Emerging black tourism operators were among the top winners of the Tourism KwaZulu-Natal service excellence awards.
The event was held at Durban's Inkosi Albert Luthuli Convention Centre yesterday.
The winners said the recognition would lead them to bigger and better things. They said they were motivated and would be recognised as established tourism businesses by 2010.
Malusi Mbonambi of Siyavaya Travel and Tours won the Emerging Wheel Operator of the Year Award for the second consecutive year.
Mbonambi has increased his fleet of minibuses and has opened branches in Pretoria and Cape Town.
"The two minibuses I bought qualified my business as a Wheel Tour Operator. Now we have transport that can handle a huge number of tourists," said Mbonambi, who was born in Umlazi.
He said the idea to establish his own company came after years of unsuccessful job hunting.
"I wanted something different, though I was worried that it would not be a success because there were very few black-owned businesses at the time," Mbonambi said.
Another winner, fashion designer Lindiwe Khuzwayo, took the Emerging Bed and Breakfast Establishment Award.
Khuzwayo, a mother of five who also runs a fashion designing school in Durban, converted part of her Umhlanga mansion into a guest- house less than two years ago.
"The house was too big because four of my children have moved to other provinces where they now work," Khuzwayo said. "I hated coming home to an empty house.
"This award means a lot to me and is a challenge to other women to go out there and take advantage of the opportunities that are now available."
Arts, culture and tourism MEC Weziwe Thusi called on local entrepreneurs to triple their efforts to improve tourism service excellence in the province.
She said the province was poised for major international events because it had already had a taste of 2010 World Cup fever.
Recent events in the province included the preliminary 2010 Fifa draw at the International Conference Centre and music shows featuring top stars.
"When the world meets for the 2010 World Cup all eyes will be focused on our province, Thusi said.
"We must not leave room for any mistakes."