Johannesburg - The sixth annual Lilizela Tourism Awards took place on Saturday night, with over 800 finalists congregating in the ballroom of the Sandton Convention Centre to celebrate the best of the best within the tourism industry.
Hosted by radio presenter Xolani Gwala and television presenter Leanne Manas, the evening began with a dance and poetry piece narrated by actress Nthati Moshesh, along with musical entertainment provided by The Muffinz and legendary jazz artist Sipho ‘Hotstix’ Mabuse accompanied by singer Zakes Bantwini.
The national tourism awards also celebrated the centennial anniversaries of ANC stalwarts Mama Albertina Sisulu and former president Nelson Mandela with tributes through spoken word poetry and dance routines, remembering their contribution to the country and their legacy as inspiration for the night’s festivities.
Minister of Tourism Derek Hanekom made a keynote address regarding the current successful state of South Africa’s tourism industry, despite the economic setbacks and the drought which plagued the Western Cape.
Hanekom also mentioned that with the current plan set in place for the tourism industry, the industry hopes to increase the amount of domestic and international influx of tourists by 6 million and 4 million tourists respectively.
Hanekom also mentioned that the Department of Tourism was currently in talks with New Zealand and other countries to relax the visa conditions regarding unabridged certificates - making it easier for children, single parents, and guardians to travel between South Africa and other countries.
As the awards commenced, the big winners of the night included private game lodge Tintswalo, Afrikaans associated ATKV-Resorts and Limpopo based accommodation, Traditional African Homestays South Africa (TAHS-SA).
Other winners of the night included Lebo’s Soweto Backpackers, Tented Adventures, The Oyster Box from KwaZulu Natal, and Western Cape’s Saltycrax Backpackers.
Cape Town’s International Convention Centre walked away with the award for the Experience Universal Accessibility, while Kokstad’s La Teranga Accommodation and Conference group walked away with the award for the Emerging Tourism Entrepreneurship award (ETEA).
Gauteng’s Valentino Meirotti and Limpopo’s Daniel Mogale won the awards for best tourist guides in their respective subcategories of culture guide and adventure guide.
Proud KwaZulu Natal native Tim Brown of Tim Brown Tours walked away with the award for best tourist guide in the sub-category of nature.
Speaking to us, Tim Brown found his latest achievement as a blessing and a testament to his passion for tourism and KwaZulu Natal.
“I love what I do, so what I enjoy about being in tourism is everything - from making people smile, to educate them, which I think is a big thing. The most important thing is to get people to come back to South Africa”.
“We have so much to offer tourists from the KZN - which is nature, history, and culture - the three pillars that I focus on in tourism, and those are really important to me. Winning this award on the national front is an amazing feeling for me and I’m really grateful to accept this award”, Brown added.
The Lilizela Awards also introduced a new award category called the ‘I Do Tourism’ award, which celebrated those who passionately represented and celebrated the culture of South Africa, and what the country has to offer to tourists and national residents.
The first-ever winners of the inaugural award came from Limpopo, and they were the Traditional African Homestays South Africa (TAHS-SA).
Co-founders of the TAHS-SA, Kylie and Cameron Murray, said that winning the inaugural award of ‘I Do Tourism’ celebrated not only their establishment but also their community of the Makushu Village in Limpopo.
“We are so humbled, blessed and amazed. This is our passion so when we started out, we had a fire burning in our hearts and we found that same fire burning in the hearts of others”, Kylie Murray said.
“Which was unexpected. We started in a light room without any maps or direction, and we just kept going and finding away, so this is very unexpected but we are amazed and motivated”, Cameron Murray added.
The duo also mentioned that with the motivation received from their two awards from the night, their plans to spread Traditional African Homestays across the country was on their minds and would soon be a reality.
“We’d like to build up communities and build up champions within provinces to highlight what can be done in each province. We all need to benefit from tourism since we all love South Africa and the people of South Africa," Kylie Murray said.
“Tourism involves everyone, it promotes social cohesion and unity within the country. We want people to know that we are proud to be South Africans and that we do tourism”, Cameron Murray said.