Recognising the ‘Best of the Best’ in South African Tourism

This year’s Lilizela Tourism Awards national gala ceremony recognised ‘the Best of the Best’ in the South African tourism trade, writes Des Langkilde.

Lilizela, an Nguni word, meaning to ululate: a uniquely African act of congratulating work well done. Lilizela is a name that truly distinguishes this uniquely South African award.

Having participated again on this years ‘Visitor Experience’ category judging panel, I’m reminded of the effort and logistics that the organisers put into this prestigious annual industry award.

Aimed at recognising and rewarding the diversity of tourism players and businesses who work passionately and with pride to deliver world-class products and services, and whose delivery grows South Africa’s global destination competitiveness, the Lilizela Tourism Awards is an initiative of the National Department of Tourism (NDT), and is delivered by the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa (TGCSA).

The award winners are selected based on the feedback provided by guests, TripAdvisor guest reviews and through the deliberation of a panel of judges for each category.

In my opinion, the organisers and hosts of the Lilizela Tourism Awards – including each provisional tourism authority – can be justifiably proud of their collective efforts in terms of transparency, fairness in the adjudication process and organisation of the award ceremony events, which are akin to the film industry’s Oscar Awards, with regional award ceremonies convened in each of South Africa’s nine provinces and the final national event held in Johannesburg.

The 2015 National Lilizela Tourism Awards winners included:

Tintswalo Safari
Tenahead Mountain Lodge &
Letsatsi Private Game
de Stijl Gariep
Oleander Guest
Induna Adventures
Soli deo
SRA – Tsitsikamma Canopy
XO Africa
Maropeng Visitors Centre
Marine Dynamics Shark
Three Trees at

The award process follows four steps, namely; NOMINATING / ENTRY, VOTING, JUDGING and AWARDING.

The travel industry, and more importantly, the consumer of products and services offered by South Africa’s tourism industry, are invited to vote for tourism businesses via the website at Note that only tourist guides are nominated, everyone else enters.
Entries are made under 4 Focus Areas reflecting 8 Categories with the 9th Category being the Minister’s Award.

1. Accommodation

The Lilizela Accommodation Awards are designed to encourage and motivate the trade to offer the best service, facilities and product. Entrants have to be a Tourism Grading Council of South Africa graded establishment in order to enter. The categories in this focus area are: Backpacking & Hosteling; Bed & Breakfast; Caravan & Camping; Country House; Game Lodge; Guest House; Hotel; Lodge; Meetings, Exhibitions and Special Events (MESE); Self-catering Exclusive; and Self-catering Shared Vacation.

2. Service Excellence

The Service Excellence – Visitor Experience Awards recognise tourism businesses that enable visitors to experience the diversity that is offered in South Africa. The are 8 categories within the Visitor Experience awards: Roots & Culture; Action & Adventure; Wildlife Encounters; Culture & Lifestyle; Marine Adventure; Scenic Beauty; Beach Experience; and Lap of Luxury.

From 2015 onwards, a Tour Operators Awards category has been introduced to recognise and reward Tour Operators who not only allow tourists to experience the vast authentic experiences in South Africa, but also ensure that the right safety measurements are taken when transporting tourists.

The Tourist Guides Awards category recognises Registered Guides that have gone beyond the call of duty to make a tourist’s experience worthwhile, and includes Nature Guides, Adventure Guides and Culture Guides. Unlike the other Service Excellence Awards, the Tourist Guides Awards are nomination based. Visitors or members of the tourism industry are encouraged to nominate tourist guides that have made their experience in South Africa worthwhile.

3. Entrepreneurship

The ETEYA Lilizela Award (Emerging Tourism Entrepreneur of the Year Award) recognises SMME’s who have achieved notable success since starting up.

4. Sustainable Development

This focus area includes three categories – Imvelo, Universal Accessibility, and BBB-EE. The Imvelo Awards include: Best Social Involvement Programme, Best Practice Economic Impact, Best Overall Environment Management System and Best Single-Resource Programme (Water, Energy and Waste).

The Minister’s Award

This esteemed award recognises outstanding, unique, impactful people, events, and organisations that have performed in a manner that urges the industry closer to tourism’s 2020 vision (to grow arrivals to 15 million and create 225 000 new jobs by 2020 with a total direct and indirect GDP contribution target from R189, 4 billion (2009) to R499 billion (2020).


The Lilizela Tourism Awards give national recognition to establishments and raise their profile both at home in South Africa and around the world, too. They will bring great publicity and profiling on a number of platforms, including the Tourism Tattler as the following pages attest to.

For more information visit


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