October 17, 2021

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Just Do Travel

Obituary: Stanley Tollman, founder and chairman of Travel Corporation: Travel Weekly

3 min read

Stanley Tollman, founder and chairman of the Travel Corporation, which grew from a single hotel in Johannesburg, South Africa, to a travel industry powerhouse encompassing more than 40 brands, died following a battle with cancer, according to a statement from the Travel Corporation. He was 91. 

Travel Corporation brands include Trafalgar, Insight Vacations, Uniworld Boutique River Cruises, Red Carnation Hotels, Contiki, Costsaver and Brendan Vacations. The company also is a leader in the sustainable-travel movement via its TreadRight Foundation

Over the years, Tollman and his wife, Beatrice, who was the founder and president of Red Carnation, grew their hotel group — a second venture, the Hyde Park Hotel, was home to an A-list attraction, the Colony restaurant and cabaret bar — into guided vacations, luxury escorted tours, small-group adventures, luxury cruising, real estate, safaris and youth travel. 

In 2020, the Tollmans accepted a Travel Weekly Lifetime Achievement Award from Cape Town, where Tollman reflected on his career in the industry. He called travelers’ annual vacation “the most important dynamic in their lives.” 

In the statement from the Travel Corporation announcing his death, Abercrombie & Kent CEO Geoffrey Kent said that Tollman and his family “were always on the cutting edge in the travel industry and continually creating new products to run with consummate style.”

He called Tollman “one of the most amazing figures in travel and tourism.”

From South Africa hotelier to global tourism giant

Stanley Tollman was born in Paternoster, a small South African village. The son of Jewish Lithuanian immigrants who escaped anti-Semitism in Russia, according to the Travel Corporation, his parents operated a hotel, where Tollman absorbed the lessons of family-run hospitality. 

In 1954, he married Beatrice Lurie, and the pair used their wedding money to purchase the Nugget Hotel in Johannesburg. 

The success of their second venture, the Colony Restaurant, cemented their success in Johannesburg. The introduction of the five-star Tollman Towers hotel followed, and then, in 1969, the purchase of a tour company called Trafalgar.

It was Trafalgar that helped pave the way for the creation of the company as it is today, Travel Corporation said. 
Among the brands that followed were Red Carnation — so named for the flower Tollman wore in his lapel — and Insight, Contiki and Uniworld. 

The Travel Corporation became a global business. But, the company said, Tollman leaned on his success to challenge apartheid policies at home, inviting Black guests and performers into his hotels and championing a program of training for Black people in hospitality. 

Eventually, Tollman divested his South Africa assets in 1976 and moved his family to London. Once apartheid was abolished, Tollman returned to the country in 1994, where he coordinated the first international tours of artists to the new South Africa.

“As a result,” Travel Corporation said, “all of the Travel Corporation’s brands strive to offer opportunities for guests to meet and engage with locals in authentic ways, creating understanding and appreciation of one another and our place in the shared world.” 

An early mover in the sustainable-travel front, Tollman created and chaired the Travel Corporation Conservation Foundation in 2008, which focused on community empowerment and conservation partnerships. It was later renamed the TreadRight Foundation, which today supports more than 55 projects and has charted a strategy that requires all its brands to develop measurable sustainability efforts.

Tollman is survived by his wife, Beatrice, and several children and grandchildren. Three of the Tollman’s four children are central to Travel Corporation operations, including his son, Brett, who is CEO, as are his nephews Gavin, the CEO of Trafalgar, and Michael.