A Night with the Stars at #Lilizela2016

It was a night of honour and glamour when the South African tourism industry celebrated its top business owners and service providers at the fourth annual Lilizela Tourism Awards on 16 October 2016. By Thandiwe Mathibela.

Joined by various key industry players, South Africa’s Minister of Tourism, Mr Derek Hanekom, also announced the 2016 Minister’s Award at the star-studded gala event held at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg.

This prestigious award, which recognises tourism innovators and pioneers, went to renowned Mpumalanga artist, Esther Mahlangu. A previous Lilizela category winner in the Roots and Culture category, Mahlangu’s colourful Ndebele designs have been exhibited around the world and have graced global brands such as BMW, British Airways, Fiat and Belvedere luxury vodka, placing South African traditional art and design on the international map.

The 80-year-old Mahlangu joined 53 other national winners of the Lilizela Tourism Awards, who travellers had voted the best of the best in categories ranging from service excellence and entrepreneurship to sustainable development (to view the complete list click on the image below).

“The Lilizela Tourism Awards give us the opportunity to celebrate trailblazers such as Mam’ Esther, as well as service excellence in the South African tourism industry in general. Tonight is an opportunity to pause and thank these individuals and businesses for their contribution to putting South Africa firmly on the global stage by ensuring their product and service offerings are of the highest standard,” said Minister Hanekom.

“With 5.8 million people having come to South Africa between January and July this year, the number of tourists is on the rise. By being service–oriented, the businesses celebrated today help to ensure that this growth path continues, guaranteeing memorable experiences for all tourists,” he added.

The 2016 Lilizela Tourism Awards, an initiative of the National Department of Tourism and spearheaded by South African Tourism, was a star-studded celebratory affair, which gave players and stakeholders in the country’s tourism industry the opportunity to come together to toast to excellence and be inspired by the example of others.

The awards were established in 2013 to recognise and reward exemplary service among businesses in the local tourism sector, ranging from accommodation establishments and tour operators to scenic attractions and cultural heritage sites.

In 2016, the awards attracted a record number of 1122 entries, up 18% from last year’s total. Tourism businesses across the nine provinces were encouraged to enter, with a call that they be graded with the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa, a unit of South African Tourism.

Members of the public were then invited to have their say on the Lilizela Tourism Awards website by voting. These votes together with those from various platforms such as TripAdvisor and TGCSA’s Tourism Analytics Programme, formed 80% of the score for each entry. A panel of high-level judges for each category, drawn from the industry and academia, contributed the remaining 20% of each establishment’s score.

From these calculations, 589 finalists were selected nationwide, and each province held its own awards ceremony in the run-up to the national finals. During these provincial award ceremonies, 262 provincial winners were celebrated.

This provincial shortlist was further narrowed down to 53 national winners, who were honoured with trophies on Sunday night. Of the national Lilizela winners, most are from the Western Cape (17), followed by the Eastern Cape with 10.

Entry to the Lilizela Tourism Awards is free and tourism businesses of all sizes are encouraged to enter in a bid to help develop, grow and transform the industry.

Entries for the 2017 Lilizela Awards open on 1 December 2016. Visit

About the Author: Thandiwe Mathibela is the Communications Manager at South African Tourism.



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