You would think that representing your local tourism group - Loch Earn Tourism Information (LETi) - to pick up the groups Scottish Thistle Award for BLiSS trail "Innovation in Tourism" would be honour enough! It absolutely feels like the ultimate reward in the tourism industry. Nevertheless, the rewards just kept coming in.
Fringe Benefit 1 - First of all, during the night of the rewards ceremony in March 2018, the headline sponsor, Fishers Laundry, gave everyone a mascot dog in a box.
The dog was called Thistle ( okay we worked out that he was a green facecloth with sunglasses and personality.)
This is a photo of Fraser sharing his wine with Thistle who had sneaked into his top pocket at the EICC for a better view of the stage acts.
Fringe Benefit 2: Fishers Laundry group encouraged us to take selfies with Thistle, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Scottish Thistle Awards this year #thistles25.
We were asked to post them on social media during a four week period, after the awards event. The winning photo on Twitter, chosen in April, was by Rona Burstow. Rona tweeted a lovely selfie with Thistle at Eileen Donan Castle. A worthy winner, Rona won a £300 voucher for the Principle Hotel in Edinburgh.
Imagine my surprise then, when two enormous parcels landed on my doorstep with a message from Fishers Laundry saying that they were impressed with the creativity of my photo entry. My runner up prize was two of the biggest, heaviest, whitest, quality, fluffy dressing gowns I have ever seen.
In my photo you see A.Thistle Dog, B. The two headed thistle of BLiSS trail sculpture "Blawn Wi The Wind" by Kev Paxton, which stands proudly in Briar Cottages garden ( we bought it for our 25th wedding anniversary celebration) C.The Thistle Award trophy. D. My hair! ...lets face it, my hair looked like a thistle top that day with a filtered purple tinge completing the look.
My question on Twitter was "How many Thistle's can you see? The answer should really have been "one" as the dog's name is spelled with a capital T. A huge thanks to Fishers Laundry for going one step further in the fun that they invest at the Scottish Thistle Awards. Very much appreciated.
International Fringe Benefit 3. Fraser and I decided to take a break and visit friends in Valencia in May, following the tragic, shocking and untimely death of Fraser's 48 year old son Andy, who we miss every day.
We booked into the Ayre Hotel Astoria Palace in Valencia which turned out to be in a perfect, central location, near the incredible food market and old town. We gave our business card to the receptionist to save reading out our contact details. We then checked in before going out to explore. Can you imagine our surprise when we opened the bedroom door on return to find a dish of sugar banana jelly sweeties and the following message from the hotel reception team with a beautiful photo.
"Dear Kim and Fraser, its a huge honour to accommodate the winners of...
A lovely touch and example of "above and beyond" service where the reception team recognised and applauded the significance of our team Scottish Thistle Award, thinking on their feet to provide a unique welcome.
Fringe Benefit 4 I also received many letters on behalf of LETi from tourism partners and politicians as reported in my last blog.
Then LETI was awarded Fringe Benefit 5. The opportunity to work with Geotourist in collaboration with VisitScotland.
Geotourist were the sponsors of the "Innovation in Tourism" category at the Thistle Award regional and national finals. They are world audio tour enablers via Smartphone technology. How perfect for BLiSS trail! You can now follow a map and listen to fab stories about the artworks on your apple or android phone as you tour.
It has been a great pleasure to work with Lindsey Wilson from Geotourist over the last few months. My task was writing a script outline for each installation, recruiting and working with the storytellers and getting 23 recordings over to Lindsey along with photographs and their GPS locations. Lindsey used the information to set up the Geotourist website page for BLiSS trail, ensuring that the recordings would be audible at each location with a smartphone. Lindsey is one of the most positive people I have ever worked with.
Then we both worked with Visit Scotland on the official news story.
Artists, locals, school and university students, Sustrans Scotland and Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park all collaborated on reading various stories and facts to complement the installations on the trail along with yours truly. I represent Stan The Stag at Briar Cottage and Drover's Bho in Strathyre and... shhh top secret... I am the voice of the MHOR coo. A fun coo! A pun coo! You have been warned, listen! https://geotourist.com/tours/2040/points/7058
The audio tour was launched last week and has already attracted 880 visitors to date, with around 100 new people discovering it daily. Have you looked and listened to it yet? Check out the website here https://geotourist.com/tours/2040
VisitScotland went on to release the news story from their media centre on July 14th NB: Full story here A Touch Of BLiSS
So, I would encourage others to take part in the Scottish Thistle Awards. The discipline of reviewing your goals and achievements is rewarding enough. A trophy at this event nicknamed "The tourism Oscars" is definitely worth trying for, though the fringe benefits of recognition, gifts and a bonus business opportunity can make you and your team feel like Hollywood Stars.
None of it has gone to our heads though. Its Briar Cottage and LETi business as usual for me, with extra adrenaline oomph from the feel good factor of the Scottish Thistle Awards win to spur me on.
We are in the midst of launching the new Geotourist BliSS trail audio tour and will be announcing our first international artist on the BLiSS trail in conjunction with a new partner soon.
That should give us enough material to enter the 2019 Thistle Awards when they open next June. Best of luck to everyone who has entered this year though....missing it already.
This weekend is the Balquhidder, Lochearnhead and Strathyre Highland Games in the Games Field opposite the Lochearnhead Village Hall - 21st July 12.30.
McLarens, MacGregors and other local clans will gather for what is one of the best wee Highland Games in Scotland. Guests from both of our cottages will be there as will Fraser and I. Hope to see some of you too.
Let the BLS Highland Games begin where the Scottish Thistle Award fringe benefits end...for now! Slàinte mhath! #ScotlandIsNow