, and Aberdeen City and Shire, which is organised by Aberdeen City and Shire Tourism Awards.


The Highlands and Islands Regional Final, organised by the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards, took place at the Drumossie Hotel, Inverness, on Friday 1 November.The Central, Fife & Tayside Regional Final took place at Prestonfield House Hotel in Edinburgh on Thursday 14 November.The Lothian & Borders Regional Final took place at Prestonfield House Hotel in Edinburgh on Thursday 14 November.The Aberdeen City and Shire Regional Final, organised by Aberdeen City and Shire Tourism Awards, took place at the Chester Hotel, Aberdeen, on Friday 22 November.The West Regional Final will take place at Òran Mór, Glasgow, on Thursday 28 November.


For more information, visit www.scottishthistleawards.co.uk


The Regional winners from Ayrshire & Arran said:


Heads of Ayr Farm Park said: “Thank you to everyone at the Scottish Thistle Awards, we are delighted to have won this award. We always strive to provide a great enjoyable family day out for all of our visitors and this award is a greatly appreciated by everyone at the Park.”


Caroline Smith, Operations Manager and Susan Colquhoun, Visitor Services Manager at the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum said: “Everyone involved in the Museum strives to create a unique experience for our visitors and share the heritage of Burns: Scots Language and culture. Winning this regional award in such strong competition is a fantastic recognition, encouraging us to continue to deliver the best possible experience for all our visitors.”


On receiving the Fishers Best Hotel Experience Award, Richard Small, Resort Director & Linda Johnston, Managing Director of Auchrannie Resort said: “Being recognised by VisitScotland in the form of a Scottish Thistle Award is always a great honour. This award reflects the commitment and hard work of all the team at Auchrannie, every one of whom play an important role in the delivery of exceptional guest service.”


Linda Johnston, Managing Director of Auchrannie Resort said “I’m delighted and honoured to have won this prestigious award.  I’ve been lucky to have the opportunity to work with some amazing people over the years in building Auchrannie Resort and making a wider contribution to the tourism industry.  It’s absolutely a team effort and success takes many passionate people.”


Ralph Porciani, General Manager at Turnberry, said: “I’m thrilled to accept the Tourism and Hospitality Hero 2019 title at this year’s Scottish Thistle Awards. Having been at Turnberry for over 15 years, I have seen first-hand the benefits of investment we have secured in the resort and its impact on the wider Ayrshire economy. We employ over 550 people, with 85% from Ayrshire, and we pride ourselves on working with local suppliers and partners to ensure authenticity throughout the resort.”


“Through our work with Apprenticeship Hospitality Scotland and Developing the Young Workforce Ayrshire we will ensure that the next generation of hospitality professionals are well prepared to uphold our exceptional service.”

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