Global tourism industry visionary, passionate philanthropist and founder of The Travel Corporation (TTC), Stanley Tollman, has passed at the age of 91 following a battle with cancer.
Highly revered worldwide for his visionary leadership and his innovative ideas in pushing new frontiers in the global tourism industry, Tollman spent the final days of his long and fulfilling life in France surrounded by his family.
Even as founder and chairman of TTC, the century-old international travel group comprising more than 40-award winning brands including Trafalgar, Insight Vacations, Contiki Holidays, Red Carnation Hotels and Uniworld Boutique River Cruises, Tollman remained a humble hotelier at heart, staying true to his roots.
A boy from a small fishing village who took the world by storm
Tolllman hailed from humble beginnings. Born in a small fishing village in South Africa in 1930, his family ran a modest hotel with outdoor lavatories. As a young boy, Tollman would roam around the hotel barefooted, and that was where his passion for hospitality took shape.
At age 24, Tollman married Beatrice Lurie, who went on to become the love of his life for almost 70 years. They threw caution to the wind and embarked on an ambitious hospitality venture almost immediately, using their wedding money to build their first hotel together.
The Tollmans’ unyielding pursuit for perfection and excellence soon bore fruit and they became some of the leading hoteliers in South Africa. Thereafter, their conceptualisation of the first five-star and all-suite hotel in South Africa, known as the Tollman Towers, made the world stand up and take notice.
While Tollman was making a name for himself as a cutting-edge hotelier, his evolving interests across segments of the tourism industry and global travel markets gave rise to the creation of TTC.
A champion of social justice and sustainable tourism
Tollman wielded his influence and power for the greater good after achieving success and global recognition. He found great value in championing social justice and sought to overturn racist policies enforced in South Africa back then by inviting black guests and performers into his luxury hotels — a practice frowned upon by the ruling government in the past.
He also spearheaded a programme that provided training to young black people who showed potential in the hospitality business, with the aim of unlocking employment opportunities for them.
Unfortunately, government policies soon put a stop to that and Tollman was forced to shift to focus beyond South African borders.
With his wife and four children in toll, Tollman rebuilt in England and then in the United States. As his influence and impact continued resonating throughout the travel industry, his inherent desire to make the world a better place was how the TreadRight Foundation came about. It started off as a non-profit organisation focused on activation of community and conservation projects and partnerships in an era when sustainability and responsible tourism was hardly spared a thought.
Today, TreadRight supports over 55 projects worldwide, has developed a five-year Sustainability Strategy directly aligned to the UN SDGs (United Nations Sustainable Development Goals) uniting all TTC brands in measurable efforts to embed sustainability across the business, and is championing a traveller-facing campaign (#MakeTravelMatter) to raise the awareness and engagement of travellers in more responsible travel choices.
A steadfast leader and loving family man
With Tollman at the helm, TTC evolved into one of the most renowned and respected family owned and run travel businesses in the world. He stayed true to his hotelier roots all the way to the end. Even in the final decade of his life, Tollman was providing his family and company with inspiration to create hospitality guest experiences that redefined global standards.
Despite being a highly successful businessman and a trailblazer in the travel industry, Tollman’s dedication to his family never wavered. He took pride in strengthening familial bonds and constantly sought the advice and support from his wife, children and grandchild on TTC’s decision-making issues.
According to Tollman, his greatest legacy had been his family. Today, three generations of Tollmans are involved in the business. The family remains strong, united, and tirelessly committed to building on not only the business and brand foundations put in place by Tollman, but the bonds between them all.
The unwavering commitment he displayed towards the tourism industry, his family and his philanthropic acts had and will continue to make a profound impact that will echo through time with the millions of people who have benefited from Tollman’s brilliant mind and altruistic soul.