SA's Tourism Minister Tokozile Xasa at the Lilizela Tourism Awards 2017. (Photo: Twitter/ Lilizela Awards)
Cape Town - South Africa's pioneers, innovators, stalwarts and SMEs in the tourism industry were among the biggest winners on Sunday, 29 October, when the fifth annual Lilizela Tourism Awards shut down the Sandton Convention Centre with an unforgettable night of the stars.
The Lilizela Tourism Awards are an initiative of the National Department of Tourism and are spearheaded by South African Tourism.
Established in 2013, the awards recognises and rewards exemplary service among businesses in the local tourism sector, including accommodation establishments and tour operators to scenic attractions and cultural heritage sites. The awards are adjudicated through public votes and by a panel of industry judges and are audited by Grant Thornton.
Celebrating outstanding South African tourism, accommodation establishments, visitor experiences, tour operators, tour guides, emerging entrepreneurs and small businesses were toasted alongside several industry luminaries during a splendid awards ceremony that saw performances by the likes of Yvonne Chaka and Mafikizolo.
The national Lilizela Tourism Awards are the culmination of the nine provincial ceremonies held across the country, which rewards outstanding establishments in each of those areas. These provincial winners then vied for top honours in the national finals, held on Sunday.
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Identified by the government as one of the six pillars of the country’s future economic growth, Tourism Minister, Tokozile Xasa paid special tribute to South Africa’s outstanding small tourism businesses.
Some of the SMMEs that were finalists or scooped awards on the night had been beneficiaries of the National Department of Tourism’s market access and enterprise development programmes.
“You add diversity and new flavours to our tourism offering and you contribute to social cohesion and empower communities," says Xasa. "You are entrepreneurs who are contributing to our economy, by creating jobs that feed families and nourish communities. You are the living embodiment of the inclusive, transformed economic growth that our country aspires to.”
In addition to the awards handed out in a number of categories, Xasa also announced unprecedented multiple recipients of this year’s Minister’s Award to mark the five-year anniversary of the Lilizela Tourism Awards.
This prestigious award is said to recognise proudly South African organisations or individuals who, through sheer dedication and passion, have excelled in positioning the country as a tourism destination of choice, contributing to the vibrancy and growth of the sector.
This year’s recipients of the Minister’s Award are:
Pioneers of Township Tourism
Sheila Sekhitla owner of The View Guest House.
Lily Mokoena owner of the Gaabo Motho Cultural Village.
Lolo Monica Mabitsela owner of Mama Lolo’s Breakfast.
Siza Mzimela an aviation expert with over twenty years of industry experience.
Francina Zana owner of Exclusive Hospitality Concepts.
Vijayluxmi (Viji) Pillay a professional Tourist Guide and Tour Operator.
Sindiswa Nhlumayo was honoured posthumously for her immense contribution to the tourism industry.
World-renowned Ndebele artist and industrial designer, Esther Mahlangu, was inducted into the inaugural Hall of Fame for being an exemplary global ambassador for South Africa’s indigenous arts and cultural heritage.
Some of the category winners also included The Workshop ko kasi (Culture & Lifestyle), Baviaanskloof (Scenic Beauty), Soweto By Bike (Roots & Culture), The Gorge Private Lodge and Spa (Best Five-star Game Lodge), and The Oyster Box (Five-Star Hotel Award for Service Excellence). - For a full list of the 2017 Lilizela Tourism Award winners, see here.
New public participation category
Xasa also unveiled a new public participation category for the Lilizela Tourism Award 2018, the “We Do Tourism Award” which, in the spirit of asking South Africans to rally around tourism, acts as a catalyst for inclusive economic growth.
According to Xasa, South Africans from all walks of life will have the opportunity to nominate dynamic individuals who they believe deserve to be recognised for contributing to making South Africa more welcoming.
SEE: Xasa: Discover the joy of being a tourist in SA
South African Tourism’s Chief Executive Officer Sisa Ntshona, noted that it had not been an easy year for tourism, with natural disasters, a sluggish economy and other factors making the operating environment a difficult one to navigate.
“But, despite these setbacks, our tourism industry has forged ahead with remarkable resilience and has insisted that it will be business as usual.
"You are true examples of what it means to ‘do tourism’ – our movement that encourages South Africans to place tourism and the broader tourism economy at the heart of all they do. You are helping us to stand tall and proud as a tourism destination,” says Ntshona.
With one of South Africa’s largest tourist entry points, OR Tambo International Airport - named after the late OR Tambo, a leader, unifier and advocate for social justice who would have turned 100 on Friday, 27 October - Xasa acknowledged his contribution to South Africa and appealed to the tourism sector to band together.
SEE: SA festive season in full swing at OR Tambo
She called on larger players to mentor and motivate start-ups, and for more young people to be brought into the sector while empowering women leaders.
“We are all in this together. If South Africa can present a unified yet diverse and vibrant tourism offering to the world, then the sky is the limit for our industry,” says Xasa.
NOTE: Entry to the Lilizela National Tourism Awards is free and tourism businesses of all sizes are encouraged to enter in a bid to help develop, grow and transform the industry while celebrating its achievements.
Check out highlights from the awards: