The iconic Scottish Open golf trophy will go on show at the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards next week ahead of the European Tour event’s return to the region in 2016, organisers have revealed.
Both HITA and Scottish Open organisers declared it a fitting centrepiece for this year’s awards as the silver trophy takes the form of a Scottish quaich – a historic symbol of welcome and hospitality.
It will be on display at the HITA ceremony on Friday, 13 November at the Drumossie Hotel in Inverness as part of the build up to the 2016 Scottish Open from 7-10 July at Castle Stuart Golf Links, one of the biggest visitor events for the region next year.
This year’s awards, which attracted a record number of entries and nominations, will be presented by Tourism Minister Fergus Ewing.
Mr Ewing said: “The Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open is a major event which brings huge rewards for tourism and the economy. I am delighted this prestigious event is returning to Castle Stuart, where it has been an enormous success previously, as the benefits will be felt across the north of the country.
“2015 has been an exciting and successful year for tourism in the Highlands and Islands, as the unprecedented entry demonstrates, and the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open is just one reason to look forward to a great 2016.”
Marina Huggett, Chair of HITA, said: “Our awards ceremony allows us to celebrate and reward the best in the industry over the last year. But we will also be looking forward to next year and the opportunities to improve further.
“The Scottish Open will bring thousands of people to the area and the exposure we get from media coverage will promote the area across the world and benefit us for many years to come.
“Having the Scottish Open trophy at the awards ceremony gives us an added attraction on the night, but also reminds us of the importance of this event for tourism operators and other businesses in the north of Scotland.”
Robert Gordon, Head of European Tour Tickets and Commercial Director, Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open, added: “We are delighted to bring the Scottish Open trophy to such a prestigious event and we look forward to working with the tourism industry to maximise benefits from the Scottish Open next year.”
Friday’s ceremony is the culmination of HITA’s 2015 awards campaign, which was launched in April by Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Europe and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop, and is run in association with SSE.
The event, to be hosted by celebrity chef Tony Singh, will see winners announced in 15 categories.
The contest’s area was extended to include part of Argyll this year, but even without the boundary change the number of entries and nominations was nearly 40 per cent up on 2014.
The Scottish Open, sponsored by Aberdeen Asset Management and the Scottish Government, will be held at Castle Stuart in 2016 for the fourth time in six years.
More than 65,000 people attended the event in 2013 when it was last held at the course near Inverness and it is hoped attendances will top 70,000 next year.
In 2011 a Highlands and Islands Enterprise economic impact study showed the event and pre-tournament Pro-Am helped contribute more than £5 million to the Scottish economy, including £4 million to the Highlands and Islands.
Golf tourism is a major contributor to Scotland’s economy and is estimated to be worth close to £220 million annually, with forecasts of reaching £300 million by the end of the decade.
The current Scottish Open trophy was first played for in 2011 when Luke Donald won the event at Castle Stuart. Since then Jeev Milkha Singh, Phil Mickelson, Justin Rose and Rickie Fowler have all collected the much sought-after cup.
Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards www.highland-tourism-awards.co.uk