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CIE Tours Recognizes Top British Attractions, Hotels and Venues at Annual Awards of Excellence Event

UK’s best holiday destinations and experiences recognized based on feedback from more than 10,000 visitors.
Demand for Scottish tours returns to 2019 levels

April 18, 2023: After a two-year hiatus due to the covid-19 pandemic, senior representatives of the UK’s tourism sector will come together to celebrate the diversity and richness of experiences offered to visitors to the UK at the CIE Tours UK Annual Awards of Excellence event. The awards ceremony was held at the Aberdeen Sandman Hotel.

The awards are based on feedback from more than 10,000 customers on around 300 providers of accommodation, dining, tours and attractions from throughout the UK, with merit awards being given to all venues achieving over 90% in satisfaction.  The providers with the best satisfaction score in each category are also recognised with a Gold Award.

38 of the 56 merit awards this year were won by Scottish venues and attractions, 10 of which achieved the top scores in their respective categories.

Over more than 90 years, CIE Tours, Ireland’s leading in-bound tour operator, has delivered more than three million visitors from North America to tour Ireland.

Since the 1990’s, CIE Tours’ offerings have included Scotland and the rest of the UK, with combination tours of Scotland and Ireland becoming some of the most popular in recent years. In 2022, demand for combined tours of Scotland and Ireland exceeded other destinations, reaching 2019 levels and 2023 is already on course to exceed this benchmark.

Stephen Cotter, Chief Operations Officer of CIE Tours said: “We are delighted to report a strong recovery in our Scottish and UK tours since international travel re-opened following the pandemic. I want to acknowledge the resilience of our tourism partners who, having had a very difficult few years, enthusiastically welcomed back our visitors once restrictions were lifted. Their professionalism is reflected in the feedback from our visitors with overall satisfaction levels in 2022 only slightly less than 2019, despite a very challenging year for travel1.

“We are very encouraged by the pipeline of bookings for the coming year, particularly in Scotland, which are ahead of expectations, and we look forward to ensuring that our partners and our host communities continue to benefit from our success in attracting visitors to travel to Scotland and the rest of the UK.”

Mr Cotter said that as one of the longest established tour operators in Ireland, CIE Tours is well placed to help rural communities to capitalise on the growing interest in sustainable and responsible tourism.

Citing a recent Expedia survey2  which showed that consumers are increasingly seeking ways to have more conscientious travel experiences and options to support local culture and communities within a destination, he pointed to CIE Tours’ track record of bringing visitors to high quality tourism destinations in rural locations, where visitors have a rich experience gaining an understanding of local culture.

“In recent years we are aware that Scotland in particular, is affected by staff shortages in destinations out with the Central Belt and that our partners in rural locations are meeting extraordinary challenges to deliver high quality service.”

“With our experience and knowledge, we can be a strong partner to VisitScotland in achieving its ambition to develop Scotland as a high-quality tourism destination that facilitates a healthy and sustainable industry, while having positive impacts on host communities, and contributing to the preservation and enhancement of the environment.

“As we develop and implement realistic and meaningful sustainability actions and behaviours, we are committed to working closely with our partners because it is their businesses which are facing first-hand the changing dynamics of tourism, the cash-flow concerns of seasonality, and the climate change impact on local communities and natural spaces. It is encouraging that so many have already begun their own sustainability journeys and together we can build an even stronger sector with responsible tourism at its core”.

CIE Tours is also offering new destinations and new formats of tours including a day-tripper option, which bring visitors to Glasgow, where they will stay overnight for the duration of the tour, while enjoying day trips to visitor attractions in surrounding areas. However, a lack of direct flights from the US to Glasgow potentially reduces the attraction of tours to the West coast.

Mr Cotter commented: “This form of tour is attracting a lot if interest and therefore we were disappointed to note that US air carriers have not resumed direct flights to Glasgow post pandemic. Any efforts that can be made to facilitate travel will encourage visits to Scotland, so we would support all efforts to encourage airlines to reopen these routes.”

Denise Hill, VisitScotland Head of Intermediary Marketing said: “After a difficult two years for the global tourism industry, the return of the CIE Tours UK Annual Awards of Excellence is welcome news and to have these hosted in Aberdeen alongside our travel trade event VisitScotland Connect. 

 “It is fantastic to see such a strong representation from Scotland among the winners. Whether you are looking for a quality accommodation, inspiring attractions or unique food and drink experience these demonstrate the strength and variety of Scotland’s offering.”

Mr Cotter concluded by warmly congratulating this year’s winners of a CIE Tours UK Award of Excellence on their achievements and thanked all the company’s partners who work closely with CIE Tours throughout the year.

1 (Satisfaction Ratings of 93% for full year 2022 vs. 94% in 2019).
2 Expedia Media Solutions inclusive Travel Insights Report 2022.

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About CIE Tours Awards of Excellence
The CIE Tours UK Awards of Excellence were first launched in 2012. This year’s awards are presented based on post-stay feedback received from more than 10,000 customers surveyed throughout 2022. The data and information obtained from these surveys is invaluable to CIE Tours’ partners who use it to continuously improve their offering to their clients.

Each of the CIE Tours’ partners who qualified for an award, delivered an exceptional quality experience and welcome to visitors, achieving a customer satisfaction rating of over 90%.

2022 Awards of Excellence UK

2022 Awards of Excellence UK


Best 5 star hotel

Hilton Glasgow

Best 4 star hotel

Apex Grassmarket Hotel

Best 3 star hotel

Balmacara Hotel

Best Hotel Accommodation

Atholl Palace Hotel

Best Hotel Dinner

Bailbrook House Hotel

Best Overall Hotel Service & Hospitality

Norton House Hotel & Spa

Best Overall Walking Tour

Windsor Tourist Guides Ltd

Best Special Event

Edinburgh Military Tattoo

Best Overall Castle Experience

Glamis Castle

Best Overall Loch Cruise

Cruise Loch Lomond

Best Overall Visitor Attraction


Best Overall Dinner & Entertainment

The Scotch Whisky Experience


Hotel Awards of Excellence

Doubletree by Hilton Edinburgh - Queensferry Crossing


Isles of Glencoe Hotel


Malmaison, York


Ballachulish Hotel


Castle Hotel Windsor


DoubleTree by Hilton Glasgow Central


Visit Awards of Excellence

Palace of Holyroodhouse


Stirling Castle


Blair Castle


Inveraray Castle


Edinburgh Castle


Windsor Castle


Bamburgh Castle


Blenheim Palace




Mount Stuart


Dunvegan Castle & Gardens


Skara Brae


York Minster


Tower of London


Canterbury Cathedral


Dunrobin Castle


The Italian Chapel


Eilean Donan Castle


Blair Athol Distillery


Cardiff Castle


Tintern Abbey




Brodie Castle


The Roman Baths


Glengoyne Distillery


Armadale Castle, Gardens & Museum of the Isles


Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum


Urquhart Castle


Andrew Gray, Piper in Edinburgh


Leault Working Sheepdogs


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