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A record number of 234 entries have been received in the 2012 Imvelo Responsible Tourism Awards programme.

Imvelo, running for the eleventh year, awards tourism businesses that demonstrate sustained responsible practice in their operations in terms of their natural, social and economic environments.

Organised by the Federated Hospitality Association of Southern Africa (FEDHASA) in conjunction with the National Department of Tourism, Absa, Eskom, the Industrial Development Corporation, the Department of Water Affairs and Dont Waste Services, Imvelo has become synonymous with responsible tourism in South Africa.

Imvelo which means nature in South Africas Nguni languages – encourages industry members to accept voluntary guidelines promoting responsible tourism. The awards are in line with the National Minimum Standard for Responsible Tourism and are supported by the Heritage Environmental Rating Programme.

FEDHASA Chairman Eddy Khosa says the overwhelming interest in Imvelo is an indication of the industrys growing realisation that environmentally friendly practices are essential. Imvelo has clearly become a benchmark in this regard and the work done on the project by the FEDHASA regions has been tremendous.

Entries received are now being judged by a panel of experts Mary Murphy of Full Cycle, Anita Vernes of Thanda Private Game Reserve, Mike Nkosi of the National Department of Tourism, Busisiwe Tshabalala of the Department of Water Affairs, Mark Smuts of Dont Waste Services, Sibusiso Tshabalala of Eskom and Christine Engelbrecht of the Industrial Development Corporation.

Awards will be made in the categories Best social involvement programme, Best practice economic impact, Best overall environmental management system, Best single resource management programme for energy, water and waste, Most empowered tourism business and Investing in people. An overall Imvelo winner will be selected.

A Chairmans Award could be made at the discretion of the FEDHASA chairman to any Imvelo entrant or any other organisation in the tourism industry that made a significant contribution to responsible tourism over the past year.

Winners will receive their awards at an awards ceremony to be held in Johannesburg on 31 October 2012, where Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk will be the guest of honour.