Hailed as the “Oscars’’ of the industry, the Lilizela Tourism Awards are an initiative of the national Department of Tourism

The 2019 Lilizela Tourism Awards, which recognise service excellence and the “best of the best” in the hospitality industry, opened for entries this week.

Sihle Zikalala, the MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, has issued a call for tourism players in KwaZulu-Natal to increase their participation in this year’s awards.

“We would like to see an increase in the number of KZN businesses entering this year, particularly among the emerging sector as these are very important high-profile awards and businesses that do well reap the rewards in recognition and publicity,” he said.

“And we would also like to see entries come from around the province and not just the main centres. “We know there are potential and worthy winners in all sectors of the tourism sector out there and we want them to get the recognition they deserve. Their contribution helps grow tourism’s contribution to the GDP, creates jobs and contributes to South Africa’s global competitiveness.”

Hailed as the “Oscars’’ of the industry, the Lilizela Tourism Awards are an initiative of the national Department of Tourism. Zikalala explained that there are several categories that businesses can enter and that while it is a national competition, there will also be a special awards ceremony for provincial finalists and winners.

Phindile Makwakwa, the acting Chief Executive Officer of Tourism KZN, said that while KZN entries were on the increase, she too hoped to see many more this year.

“I am glad to say that numbers have been increasing over the years, but they have also been increasing in other provinces too, which means the competition at the national level has grown too. We had 185 entries last year and it would be great if we could reach the 200 mark for starters this time around,” she said.

Entrance is free and to qualify businesses must have been operating for at least one year and must have met all the necessary legal requirements. In certain instances, they must also be graded by the SA Grading Council.

Eighty percent of the judging score is made up of consumer online votes and reviews (www.lilizela.co.za) and guest feedback forms, with the balance coming from the judges own deliberations.