It's one of those nights where the travel and tourism role players in South Africa come together to celebrate the best of the best in the industry. The black tie gala dinner for the national Lilizela Tourism Awards 2017 was held at the Sandton Convention Centre last night.
KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga were among the provinces who clenched some of the night’s biggest accolades. KZN winners were Azalea Bed and Breakfast in Howick, for the category of Best 3 star B&B, and the Oyster Box Hotel for Best 5 star hotel.
In Mpumalanga, Inyati Game Lodge won best Visitor Experience- wildlife encounters, while Kruger Park Lodge won for best 4 star Self Catering Shared Vacation.
Other notable winners were Saltycrax Backpackers in Cape Town, who won best 5 star Backpacking and Hosting establishment and Lebo’s Backpackers for 3 star backpacking accommodation.
The Minister of Tourism, Tokozile Xasa, said the awards recognised some of the country's biggest tourist businesses.
"Being in any business, including the tourist business, is not easy. It requires hard work and tenacity. It requires vision, vision and flexibility. This awards gives these business a chance to be recognised and acknowledged.
"As government, we will continue to create an enabling environment for tourism to thrive and we will work with these role players to make holiday travel more affordable, attractive and accessible to our fellow South Africans. We also aim to attract businesses out of season, " she said.
Xasa announced that next year's awards will feature a people's choice award, called the We Do Tourism award.
This award will be decided by a public vote.
"We are looking for everyday tourism heroes, everyday tourism champions from all walks of life. Any South African can nominate someone they believe is worthy of the award. The nominees can be in the tourism industry, or any other field," she said.
This year, they launched the Hall of Fame award that recognises legends in the tourism sector.
The first inductee named was Esther Mahlangu. She is a South African Ndebele artist and ambassador of South African Tourism. Mahlangu recently had a mural in New York built in her honour.