A BALLOCH-based cruise boat company is hoping to sail to success with a prestigious Visit Scotland award.

Sweeney’s Cruise Co is one of the finalists in the Scottish Thistle Awards which celebrate success, innovation, excellence and best practice in Scotland’s tourism and hospitality industry.

Sweeney’s operates a fleet of five passenger boats from Balloch, Loch Lomond Shores, Luss and Balmaha and is one of three finalists in the best outdoor/ adventure experience category.

The long-established company was awarded five-star status this summer by Visit Scotland and now hopes for further success in the Thistle Awards.

John Sweeney, whose great grandfather Johnny launched the company in the mid 1880s, told the Reporter: “We are delighted to be a finalist in the awards - we were nominated by Visit Scotland - but it was all so unexpected.”

John’s three sons - John, Craig and Marc - are the fifth generation of Sweeneys working in the company which employs 30s seasonal workers between April and October and there are a further 12 employees who work all year round.

Managing director John puts the success of the company down to continuous improvement in their service and facilities, plus marketing at home and abroad.

He said: “Loch Lomond is perhaps not as popular as Loch Ness but we work hard to keep it well up there as a must-see destination.

“We work with the historian and broadcaster Neil Oliver, who does the commentary on our boats.”

Now Sweeney’s Cruise Co is looking forward to the benefits of its £800,000 new development at Balloch which will see a new toilet block, office and covered slipway which will be a boon when the boats are out of the water for maintenance during the winter.

Rebecca Brooks, chair of the awards industry panel, said: “We have once again been delighted by this year’s response to the Scottish Thistle Awards.

“These rewards aim to shine the spotlight on the businesses and individuals who have shown real commitment and dedication to tourism in Scotland. Tourism is more than a holiday experience – it is the heartbeat of the Scottish economy.”

The awards take place at Oran Mor in Glasgow on Thursday, November 29.