Celebrated as an architect of the global tourism industry and a devoted philanthropist, South African born Stanley Tollman was the Founder and former Chairman of The Travel Corporation (TTC), one of the world’s most recognised and respected, integrated travel businesses and portfolio of award-winning brands. In 2020 TTC celebrated its 100th Anniversary.
Globally admired for his visionary leadership, innovative approach to travel experience development, understanding of excellence in hospitality, and commitment to employees, Tollman was the pioneer and compass of TTC’s global success and impact which today stretches across 40 award-winning brands operating including Trafalgar, Contiki, Insight, Cullinan, Uniworld River Cruises, Red Carnation Hotels, and others, along with Bouchard Finlayson Vineyards. Collectively, TTC’s portfolio operates in over 70 countries worldwide, carrying over 2 million travellers in 2019.
To this day, TTC’s objective remains consistent with Tollman’s first days in the travel industry as a young hotelier: delivering exceptional quality, unbeatable value, and unparalleled service excellence, always, reaching out to every traveller and travel partner with a uniquely generous spirit and commitment.
Importantly, Tollman was a champion for responsible tourism, recognising the industry’s need to adopt environmental, cultural and economic protection of the people and places visited by travellers. Long before ‘sustainability’ became a global, industry-wide call to action, Tollman established TTC’s not-for-profit TreadRight Foundation, now in its 13th year of international project activation (donating over US$ 2.5 million to sustainable tourism projects worldwide), and traveller inspiration to give back, reduce carbon footprints and to ‘make travel matter’.
A man from very humble origins, Tollman was born in the small fishing village of Paternoster in the Western Cape of South Africa in 1930. As a young man, he was driven by his hunger to succeed and have an impact in South Africa and, if possible, the world. His pioneering spirit and love for hospitality were rooted in his first home – the family’s modest hotel in Paternoster.
Leaving his small village roots at the age of eight when his family moved to Johannesburg where his parents acquired another hotel, his early, evolving exposure to the world of hospitality shaped his work ethic, curiosity, and appreciation for guest delight, embedding an ambition to become a hotelier himself, much to the disappointment of his father who wanted his son to become a lawyer, doctor, or pharmacist.
In 1954 Stanley Tollman married Beatrice Lurie, beginning an enduring love story, marriage and partnership that lasted almost 70 years. Their journey in hospitality began right away, when in 1954 they used their wedding money to purchase their first business venture, the Nugget Hotel in Johannesburg.
As a young hotelier, Tollman worked tirelessly. He was driven by his relentless pursuit of perfection and a hunger to succeed and have an impact in South Africa and, if possible, the world. Never one to overlook any detail or take for granted any customer, the tenet ‘driven by service’ was embedded in all aspects of his business’ delivery of guest experiences. This approach would become a hallmark of his life’s work, which grew beyond hotels to all facets of the travel industry. With this ethos in place, the young Tollmans soon became some of the leading hoteliers of South Africa.
The evolving interests of Tollman across segments of the tourism industry and global travel markets came together with the creation of The Travel Corporation, which included the purchase of Trafalgar Tours, a pioneering business and brand that defined Tollman’s love of international travel. Tollman carefully oversaw TTC maintaining an uncompromising commitment to offering the highest standards. Internationally, each brand is strategically positioned and is clearly differentiated in its market sector. From an employee growth and development perspective, across TTC’s Brands and businesses is the ethos first and continuously lived out by Tollman: genuine care for the people of TTC, their clients, partners, and staff.
With his numerous award-winning brands, businesses, and properties across South Africa and the world, Tollman is firmly positioned as an icon in the tourism industry. Commanding enormous respect globally across the travel, tourism and hospitality industry, Tollman was a larger-than-life, bon vivant character, a true statesman with a dedication to his family and business that is deemed exemplary by his peers in the industry. Though never one to court the spotlight, he counted global figures, such as politicians, movie stars and prominent business leaders as some of his closest friends.
And yet throughout his life he remained a humble hotelier at heart. His signature red carnation lapel pin – the symbol of his international boutique collection of luxury properties – remained until his final days.
An immensely dedicated patriarch, Tollman lead TTC to become the largest, family owned and run business in the world. In addition to his wife Bea, he was joined in the business by three of his four children – Toni, Brett, and Vicki – who are all central to its operations, as are Gavin, the son of his late brother Arnold and Michael, a nephew. Grandchildren are now forming part of the fourth generation of Tollmans within the expanding operation.
Tollman died at the age of ninety-one in France surrounded by his close-knit family following a short battle with Cancer. His legacy is one which will endure with unwavering commitment, gratitude, and respect from all who knew him.