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The finalists in the prestigious Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards have been announced with more than 40 businesses and individuals shortlisted for honours – but only one representative from the Outer Hebrides.

In the running for Best Cultural Event or Festival there’s the Purvai Festival, held at An Lanntair arts centre in Stornoway, as well as Oban Live and the Isle of Jura Music Festival.

The annual awards recognise the best places to stay, eat, drink and enjoy the region’s sporting, historic and cultural events, as well as its nature and scenery.

Leading the way by number of nominations is Argyll and the Isles, with 16 finalists. Then there’s 11 from Inverness/ Inverness-shire and four each from Strathspey and Skye. Sutherland, Ross-shire, Moray, and Lochaber are also represented on the shortlist.

Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards (HITA) chairman Craig Ewan said: “Congratulations to all our finalists. Given the quality of the entries, the businesses and individuals who have made the shortlist can be really proud of their achievement.

“It was another extremely difficult task for the judges to narrow the entries to just 43 contenders and they have another huge challenge ahead in picking our eventual winners.

“The awards showcase the best of the tourism industry in the Highlands and Islands and also inspire operators to continue to raise standards and provide excellence at all times to our visitors.”

Winners will be announced at a ceremony on 2 November in the Kingsmills Hotel, Inverness, which will be attended by Fiona Hyslop, the Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs.

The HITA awards scheme, which is being held in association with SSE for a sixth successive year, is regarded as one of the premier industry hospitality awards programmes in Scotland.

Some 163 businesses and individuals have entered or been nominated in 14 categories this year.

The awards scheme is free and is open to people operating in the Highland, Moray, Orkney, Shetland, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and Argyll & Bute (excluding G postcode area) local authority areas.

HITA winners (with the exception of the Highland Rising Star and Highland Ambassador) go on to compete at the Scottish Thistle Awards next year.

This year’s sponsors also include – VisitScotland, Loch Ness by Jacobite, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Port of Cromarty Firth, Developing the Young Workforce, Royal Bank of Scotland, Scottish Provincial Press, Inverness Hotels Association, The Highland Council, the Federation of Small Businesses, J Thomson Colour Printers, Caledonian Sleeper, Fishers, Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd and NorthLink Ferries.
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