An elated Cameron Murray and Kylie Henn celebrate after their business tourism venture, Traditional African Homestays (TAHS-SA), not only walked away with the winning trophy in the Roots & Culture category of the annual Lilizela Tourism Awards, but also the prestigious “I Do Tourism Award”. Photo supplied.
Date: 24 November 2018 By: Andries van Zyl
Local tourism entrepreneurs Kylie Henn and Cameron Murray of Traditional African Homestays (TAHS-SA) have placed the Soutpansberg back on the world map of unique tourism destinations by scooping up several top awards during the annual Lilizela Tourism Awards.
The sixth annual Lilizela Tourism Awards took place on Saturday night, 17 November, where more than 800 finalists from the provincial Lilizela Awards all congregated in the ballroom of the Sandton Convention Centre to celebrate the best of the best within the tourism industry. Among them were Murray and Henn.
Launched in May 2013, the Lilizela Tourism Awards aim to recognise and reward the highest levels of excellence in the tourism value chain. At the provincial Lilizela awards held in Polokwane in October, TAHS-SA secured themselves a seat at the national awards by winning the Root & Culture category award. “We then went on to take the MEC Award – a prestigious award that is not only chosen solely by the MEC for Local Economic Environment and Tourism in Limpopo but is also recognised as an organisation or product that is innovative and transformative in the tourism industry,” said Henn.
Saturday’s Lilizela Tourism Awards were spectacularly hosted by well-known celebrities in South Africa, including radio presenter Xolani Gwala and television presenter Leanne Manas. “The evening began with a dance and poetry piece, narrated by actress Nthati Moshesh, along with musical entertainment provided by The Muffinz and legendary jazz artist Sipho ‘Hotstix’ Mabuse, accompanied by singer Zakes Bantwini,” said Henn.
Then the time came for the awards ceremony. After much anticipation, TAHS-SA were awarded the national award for Roots & Culture, making them the top tourism experience in South Africa.
But more accolades were to come.
The final award of the evening had everyone sitting on the edge of their seats, which was the ‘I Do Tourism Award” that is presented to an establishment that has significantly impacted the tourism industry, spear-heading transformation, identified a real need in the market and is focussed on all-inclusive growth. The ballroom erupted in applause when Murray and Henn were called to the podium to receive the award directly from Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom. It must be mentioned that this award is made by the tourism parliamentary committee, the national department of tourism board members, the South African Tourism CEO and board members and a panel of tourism experts.
“You know, I am shocked. I’ve been sitting here, trying to enjoy the evening and trying to not have any expectations. We’re also missing our community that should be here right now, the Makushu-Mosholombi community. This journey has been life changing, it has been transforming – for myself, Kylie and the community. We have a new family on board that will always be close to our hearts and will always be part of our family and our extended families as well,” said Murray in accepting the award. He urged South-Africans to get involved and start doing something that “is right there on your doorstep, right here in South Africa. We need to start encouraging social cohesion,” said Murray. Henn added to this by saying that: “We can use tourism to uplift South Africa.”
Traditional African Homestays offers travellers the opportunity to stay overnight in a Venda village and take part in day-to-day activities within the community, plus experience a different culture. This unique opportunity is offered by the Makushu-Mosholombi community at Makushu situated next to the Nzhelele Dam. “Apart from it now being endorsed by the minister of tourism and government, these awards have opened up numerous doors for us in the international marketing arena,” said Henn.
Andries joined the Zoutpansberger and Limpopo Mirror in April 1993 as a darkroom assistant. Within a couple of months he moved over to the production side of the newspaper and eventually doubled as a reporter. In 1995 he left the newspaper group and travelled overseas for a couple of months. In 1996, Andries rejoined the Zoutpansberger as a reporter. In August 2002, he was appointed as News Editor of the Zoutpansberger, a position he holds until today.