What does it take to be a Lilizela Tourism Award Winner?


Yet against all the odds, a relatively new guest house, with an owner new to the hospitality industry, in a town not known for tourism took home the Lilizela award for Service Excellence in its category. Leaving many asking the questions, ‘How did YallaYalla do it?’ and ‘what does it take to win a Lilizela Award?’

From the outside Yalla Yalla seems to fit perfectly with the quiet, well to do suburb of Witbank where it is located. But, open the front door and immediately you know you are entering something quite special. Designed by an architect straight out of varsity and an owner with no hospitality experience, Yalla Yalla defies convention while striking you with its simplicity and brilliance. 

The big entrance doors open up to the reception and the expansive swimming pool, with it’s comfortable seating areas and views straight out to the terrace. Yet it is its ‘themed’ bedrooms that take Yalla Yalla to a different level way above a 4 star Guest House and gives it the ‘boutique Hotel’ feel. Stay here for a week and you can sleep in Tokyo, London, Paris, New York, Petropav, Madrid and my favourite Mexico City and still know you have Dubai, Havana, Montego Bay, Amsterdam, Agra and Edinburg left for your next visit! Each room beautifully put together to not just look like a global City but to give the feel of it too, with the delicate fragrances you would relate to the location and the minimalist decoration expertly chosen to fit each City’s unique vibe.

But it takes more than décor and a beautifully designed building to win a Lilizela Award. ‘The award is all about providing exceptional service and this was our number one goal from the onset. So the criteria Lilizela judged us on is what we judge ourselves on every day!’ explains owner Retha van Stelten, ‘We want to provide an excellent standard of service that makes our visitors think ‘WOW’ and leaves them wanting to come back for more’. 

Excellent service is something Yalla Yalla really does excel at! Every single staff member, from the charming Jeancy who helped me with my bags and was at my beck and call, to the quick-witted De Wet at reception and the bubbly front of house manager Karen all went out of their way to make my stay as wonderful as possible. 

There is a clear sense of pride that exudes from everyone that works at Yalla Yalla. From the cleaners to the owners, they want you to leave feeling that your stay couldn’t have been any better and are already planning for when you will come back. So how do you instil such a positive attitude in your staff?

According to Retha it is all about showing them what an impact their role has in ensuring the guest’s stay is as wonderful as possible. When you work at Yalla Yalla your are no longer a cleaner, you are the person’s whose hard work and beautifully turned out room results in guests sharing their experience all over the world thanks to their internet review. By reinforcing the job her staff are doing by sharing the countless positive reviews they get on accommodation booking sites, along with the one or two negative ones, Retha has inspired her staff to step up a higher level when it comes to the service they provide. 

It is therefore unsurprising they received a 9.3 rating from Booking.com this year or outshone all other guest houses in their category. Despite competing against guest houses situated in South Africa’s biggest tourism hotspots. “We couldn’t quite believe it and still can’t really! Even being nominated was totally unexpected, especially as I have no tourism background and my partner in crime was a house wife!”, Retha says with a smile, “Yalla Yalla has only been open for a year and half, we don’t have big draw cards like Kruger Park, on the doorstep. What we do have however, is passionate, dedicated staff who are on a mission to ensure every guest experience is a great as it possibly can be”.

It goes to show that enthusiastic staff and a drive to provide the best guest experience possible leads to success. Retha and her team have a lot to be proud about. Yet she doesn’t see the Lilizela award as closure of a job well done, rather it is the first step on a path to deliver a new level of service. One that not only ensures guests, whether tourists or business visitors, have an exceptional experience, but also one that helps uplift and inspire her staff and together continue on this exciting adventure in the hospitality business.

Like so many of the Cultural Heartland attractions, Yalla Yalla delivers much more than you ever expect. It is another hidden gem in this underestimated region of Mpumalanga, both Yalla Yalla and the Cultural Heartlands, in general, deserve exploring!


For more information check out: www.yallayallaboutiquehotel.com, or contact: info@yallayallaboutiquehotel.com | +27 (0)13 656 5424 | +27 (0)82 589 7980.  GPS Coordinates: 25° 51’49.1”S, 29° 14’23.9”E

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