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Eastern Cape, particularly Mdantsane Township, has been elevated to the top of the tourism map after operators from the area scooped two awards at the Tourism Indaba in Durban.
A Buffalo City tourist guide and operator, Velile Ndlumbini, of Imonti Tours and Tumi Shupinyaneng, of Tumi's Bed and Breakfast in Mdantsane, were the proud winners of the Welcome Awards in their respective categories.
A delighted Ndlumbini was a two-time winner. The tourist guide category winner also went on to become the overall winner.
Shupinyaneng won the accommodation category. She outshone giants in the business, including the Westcliff Hotel in Johannesburg.
Shupinyaneng's Bed and Breakfast establishment is not far from the Egerton station, the site where scores of people who took part in a bus boycott were shot, injured and killed by the former Ciskei homeland security forces in August 1983.
The Welcome Awards category were launched at last year's Tourism Indaba. The awards are part of efforts to keep service standards in the tourism industry impeccable.
Ndlumbini, who could not complete his tourism diploma because he lacked the funds, said that his passion for tourism and Eastern Cape is what drives him.
"The passion and the love I have for my province makes my work very easy," the proud winner said.
Ndlumbini transports visitors throughout the province and gives them a genuine taste and feel for the area, including its townships.
Tours include visits to Mdantsane, where tourists get to meet and interact with the township's residents. Tourists are also taken to Egerton station and various taverns and businesses.
The Sunday Tour takes visitors to the province to church services, traditional ceremonies and shebeens.
Ndlumbini took home a trophy and a cheque for R50000.
Shupinyaneng believes that her three-bedroom bed and breakfast outlet won because of the delicious traditional meals that keep tourists coming back for more.
Shupinyaneng said: "I prayed that I win this year because last year I reached the semifinals."
She received a cheque to the value of R5000 as well as a seven-day trip to Disney World in the US.
Tourism KwaZulu-Natal (TKZN) was awarded the Ulysses award for its innovation in tourism governance, information and knowledge management.
Welcoming this landmark achievement, its chief executive, Ndabo Khoza, said they had gone the extra mile to ensure that the province is recognised nationally and internationally as a leading tourist destination in Africa.
Khoza said: "Winning this award has given us the assurance that we are on the right track. Tourism KwaZulu-Natal will travel to Midrand on May 30 to receive the award, which is a major image booster for the Zulu kingdom."
Khoza said TKZN's vision was to make the province a leader in every respect, not only in terms of figures, but also in terms of its tourism products and service excellence.
This year it is expected to bring in R26million which will be used to empower small businesses in South Africa. Tourism authorities and business people from throughout Africa are exhibiting the finest wares that their countries have to offer.
Presentations were made by representatives from Swaziland, Botswana and Madagascar.
This year 1680 exhibitors took part and organisers said that it was the biggest such event held at Durban's International Conference Centre.
Not only does the show provide a platform for people in tourism, it also provides tourism authorities from abroad to explore opportunities to invest in South Africa.
Khoza is expected to meet a delegation of 16 investors from the Middle East soon to discuss investment opportunities in KwaZulu- Natal.
The tourism indaba ends today.