Online traveller reviews to be weighted in Lilizela Tourism Awards process

Cape Town - Service excellence and grading across the tourism sphere is vitally important, and even more so in South Africa as tourist arrivals for the first five months of 2016 show a healthy 15.7% increase from the same period last year - more than three times the average annual global growth rates experienced in international tourism. 

The annual Lilizela Tourism Awards are just a few months away, set to take place on the 16th of October 2016 at the Sandton Convention Centre, in Johannesburg, with the rigorous process of selecting the winners now adding in traveller reviews as part of the judging process.

Added to this, South African Tourism invited members of the tourism industry to form part of the Lilizela Tourism Awards adjudication panel - with it stating "the cream of the industry offering" has now been selected as part of the panel. 

“Collaborations and partnerships are vital in ensuring the growth of the South African tourism industry. We are therefore thrilled with the overwhelming response we received from the broader South African tourism industry. This can only be interpreted as a vote of confidence in the Lilizela Tourism Awards. The judges are a combination of experts who specialise in different areas of the tourism industry and are therefore well suited to recognise products and services that offer high quality of service excellence,” says Darryl Erasmus, Chief Quality Assurance Officer at Tourism Grading Council of South Africa (TGCSA), a business unit of South African Tourism.

SEE: 10 things to know about SA's beloved attractions

A new development within the Awards and Grading Council as a whole is the introduction of a Tourism Analytics Programme, a platform that now consolidates all consumer reviews for all properties that have an online presence.

Announced earlier at Indaba 2016, this platform, owned by TGCSA, is used to equip Accredited Assessors and graded properties with information on their online ratings and is key in the identifying of improvement, based on reviews from actual consumers.

The new online application scrapes and assesses online reviews and ratings across 15 top online platforms of the various establishments it grades. As the council prepares to upgrade its criteria after what it describes as rigorous consultation with industry, it was last upgraded in 2012; the new technology is undoubtedly seen as a big influencer going forward.

SEE: New hospitality data grading to raise the benchmark of SA's tourism offering

The new application incorporates social media reviews via a custom built platform that assesses service delivery and performance as rated by actual customers via online portals such as, Agoda and TripAdvisor for example.

Grant Thornton, which is one the largest audit firms in South Africa, will audit and oversee the entire awards, including the assessments by the industry expert judges.

“These judges’ roles and the Tourism Analytics Programme give us the confidence of knowing every entry will be judged by people whose commitment to excellence in tourism is absolute. We are also confident that these awards will be given to business owners who exceed customer satisfaction and continue to make South Africa a world class destination," says Erasmus.

The Provincial Awards Ceremonies will take place in September, during Tourism Month while the National Lilizela Tourism Awards winners will be announced on the 16th of October 2016 at the Sandton Convention Centre, in Johannesburg.

SEE: 4 Ways SA's tourism industry can benefit from the Tourism Incentive Programme

The list of experts selected to judge and adjudicate the 2016 National Lilizela Tourism Awards are:

Judges for the category ‘Universal Accessibility’

Phillip Thompson, Principal Member, IDC Consultants

Heinrich Spies, Accredited UA Assessor, Tourism Grading Council of South Africa

Ari Seirlis, National Director, Quadpara Association of South Africa (QASA)

Bekithemba Langalibalele, Director: Responsible Tourism, National Department of Tourism

Judges for the category ‘Tour Operator’

Alushca Ritchie, Chairperson, Cape Tourist Guides Association

Chanel du Plessis, Tourism Specialist: Tourism Planning & Research, Urban-Econ

Lizzie Mokgothu, Membership Manager, SATSA

Johannes Hatting, Tourism Lecturer, Board Member on various Tourism Boards, Central University of Technology: Free State

Siphokazi Mjali, Executive Member, South African Leisure, Tourism and Hospitality

Judges for the category ‘Visitor Experience’

Stephen Daniels, General Manager, Pine Lake Inn

Jonker Fourie, CEO, Emfuleni Corridor Tourism (ECTOUR)

Kiéra Schoeman, Tourism Specialist: Tourism Planning & Research, Urban-Econ

Phrosne Phillips, Owner, Brochure Management

Rebecca Kambule, Owner, REMPO Consulting

Nesang Maleka, Secretary General, South African Youth in Travel, Tourism & Hospitality

Judges for the category ‘ETEYA’

Jonathan Jacob, Founder and CEO, Skylar Investment Holdings

Loshni Naidoo, Associate and Senior Incubation Coach, Awethu Project

Portia Sifolo, Lecturer and Researcher, Tshwane University of Technology

Alexander McLeod, Founding Trustee, The School Entrepreneurship Trust

Sheila Sekhitla, Owner, The View Guesthouse

Ntokozo Luvuno, Manager, South African Youth in Travel, Tourism & Hospitality

Thembeka Semane, Managing Director, Linea Di Fondo (Pty) Ltd

Judges for the category ‘Accommodation’

Unathi Henama, Tourism Marketing Lecturer, Tshwane University of Technology

Dewald Niemann, Owner, Oudebosch Farmstall and Tsitsikamma Protea Farm Tours

Sthandiwe Mkhize, Group CEO, Thinking Pair Incubator Designs

Debbie Goveia, Accredited Assessor, Tourism Grading Council of SA

Roebendry Gangiah, Accredited Assessor, Tourism Grading Council of SA

Vernon Kirsten, Owner and Managing Member, ReservHotel International Africa

Barry Clemens, CEO, EQ Hotel Management

Hloni Thabethe, Managing Director, Ndalo Hotel & Conferencing

Judges for the category ‘B-BBEE’

Mokgadi Rameetse, BEE Field Manager, SANAS

Portia Tau-Sekati, Chief Executive Officer,  The Property Sector Charter Council

Mathibela Mankge, Director: B-BBEE Sector Transformation, National Department of Tourism

Judges for the category ‘Tourist Guiding’

Uveshnee Pillay, Director: Tourist Guiding, National Department of Tourism

Joe Samuels, Chief Executive Officer, South African Qualifications Authority

Khwezi Mpumlwana, World Heritage Specialist, National Heritage Council

What to read next on Traveller24:

New hospitality data grading to raise the benchmark of SA's tourism offering

Asian tourism arrivals BOOM in first 5 months of 2016

The Chinese are coming: What SA can expect from this tourism boom

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