Local lodge receives prestigious tourism award

2018-09-27 06:01
PHOTO: SUPPLIEDSouth Coast winners Bianca De Jager (second from left) and Catharina Classen (third from right) from The Gorge.

PHOTO: SUPPLIEDSouth Coast winners Bianca De Jager (second from left) and Catharina Classen (third from right) from The Gorge.

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A PORT Shepstone lodge was one of 33 of KwaZulu-Natal’s top tourism and hospitality businesses that were honoured with prestigious provincial Lilizela Tourism Awards on Thursday, September 13.

Hailed as “the best of the best”, the businesses were selected from 1 385 entries and will now represent the province and go forward to the national finals to be hosted by Tourism Minister 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.

The Gorge Private Game Lodge & Spa in Port Shepstone was the winner in the Five-star Lodge category. Owner Catharina Classen said her lodge had won at least one category in the awards every year since 2013 and she was grateful to her staff for doing such a great job.

“We’ve won every year since 2013, so it’s really just an honour and a privilege to be recognised for hospitality and service excellence.”

At the awards ceremony, Zikalala reminded guests that as well as it 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 is 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, the MEC 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.

Phindile Makwakwa, the acting chief executive officer of Tourism KZN, is hopeful that there will be even more entries next year, as she is confident that there are a lot more deserving businesses in the province that also go the extra mile and are world-class.

“Service excellence is everything in today’s global tourism environment,” she said.

“We want to see KwaZulu-Natal positioned as a globally competitive destination that provides quality service way beyond our visitors’ expectations.”

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

Technology and digitalisation has 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.

— Supplied

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