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Tourism KZN MEC, Sihle Zikalala gave his keynote address before announcing the winners of the first category.

KZN Lilizela Tourism Awards 2018 Winners

SANI PASS, KwaZulu-Natal, 13 September 2018 – Thirty-three of KwaZulu-Natal’s top tourism and hospitality businesses were tonight honoured with prestigious provincial Lilizela Tourism Awards. See the full list at the end of this article

Hailed as ‘the best of the best’, they were selected from 1 385 entries and will now represent the province and go forward to the national finals to be hosted by the Minister of Tourism Derek Hanekom in Johannesburg next month.

The Lilizela Tourism Awards are an initiative of the National Department of Tourism and are spearheaded by South African Tourism.

The sixth Lilizela awards, which recognises service excellence, were presented by Sihle Zikalala, the MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs at a glittering gala event at the Sani Pass Premier Resort in the southern Drakensberg.

“The honorees this evening represents the creme de la crème in the KZN tourism sector, who make providing excellent service not just a practice, but a way of life,” Zikalala said.

The MEC told guests that the winners and finalists are able to share their expertise with visitors who are often times keen to learn about our culture and heritage, thereby positioning the KwaZulu-Natal experience as a must do for travellers.

“This is a highly competitive global industry and success does not happen overnight. It takes exceptionally hard work and a tireless commitment to make every tourist’s stay memorable, ensuring that each visitor has such a good, authentic experience that they return home as word-of-mouth ambassadors and mobile billboards for the province.”

MEC Zikalala reminded guests that as well as being Tourism Month, it was also a time to celebrate the Mandela centenary and KZN was privileged to have very rich historical ties with the great statesmen. The Nelson Mandela Capture Site and Ohlange Institute are iconic places where visitors can immerse themselves in the rich history and walk through the footstep of some of our great leaders.

He called on tour and travel agents to take visitors to such sites to trace the footsteps of Mandela and to help generate revenue, create new jobs and provide opportunities for small businesses.

The capture site was currently being upgraded and the new changes would be introduced by the end of the year.

While there was no shortage of unique and wonderful experiences in KZN for visitors to enjoy, he called on the industry to come up with more value-for-money products so that people on lower incomes can afford to go on holiday.

“Let us explore the potential of this largely untapped market,” he urged. “We need to change how we think –we need to visualize opportunities – generate new ideas – embark on new initiatives.”

Phindile Makwakwa, the Acting Chief Executive Officer of Tourism KZN, is hopeful that there are even more entries next year, as she is confident that there are a lot more deserving businesses in KZN that also go the extra mile and are world-class.

“Service excellence is everything in today’s global tourism environment. The way a product or service is delivered to a visitor can make or break a destination. We want to see KwaZulu-Natal positioned as a globally competitive destination that provides quality service way beyond our visitors’ expectations,” she said.

“Today, we are celebrating tourism players that go beyond the call of duty to provide a world-class service to our visitors. They raise the bar in terms of enhancing the visitor experience and reinforce the value of our tourism workers and the sector to provide a complete exceptional #DoKZN experience.”

With the Tourism Month theme being “Tourism and Digital Transformation”, Makwakwa said that “the absolute necessity of tourism businesses being part of the digital world cannot be over-emphasised”.

Technology and digitalisation have revolutionised the tourism industry and any business that does not have one of the many platforms, or Wi-Fi or a website, would be left behind. She called on them to up their game and get connected as soon as possible.

This year’s special “MEC’s Award” went to Makhosi Msimango, the founder and owner of Ndzenga Tours and Safari Tours that specialises in cultural heritage and township experiences.

Msimango, who is also a motivational speaker, is a member of the executive committee of the 1000 Hills Community Tourism Organisation said tonight: “I am ecstatic to receive this coveted prize. We have tour guides who speak German and French and I believe our service excellence was well received.”

The 32 other winners are:

Action and adventure: Itchyfeet SA.

Backpacking and Hosteling, three-star: Happy Hippo Accommodation.

Backpacking & Hosteling, four-star: Curiocity Durban.

Bed & Breakfast, 3-star grading: Azelia B&B.

Bed & Breakfast, 4-star: Kwalala Lodge.

Bed & Breakfast, 5-star: Westville B&B.

Caravan & Camping, 2-star: Mahai Caravan Park Royal Natal.

Caravan & Camping, 3-star: ATKV Drakensville Holiday Resort.

Caravan & Camping, 4-star: ATKV Natalia Beach Resort.

Country House, 3-star: Hawklee Country House.

Country House, 4-star: Silver Hill Lodge.

Emerging Tourism Entrepreneur of the Year Award: La Teranga Accommodation and Conference Group.

Game Lodge, three-star: Hilltop Resort Lodge.

Game Lodge, four-star: Thula Thula Private Game Lodge.

Game Lodge, five-star: Amakhosi Safari Lodge.

Guest House, three-star: Gecko Inn.

Guest House, four-star: Casa di Cattleya Guest House.

Guest House, five-star: Forest Manor Boutique Guest House.

Hotel, one-star: Road Lodge, Pietermaritzburg.

Hotel, three-star: Umthunzi Hotel and Conference.

Hotel, four-star: Ghost Mountain Inn.

Hotel, five-star: The Oyster Box Hotel.

Lodge, three-star: Tembe Elephant Park & Lodge.

Lodge, four-star: Makakatana Bay Lodge.

Lodge, five-star: The Gorge Private Game Lodge & Spa.

Marine Adventure: uShaka Marine World.

Roots & Culture: Talana Museum.

Scenic Beauty: Midlands Meander.

Self-catering exclusive, two-star: Nselweni Bush Lodge.

Self-catering exclusive, three-star: Beverley Country Cottages.

Self-catering exclusive, four-star: Rockwood Lodges.

Tour Operators: Bonana Tours