South Africans shine at Skål International world congress in Kenya. Photo: Supplied

CAPE TOWN - A number of South African tourism role players made quite an impression at the Skål International annual world congress - one of the world’s most prestigious tourism network organisations - in Kenya this past week, Skål International said in a statement.

“South Africans truly stole the show at Skål International’s 79th annual world congress in Mombasa, Kenya,” Turnberry Boutique Hotel in Oudtshoorn co-owner and manager Niel Els said in the statement. 

Els, a former member of the Skål council, was appointed junior vice president of the council at the congress.

Lavonne Wittmann of Skål Pretoria, was elected Skål International world president. Among other things, Wittmann is a travel agent, motivational speaker, and businesswoman.

“We are extremely proud of Lavonne, who is only the fifth woman to be elected world president during the 79 years of Skål International’s existence. Lavonne was junior vice president of the Skål International board before elected world president. This is only the 2nd time a South African was elected as world president. The late Karl Twiggs from Cape Town served as world president in 2004," the statement said.

Skål South Africa’s club secretary Anne Lamb, 86, was awarded the coveted membre d’honneur award. She attended 27 world congresses during her long and illustrious career in Skål. She was now one of the elite few to receive this award.

Also during the congress in Mombasa, 62 entries from 31 countries competed for the sustainable tourism awards. These awards were introduced 17 years ago and had grown in significance year on year. The projects were evaluated according to several criteria, such as nature preservation, carbon offsetting, climate change mitigation, human rights protection,and local employment.

Skål Garden Route’s entry - Stormsriver Adventures, originator of the world acclaimed Tsitsikamma Canopy Tours - scooped two Skål International sustainable tourism awards.

Stormsriver Adventures received the award in the tour operator - travel agents category, while Tsitsikamma Canopy Tours received the award in the category for community and government projects, the statement said.

“Twenty years ago we started with only four employees; today we employ 38 permanent staff, 23 annual, and 60 seasonal casuals,” Stormsriver Adventures MD Anneline Wyatt said.

“Our community initiatives go beyond the economic impact of only employing locally, as we feed about 235 scholars three times a week with our school feeding scheme,” she said.

Their HIV/Aids and Animal Welfare awareness projects, championed by their staff, were well received and appreciated by the adjacent communities. The operating company was now 48 percent employee owned, endorsing their commitment to transformation.

Mayoni Private Game Reserve entered by Skål Durban received the award in the wildlife and country category.

Skål is an international organisation in the travel and tourism industry and has about 15 000 members in 90 countries. 

South Africa has six very active and vibrant clubs, of which Skål Garden Route covers the largest geographical area (between Storms River, Bonnievale, Barrydale, and Prince Albert). 

The club’s 80 members represent 15 towns in the Garden Route and Klein Karoo.

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African News Agency (ANA)