A night with the STARS

It was a night of hon­our and glam­our when the South African tourism in­dus­try cel­e­brated its top busi­ness own­ers and ser­vice providers at the fourth an­nual Lilizela Tourism Awards on 16 Oc­to­ber 2016.

Tourism Tattler - - ACCOLADES - By Thandiwe Mathi­bela

Joined by var­i­ous key in­dus­try play­ers, South Africa's Min­is­ter of Tourism, Mr Derek Hanekom, also an­nounced the 2016 Min­is­ter's Award at the star-stud­ded gala event held at the Sand­ton Con­ven­tion Cen­tre in Jo­han­nes­burg.

This pres­ti­gious award, which recog­nises tourism in­no­va­tors and pi­o­neers, went to renowned Mpumalanga artist, Es­ther Mahlangu. A pre­vi­ous Lilizela cat­e­gory win­ner in the Roots and Cul­ture cat­e­gory, Mahlangu's colour­ful Nde­bele de­signs have been ex­hib­ited around the world and have graced global brands such as BMW, Bri­tish Air­ways, Fiat and Belvedere lux­ury vodka, plac­ing South African tra­di­tional art and de­sign on the in­ter­na­tional map.

The 80-year-old Mahlangu joined 53 other na­tional win­ners of the Lilizela Tourism Awards, who trav­ellers had voted the best of the best in cat­e­gories rang­ing from ser­vice ex­cel­lence and en­trepreneur­ship to sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment (see the com­plete list on pages 06 and 07).

“The Lilizela Tourism Awards give us the op­por­tu­nity to cel­e­brate trail­blaz­ers such as Mam' Es­ther, as well as ser­vice ex­cel­lence in the South African tourism in­dus­try in gen­eral. Tonight is an op­por­tu­nity to pause and thank these in­di­vid­u­als and busi­nesses for their con­tri­bu­tion to putting South Africa firmly on the global stage by en­sur­ing their prod­uct and ser­vice of­fer­ings are of the high­est stan­dard,” said Min­is­ter Hanekom.

“With 5.8 mil­lion peo­ple hav­ing come to South Africa be­tween Jan­uary and July this year, the num­ber of tourists is on the rise. By be­ing ser­vice– ori­ented, the busi­nesses cel­e­brated to­day help to en­sure that this growth path con­tin­ues, guar­an­tee­ing mem­o­rable experiences for all tourists,” he added.

The 2016 Lilizela Tourism Awards, an ini­tia­tive of the Na­tional Depart­ment of Tourism and spear­headed by South African Tourism, was a star-stud­ded cel­e­bra­tory af­fair, which gave play­ers and stake­hold­ers in the coun­try's tourism in­dus­try the op­por­tu­nity to come to­gether to toast to ex­cel­lence and be in­spired by the ex­am­ple of oth­ers.

The awards were es­tab­lished in 2013 to recog­nise and re­ward ex­em­plary ser­vice among busi­nesses in the lo­cal tourism sec­tor, rang­ing from ac­com­mo­da­tion es­tab­lish­ments and tour op­er­a­tors to scenic at­trac­tions and cul­tural her­itage sites.

In 2016, the awards at­tracted a record num­ber of 1122 en­tries, up 18% from last year's to­tal. Tourism busi­nesses across the nine prov­inces were en­cour­aged to en­ter, with a call that they be graded with the Tourism Grad­ing Coun­cil of South Africa, a unit of South African Tourism.

Mem­bers of the pub­lic were then in­vited to have their say on the Lilizela Tourism Awards web­site by vot­ing. These votes to­gether with those from var­i­ous plat­forms such as TripAd­vi­sor and TGCSA's Tourism An­a­lyt­ics Pro­gramme, formed 80% of the score for each en­try. A panel of high-level judges for each cat­e­gory, drawn from the in­dus­try and academia, contributed the re­main­ing 20% of each estab­lish­ment's score.

From these cal­cu­la­tions, 589 fi­nal­ists were se­lected na­tion­wide, and each prov­ince held its own awards cer­e­mony in the run-up to the na­tional fi­nals. Dur­ing these pro­vin­cial award cer­e­monies, 262 pro­vin­cial win­ners were cel­e­brated.

This pro­vin­cial short­list was fur­ther nar­rowed down to 53 na­tional win­ners, who were hon­oured with tro­phies on Sun­day night. Of the na­tional Lilizela win­ners, most are from the Western Cape (17), fol­lowed by the East­ern Cape with 10.

En­try to the Lilizela 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.

En­tries for the 2017 Lilizela Awards open on 1 De­cem­ber 2016. Visit www.lilizela.co.za.

Win­ner of the 2016 Min­is­ter's Award, renowned Mpumalanga artist, Es­ther Mahlangu.

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