A look back at 2015 – What a year it was!
2015 has been a year of significant milestones, accolades and accomplishments for us. I thought it would be opportune to share a few of these, in my first blog of the new year. (One of my 2016 commitments is also to do more timely, regular blog updates.)
Last April in London, my father and Chairman of our group, Stanley Tollman, was recognized by the British Travel & Hospitality Hall of Fame for his outstanding achievements in the travel, hospitality, leisure and tourism sectors. We are proud of this deserving, lifetime recognition and the many contributions he has made over the six decades that he has been actively involved in our great industry.
His incredible wisdom, creativity, entrepreneurial vitality and passion continue to drive our dynamic, global business. Just a couple of recent examples of his innovative leadership and vision include initiating “The Chairman’s Creativity Challenge” – an internal award program he started last year, with a prize of $150,000 to the person/people within our team who come up with the most interesting and compelling new idea – the first winner/s will be announced in the next couple of months. Also, with his direct involvement, we have totally re-imagined one of our luxury brands – Luxury Gold by Insight Vacations – a crowning achievement of his career and to the legacy of our family’s almost 100 years in luxury & hospitality.
Die Nuwe Graskoue Trappers
The month of July was also particularly gratifying for both our family and the team of Bushman’s Kloof. Die Nuwe Graskoue Trappers are from the town of Wupperthal in the Cederberg mountains, where Bushman’s Kloof is located. We have provided significant financial support to this very talented dance team for many years, which consists of staff and family members from the Bushman’s Kloof community. It was our family’s pleasure to afford them the opportunity to travel to Los Angeles in July to participate in the World Championship of Performing Arts. The group won four gold medals, seven silver and two bronze, and two division trophies. It also won gold in ethnic folk and tap dance categories and key team members were granted individual dance scholarships that will open more doors for their bright futures.
His Royal Highness – Prince Harry
On another personal note, my wife Miranda, daughter Ella and I had the distinct honor and pleasure of meeting Prince Harry in London, over dinner in March. My great friend Alexander Mavros (www.patrickmavros.com) is a close friend of His Royal Highness, and he kindly arranged the introduction – it was really my way of playing it forward for Jonnie, Duncan, Ben and Dave of The Buried Life (www.youtube.com/watch?v=QV0bdzQRBD8), who have become close friends of our family and have worked with one of our brands, Contiki, to build awareness and engagement with prospective young travelers in the US and Canada (such as this recent video activation about the “Epic Bucket List” challenge we worked on together. One of their bucket list items was to meet HRH and ask him what he wanted to do before he died. (Do more amazing charity work). It was certainly a highlight of the year for all of us – we were so impressed about what an outstanding, fine young man HRH is and it was a great honor to meet him.
The Happy Hearts Fund
I also had the great pleasure of meeting Petra Nemcova, in Madrid in April, during the World Travel & Tourism Council’s global summit, through my good friend Peter Greenberg. Another amazing human being, she started this Foundation after almost perishing during the tragic tsunami in South-East Asia in 2003. Her initiative, drive and efforts have helped rebuild over 120 schools in many places that have been devastated by natural disasters. Subsequently, we have contributed funds, both personally and from our company, to help complete a school in the Philippines and one soon in Nepal too.
Red Carnation Hotels
Led by my mother, Beatrice Tollman, Red Carnation’s continued passion & quest for excellence has reaped well deserved recognition from many sources in 2015.
Early in the year, The Sunday Times recognised Red Carnation Hotels as one of the top two companies to work for in the UK.
In April, under the supervision of my sister Toni Tollman and Head of Projects Brian Brennan, we completed the remarkable restoration of Ashford Castle, Ireland’s most iconic property. The history of Ashford Castle can be traced back to 1228 and today, transformed, is one of the most complete destination resorts in the world. This was validated professionally last September, when Ashford Castle was named The World’s Best Hotel at Virtuoso’s 2015 Best of the Best ceremony. (Virtuoso is the industry’s leading luxury network of travel advisors.) Then in December, Travel & Leisure named the property the Best Boutique Hotel in the World.
Also, the readers of Condé Nast USA overwhelmed us in October. We had four properties in their list of Top 100 Hotels and Resorts in the World. Bushman’s Kloof in South Africa ranked 3rd, Summer Lodge in Dorset, UK 18th, Hotel d’Angleterre in Geneva, Switzerland 24th and Ashford Castle completed the list. There were various other notable rankings our properties received regionally, which can all be seen here: http://www.cntraveler.com/travel-awards/readers-choice-awards/2015
Uniworld Boutique River Cruises
Uniworld’s newest luxury river cruise ship, the S.S. Maria Theresa was launched in April. The ship was christened by her godmother, Princess Anita von Hohenberg, a direct descendant of Maria Theresa, the Archduchess of Austria and Empress of the Holy Roman Empire. Maria Theresa reigned from 1740 to 1780 and was the only female ruler of the Habsburg empire.
Later in September, the S.S Maria Theresa was awarded Best New River Ship by Cruise International. The readers of UK’s Food and Travel Magazine selected Uniworld as the Best River Cruise Line of the Year and Cruise Critic gave us three “Best” awards – Best River Cruise Line, Best New Ship (S.S. Maria Theresa) and Best River Cruise Line Shore Excursions. The American Automobile Association (AAA) also recognized Uniworld with the Travel Partner of the Year 2015 award.
In November, we had the honor to receive the World Tourism Award for the Sustainable Tourism and Conservation efforts made by the TreadRight Foundation. Created as a joint initiative amongst our family of brands, the foundation is a not-for-profit organization, working to encourage sustainable tourism and ensure the environment, wildlife and communities we bring travelers to remain vibrant for generations to come. To date, TreadRight has supported more than 35 sustainable tourism projects worldwide.
Trafalgar, Contiki, Lion World Travel and Insight Vacations
Recently, the prestigious US trade publication Travel Weekly acknowledged Trafalgar in their Readers’ Choice Awards ceremony in New York, as the Best Tour Operator in Europe. Europe is a key tourism destination worldwide, with many operators in this category and we are very pleased to be duly recognized. Travel Weekly’s Magellan Awards also recognized our brands Contiki, Lion World Travel and Insight Vacations for various outstanding marketing achievements.
The American Automobile Association named Insight Vacations as Best in Marketing for tours.
These awards and recognition are a testimony to the hard work and passion which our great global team, and my family bring daily to our jobs, all of which are focused on delivering outstanding, consistent quality, service and value to every one of our guests who travel with us. The reputation our wonderful brands enjoy is being continuously reinforced through the acknowledgments we receive from both our customers and our industry partners. This in turn motivates us to continuously improve the travel experiences we deliver to our loyal customers. I am certain that our collective efforts will continue driving our service delivery in 2016 and look forward to continuing to share our accomplishments.
“To move, to breathe, to fly, to float; to gain all while you give; to roam the roads of lands remote; to travel is to live.”
-Hans Christian Andersen
We live to work hard and create amazing experiences and memories for all our guests. I look forward to sharing more of these stories with you during this brave new year.