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South African tourism ser­vice ex­cel­lence was the big­gest win­ner on Sun­day 29 Oc­to­ber 2017, when the fifth an­nual Lilizela Tourism Awards lit up the Sand­ton Con­ven­tion Cen­tre with an un­for­get­table night of the stars.

A cross-sec­tion of 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 who's who of the hos­pi­tal­ity and travel in­dus­try came out to salute ser­vice ex­cel­lence in South Africa's bur­geon­ing tourism sec­tor, which has been iden­ti­fied by the gov­ern­ment as one of the six pil­lars of the coun­try's fu­ture eco­nomic growth.

The na­tional Lilizela Tourism Awards were the cul­mi­na­tion of the nine pro­vin­cial cer­e­monies held across the coun­try, which re­warded out­stand­ing es­tab­lish­ments in each of those ar­eas. These pro­vin­cial win­ners then vied for top hon­ours in the na­tional fi­nals, held on Sun­day.

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.

We Do Tourism Award

Min­is­ter Xasa also un­veiled a new pub­lic par­tic­i­pa­tion cat­e­gory for the Lilizela Tourism Award 2018, the “We Do Tourism Award” where, in the spirit of ask­ing South Africans to rally around tourism as a cat­a­lyst for in­clu­sive eco­nomic growth, 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.

Dur­ing an in­ter­view with Touris­mTat­tler, South African Tourism's Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer, Sisa Nt­shona said that all South Africans de­serve to be recog­nised for the role they play in grow­ing tourism. “On the back of the Fi­nance Min­is­ters bud­get speech, gov­ern­ment has recog­nised the im­por­tance of tourism as a key con­trib­u­tor to GDP, specif­i­cally in light of tra­di­tional sec­tors not per­form­ing well.”

Nt­shona noted at the gala cer­e­mony 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,” Nt­shona said.

A spe­cial mo­ment came at the end of the even­ing, when Min­is­ter Xasa in­ducted Es­ther Mahlangu, South Africa's world-renowned Nde­bele artist and in­dus­trial de­sign trail­blazer, into the Lilizela Hall of Fame. Mam' Es­ther, who re­ceived the Min­is­ter's Award last year, be­came the inau­gu­ral Hall of Fame in­ductee for be­ing an ex­em­plary global am­bas­sador for South Africa's indige­nous arts and cul­tural her­itage.

The Lilizela Tourism Awards are an ini­tia­tive of the Na­tional Depart­ment of Tourism and are spear­headed by South African Tourism. 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. The awards are ad­ju­di­cated through pub­lic votes and by a panel of in­dus­try judges, and are au­dited by Grant Thorn­ton.

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.

For a full list of the 2017 Lilizela Tourism Award win­ners, see pages 13-19 or visit

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