The sun keeps shining on the Basotho Cultural Village, with the QwaQwa tourist attraction winning the visitors experience category in the Free State provincial leg of the annual Lilizela Tourism Awards.
The village – a popular initiative of the provincial department of sports, arts, recreation and culture – was among the winners at the banquet held at Windmill Casino Hotel in Bloemfontein on Tuesday night.
All the provincial winners are in the running for the overall national awards at the finals banquet set for Golden Reef City in Johannesburg this Thursday.
The Free State leg of the Lilizela Tourism Awards saw a total of 33 entries in different categories.
Vincent Khetha, the provincial director of heritage, museums and languages, said the department deemed it fit to enter Basotho Cultural Village in the contest to test its standing among other tourism product providers in the Free State.
“We were founded back in 1994 and we are known for showcasing the history of the Basotho people since the 16th century,” he said.
“This win means a lot to us . . . we have been here for the past 20 years and our celebration of 20 years of democracy has been further enhanced.”
Ketha added: “We are grateful to our MEC (Mathabo) Leeto who is also passionate about culture and heritage.”
The provincial winner of four-star hotels category, Mont d Or Hotel and Spa in Clarens, has been in business for only two years.
The hotel’s general manager, Tommy Reinecke, said the win meant they were doing something right.
“We would like to thank God, our staff who we love dearly and our directors for giving us the support that eventually saw us win this award,” he said.
Also speaking at the awards event, tourism MEC Msebenzi Zwane said he was confident the provincial winners would bring back trophies from the national finals.
“I will personally be there to ensure that our guys get the support they need from the government of the province,” he said.
“And I also vow here and now that come this time next year these awards will also carry a cash prize that will go along with the certificates.”
Lilizela Tourism Awards chairperson Thembi Kunene called for more tourism players in the Free State to take part in the annual contest, in its second year running.
“It cannot be right that there are over 100 tourism product service providers in the province and yet we get only 33 entries,” she said.
Kunene said winners were largely determined through customer reviews.
“Eighty percent of the votes come from customer reviews, while 20 percent is from the judges themselves, so it is important to place quality as a priority when handling visitors or users of different products that we have in the province, because at the end of the day clients are the ones that put you in a good spot to win,” she said.