1000 Hills Community Tourism Organisation Chairperson, Paul Paine, was one of seven judges in the inaugural Durban Tourism Business Awards held at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre (ICC) on Wednesday 15 June, presented by eThekwini Municipality, and hosted by EThekwini Mayor Councilor Mxolisi Kaunda.
It is believed that Durban is the first Metro in South Africa to have created Tourism Awards.
The awards were aimed at honouring the innovation and excellence within the tourism sector. There were 51 finalists ranging from hotels and tour operators to rickshaw pullers. The winner in each category each received a cash prize of R50 000, and runners up were given business development prizes (such as laptops, photocopy machines, airtime, website hosting and business support) to help develop their businesses.
“The Award evening itself was very slick, with great entertainment – including the KZN Philharmonic. In general, the evening and process was an amazing success – considering it was a first time event. On the whole there are some amazing tourism products in greater Durban. It was really interesting for the judges to see and experience the products which had been nominated. There were places I visited for the first time as a judge. Certainly the awards have been hugely helpful for our own education of tourism products on offer. This process meant we got to see many of the products as we did a series of site visits – which was really useful,” explained Paul Paine.
“ Despite criticism from within the industry about the decision to channel tourism budget into the awards at a time when the industry needs help to recover from Covid and the subsequent floods, I think going forward the awards are a positive thing for the industry. It highlights quality products and acknowledges individual product owners as serious economic drivers.”
Paul joined six respected judges (comprising two CTO chairs; the deputy chair of tourism for the Durban Chamber of Commerce; GM at the Beverly Hills; CEO of the ICC; CEO of KZN Tourism and CEO of uShaka).
The idea behind the awards is to reward people who deliver excellence in tourism in Durban; to give the public a voice; to create an awareness about the value and importance of tourism towards local, provincial and national economy; to incentivize tourism products in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic; to use these awards as a platform to capacitate SMMEs especially in the township and rural areas with newly required skills to ensure they are compliant and sustainable and assist them to move seamlessly into the tourism mainstream.
The categories under consideration were: Service Excellence: Accommodation (hotels and non-hotels), Meeting, Exhibition and Special Events Venues, Tourist Guides, Tour Operators, Rickshaw Pullers, and Visitors Experience; Sustainable Development; Entrepreneurship; The Mayor’s Choice and Upcoming Filmmakers.
“There were a couple of entries which weren’t great, but by and large the entries were of a consistently high standard. I should imagine that by next year, once word is out among industry practioners, there will be even more entries and a far higher standard of products,” considered Paul.
“As judges we had some great engagements around voting criteria – we had to compare the merits of a walking tour versus a night club versus a beach massage, for example.”
“Perhaps going forward, we can do away for extravagant launches ahead of time, and use that money to educate and create awareness among product owners to ensure a wider range of entries next year. This year we have ironed out some of the teething problems with the judging process and selection criteria, so it should help the process going forward.
This year, 1000 Hills was represented by Umgeni Steam Railway and On Show Media who are responsible, together with CTO Marketing Director Jane Candow, for the brilliant promotional videos being made to promote 1000 Hills. It was a great honour to be nominated, and it is a pity that neither walked away with the top prize. Especially USR, as they could really use the winner’s purse to go towards fixing the railway track which has been damaged in the floods.
Among the winners were, The Oyster Box in uMhlanga, which received two awards – and R100 000 – in the sustainable development award (green tourism) category and the hotel accommodation award category. The winner of the mayor’s special achievement award was Max’s Lifestyle Village; Vivian Reddy received the mayoral award for Oceans Umhlanga, one of South Africa’s largest mixed-development areas featuring the Radisson Blu Hotel. Other winners of the mayoral awards were the Wushwini Pan African Art Centre, for best township economic development, The Octavia Boutique Hotel in Inanda for best rural development investment, and Uzalo, the SABC 1 series for the best creative industry award. The winner in the rickshaw pullers category was Mfanafuthi Nxumalo.