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JOHANNESBURG: South African tourism service excellence was the biggest winner on Sunday 29 October 2017, when the fifth annual Lilizela Tourism Awards lit up the Sandton Convention Centre with an unforgettable night of the stars.

A cross-section of outstanding South African tourism accommodation establishments, visitor experiences, tour operators, tour guides, emerging entrepreneurs and small businesses were toasted alongside several industry luminaries during a splendid awards ceremony that saw performances by the likes of Yvonne Chaka and Mafikizolo.

The who’s who of the hospitality and travel industry came out to salute service excellence in South Africa’s burgeoning tourism sector, which has been identified by the government as one of the six pillars of the country’s future economic growth.

Media personalities Masechaba Ndlovu and Thapelo Mokoena were programme directors for the evening. The national Lilizela Tourism Awards were the culmination of the nine provincial ceremonies held across the country, which rewarded outstanding establishments in each of those areas. These provincial winners then vied for top honours in the national finals, held on Sunday.

Tourism Minister, Tokozile Xasa paid special tribute to South Africa’s outstanding small tourism businesses. Some of the SMMEs that were finalists or scooped awards on the night had been beneficiaries of the National Department of Tourism’s market access and enterprise development programmes.

She said: “You add diversity and new flavours to our tourism offering and you contribute to social cohesion and empower communities. You are entrepreneurs who are contributing to our economy, by creating jobs that feed families and nourish communities. You are the living embodiment of the inclusive, transformed economic growth that our country aspires to.”

In addition to the awards handed out in a number of categories, Minister Xasa also announced an unprecedented multiple recipients of this year’s Minister’s Award to mark the five-year anniversary of the Lilizela Tourism Awards.

This prestigious award recognises proudly South African organisations or individuals who, through sheer dedication and passion, have excelled in positioning the country as a tourism destination of choice, contributing to the vibrancy and growth of the sector.

This year’s recipients of the Minister’s Award are:

Pioneers of Township Tourism

  • Ms Sheila Sekhitla owner of The View Guest House.
  • Ms Lily Mokoena owner of the Gaabo Motho Cultural Village.
  • Ms Lolo Monica Mabitsela owner of Mama Lolo’s Breakfast.

Ms Siza Mzimela an aviation expert with over twenty years of industry experience.

Ms Francina Zana owner of Exclusive Hospitality Concepts

Ms Vijayluxmi (VIJI) Pillay a professional Tourist Guide and Tour Operator

And the Late Ms Sindiswa Nhlumayo who was honoured post humously for her immense contribution to the tourism industry.

Minister Xasa also unveiled a new public participation category for the Lilizela Tourism Award 2018, the “We Do Tourism Award” where, in the spirit of asking South Africans to rally around tourism as a catalyst for inclusive economic growth, South Africans from all walks of life will have the opportunity to nominate dynamic individuals who they believe deserve to be recognised for contributing to making South Africa more welcoming.

A very special moment came at the end of the evening, when Minister Xasa inducted Esther Mahlangu, South Africa’s world-renowned Ndebele artist and industrial design trailblazer, into the Lilizela Hall of Fame. Mam’ Esther, who received the Minister’s Award last year, became the inaugural Hall of Fame inductee for being an exemplary global ambassador for South Africa’s indigenous arts and cultural heritage.

South African Tourism’s Chief Executive Officer, Sisa Ntshona, noted that it had not been an easy year for tourism, with natural disasters, a sluggish economy and other factors making the operating environment a difficult one to navigate.

“But, despite these setbacks, our tourism industry has forged ahead with remarkable resilience and has insisted that it will be business as usual. You are true examples of what it means to ‘do tourism’ – our movement that encourages South Africans to place tourism and the broader tourism economy at the heart of all they do. You are helping us to stand tall and proud as a tourism destination,” Ntshona said.

With one of South Africa’ largest tourist entry port, OR International Airport named after the late OR Tambo, a leader, unifier and advocate for social justice who would have turned 100 on Friday, Minister Xasa acknowledge his contribution to South Africa and appealed to the tourism sector to band together. She called on larger players to mentor and motivate start-ups, and for more young people to be brought into the sector while empowering women leaders. “We are all in this together. If South Africa can present a unified yet diverse and vibrant tourism offering to the world, then the sky is the limit for our industry.”

The Lilizela Tourism Awards are an initiative of the National Department of Tourism and are spearheaded by South African Tourism. 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. The awards are adjudicated through public votes and by a panel of industry judges, and are audited by Grant Thornton.

Entry to the Lilizela National 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 while celebrating its achievements. For a full list of the 2017 Lilizela Tourism Award winners, visit

To receive regular updates, like the Lilizela Tourism Awards Facebook page or follow @Lilizela_Awards on Twitter.

Issued by South African Tourism

For further information, contact:

Thandiwe Mathibela at South African Tourism        

Tel: +27 11 895 3000                                                     


Lilizela Tourism Awards website:

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