Entries for the esteemed Lilizela Tourism Awards, which acknowledges accommodation establishments and tourism-related products and services, opened on 1 March and will close on 31 May. The best of the best in the Northern Cape are invited to enter. The aim is to recognise and reward tourism players and businesses who work with tireless pride to ensure they deliver world-class products and services. The awards have been presented to those who excel in the industry since 2012.This initiative of the national Department of Tourism, spearheaded by South African Tourism’s annual awards ceremony, has become known as a star-studded and celebratory affair.In a press statement, Sisa Ntshona, South African Tourism’s chief executive officer, lauds the initiative for creating opportunity to celebrate passionate and committed trailblazers, as well as service excellence in the South African tourism industry.“We are proud that through the Lilizela Tourism Awards, we have increased awareness of the important role that tourism plays in spurring on economic growth in the region,” said Ntshona. “The prestige that is associated with this awards initiative is evidence that South African Tourism’s ongoing drive to promote service excellence and product grading through the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa (TGCSA) is yielding positive results for the tourism industry.” The 2017 awards are reported to have attracted a record number of 1 649 entries, an increase by about 40% from 2016’s figure. The awards also saw the Northern Cape win big at national level. These achievements include Kegomodicwe Maruping winning the Culture Tourist Guide award, Workshop ko Kasi being named the Best Emerging Tourism Entrepreneur of the Year and Best Culture and Lifestyle Visitor Experience.The Big Hole won the Best Mobility and Accessibility award, while Kabelo Mothupi scooped the title of Best Nature Guide.The Oleander Guest House also walked away with the Best Five Star Award at national level.Accommodation establishments entering as tourism businesses are required to be graded with the TGCSA and those yet to be graded are encouraged to do so at www.tourismgrading.co.za. The TGCSA is the only recognised and globally benchmarked quality assurance body for tourism products in South Africa.For more information, visit www.lilizela.co.za.