Otto Stehlik, one of Africa’s most successful hotel industry pioneers and founder of Protea Hotels, was awarded the Order of the Baobab, the highest recognition bestowed by government to business leaders. He is the first person in tourism to receive this recognition. The National Awards Ceremony held at Sefako Makgatho Presidential Guesthouse in Pretoria on 9 December was attended by national and international diplomats, dignitaries and award recipients.

The award recipients were addressed and honoured by the President of South Africa and Stehlik was acknowledged for his “excellent contribution towards economic and social development in South Africa”.

President Jacob Zuma handed over the Silver Baobab award, citing Otto Stehlik’s contribution as a pioneer in hospitality and the hotel industry in South Africa, and on the continent. Commenting on the award, Stehlik said that it was a true honour to be amongst such esteemed and distinguished recipients. “I accept this award on behalf of the tourism industry, my friends, family and partners as well as every one of the more than 15 000 people at Protea Hotels, who have shared in my exciting South African journey.”

Stehlik adds that even though it is a great honour to be recognised and awarded, he feels obligated to speak up about the current crisis in South African tourism. As responsible South Africans we should be naming and shaming institutions, corporations and individuals who have done damage to the industry and economy.

“Last year was not an easy year for tourism in this country. We have suffered self-inflicted pain through the Visa disaster caused by the Department of Home Affairs and via the ongoing South African Airways leadership debacle. It is time for corporate South Africa to stand up, speak up and be counted if we are to continue to build upon the unlimited potential our tourism industry offers for the advancement of each and every South African,” he said.


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