Young entrepreneur behind Curiocity Backpackers says he is constantly questioning how to make hospitality different and better

After noticing a gap in the hospitality industry Bheki Dube decided to rewrite the narrative of hostels in South Africa. 

As the owner of Curiocity Backpackers he has earned top recognition in the four-star backpacker category with dogged determination but also through the support of the Lilizela Provincial KwaZulu-Natal Awards - saying their new accolades have put the backpacking and hostel category back on the tourism map. 

Bheki recounts how his win did not come easy. He first entered Curiocity Backpackers into the competition five years ago and realised that his product was not yet up to par.

Bheki's determination took him back to the drawing board and the Curiocity Backpackers team aimed to improve the quality of their hostel, leading to his current award-winning status. 

New-age travellers want more from their travels than just a well decorated hotel room, so the Curiocity Backpackers team is always asking how do I change certain things and make them better to cater to the emotive experience of a traveller.  

Crediting his win to his group’s ability to keep quality standards high, he says, “As hospitality owners we can get caught up in day-to-day running of the business and often forget the quality. We value the annual visit from the TGCSA as it helps focus on our quality standards."

Their innovation is the reason why Curiocity Backpackers exists in the two major cities in South Africa, Durban and Johannesburg, says Bheki. The 4-star rated trendy hostel has become a favorite for travellers from around the world seeking to immerse themselves in the culture of the country - and there are plans afoot to launch one in the Mother City too. 

Winner of the Gauteng Provincial Lilizela Award for three-star establishments, Ivan Dinkelmann of Lanseira Country Estate agreed with Bheki's sentiments and said the business is all about service excellence and getting good service ratings online.

“We are always trying to improve and bring in new activities as part of the service such as quad biking and spas.”

READ: R1bn in bids on the table to position Africa as a high-performance tourism business hub 

The 2019 Lilizela Tourism Awards has a long-standing reputation of excellence and it seems this year will be no different. 

The media launch that was held on 14 August 2019 at Sun International Time Square Arena and Maslow Hotel in Pretoria was a glimpse of what can be expected at the official ceremony, with the Maslow hotel boasting a 5-star grading. 

According to Darryl Erasmus, the Tourism Grading Council’s Chief Quality Assurance Officer, the awards present graded partners and service providers the opportunity to gain the exposure they deserve.

“It is not compulsory to grade accommodation and venue establishments in South Africa yet we are blessed to have well over 5 000 graded entities around the country! The Lilizela Tourism Awards is our opportunity to recognize and celebrate the individuals and businesses who make South Africa the amazing destination it is.”

He added that people are competitive and that the awards provide businesses the opportunity to gauge themselves against their peers. "People also like to be recognised. People thrive on competition and these awards allow products to measure up against their competitors and learn from each other. The destination benefits!”

READ: Rampahosa: Tourism is the new gold in Africa despite challenges

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 Hospitality in SA outdoes most of the world

Erasmus called South Africa’s hospitality a pillar of hope for the tourism industry at large he further added  “South Africa is really fortunate with owners and operators that ensure the foot we put forward is the best one. We outperform many destinations by far in terms of quality offerings. And we can attribute it to the long standing partnerships with our members and the industry at large.”

The TGCSA’s grading standards are some of the most developed in the world, it sets an example for other African countries, Botswana is one the list of one of the countries using our grading system. The council publishes its grading criteria openly online and neighbouring countries are actively utilising these standards to enhance their tourism industries.

South African Tourism Acting CEO Sthembiso Dlamini said the Lilizela Tourism Awards and the work that the Grading Council South Africa (TGCSA) assists with showcasing the tourism hidden gems while elevating the industry as a whole. “Since its inception in 2000, the TGCSA’s grading standards have upped the game for many hospitality establishment and tourism attractions.”

TGSA has recently introduced new categories and gradings; a five star premium level for ultra-luxury establishments. Some of the new categories include small hotels and boutique hotels, the boutique hotel industry is a fast growing one in South Africa and it only made sense for it to be recognised.


READ: Growing Kruger connectivity the newest rung in SA’s route development, as 66% of Africa’s underserved markets open for business

events, media, lilizela awards

A winning criteria

When asked what she was looking for Rebecca Kambule judge for the Lilizela Tourism Awards ETEYA category said that she will be looking for attention to detail, someone that understands their brand and one that can compete with anyone internationally. “We look for excellence, the best of the best in the industry. You have to deliver the services to the best of your abilities, superseding everyone.”

She added that businesses needed to show that they are adding value to nearby communities.“You have to display that you are innovative and display that business brings value to your communities by creating jobs over a period of time.” 

Before the national Lilizela Tourism Awards takes place, its provincial leg will be sweeping across the country throughout tourism month in September. The dates are as follows:

  • Northern Cape - 05 September
  • Mpumalanga - 06 September
  • Western Cape - 13 September
  • Free State - 13 September
  • Limpopo - 17 September
  • Eastern Cape - 19 September
  • Gauteng – 19 September   
  • North West - 25 September
  • KwaZulu-Natal - 26 September
  • The Llilizela Tourism Awards is in its seventh year and as businesses begin to understand the value of the awards the tougher the competition gets for the judges as well as the competitors. With the high calibre of quality witnessed in the entrants, this year promises to be the best one yet.

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