My 2021 Top 3 Wanderlist
Season’s greetings. I hope you and your loved ones enjoy a festive, healthy and wonderful holiday season. Our condolences, thoughts and best wishes go out to those families who have lost a loved one this year. We think of you at this time. We also think of, pray for and thank all the valiant, brave and selfless front-line people who are actively helping save lives every day in hospitals and nursing homes, and those also working to keep our cities safe and secure.
This has been a year to forget in so many ways, but may we all enjoy, as best we can, the last few days of 2020. As we say goodbye to the numerous, collective upheavals and intense global challenges of 2020, I am so sincerely grateful and appreciative for my family, my colleagues at TTC and all the support and engagement we have had throughout the year with and from our valued guests and travelers, and our loyal partners.
Through our united efforts and goodwill, and appreciating that around 150,000,000 people who work in our great, global industry lost their jobs this year, I feel an even deeper sense of appreciation of how much travel means to me and to so many others who depend on travel and tourism for their income and which supports their respective families. This year, we have been profoundly reminded of how our industry is truly a force for good, for so many reasons.
Personally, 2021 will be a time to focus first and foremost on recovering and revitalizing every aspect of our business, similar to many CEOs around the world who will need to ensure their respective organizations’ recovery plans will be successfully executed. And then, concurrently, as best we can, our team and I will be focusing on how we can help others throughout our supply chain and in the fragile destinations in which we work and support others, to help drive their respective recovery, through ours as well. (It is a virtuous circle.)
The innovative initiatives undertaken this year within TTC include establishing our stringent Well-being Protocols earlier in 2020, with our enhanced hygiene measures. We have also invested in a newly created role, unique to date in our sector of the industry, a dedicated Well-being Director (WD) who will be present on every Trafalgar, Insight Vacations and Luxury Gold guided holiday (excluding Australia, New Zealand and Japan).
Looking to when I will travel again, I also dream about where I will go, and when I can take my family on a holiday again. My Top Three Wanderlist showcases the opportunity to travel again and explore these beautiful, awe-inspiring places. I feel incredibly fortunate as an individual to have the job that I have and do what I do, and 2021 will focus on visiting our new TTC projects to help them grow and become what we have envisioned them to be.
Celebrating the Opening of Red Carnation Hotel’s Xigera Safari Lodge – Okavango Delta, Botswana
The opening of Xigera (“Kee-jera”) this December is the culmination of a lifelong dream for my family, drawing on over a century of unparalleled luxury in service and reimagining the safari experience, defined by our Red Carnation Hotels’ art of hospitality and superb, caring service. This uber-luxury lodge is located on the western side of the Moremi Game Reserve in Botswana’s most unspoiled wilderness. With our pioneering spirit, it has been a labour of love and a groundbreaking transformation that will create extraordinary experiences for our guests as we honor our family legacy.
Xigera is our love letter to our African homeland and I am very excited to visit there with my parents (whom I have not seen since the beginning of March, like many of you), sisters and cousins, Gavin and Michael, for three days during the third week of January. This is a wonderful tradition where our family always comes together to help “bed down” a new property, working shoulder-to-shoulder to further refine our upcoming guests’ experiences, paying close attention to every detail and exceptional service, while working side by side with our amazing team on the ground. I love this aspect of our business more than any other, working together on the ground with our teams.
Our incredible lodge will be the first design project of this scale and scope on the continent which was conceptualized by my incredible sister, Toni Tollman, alongside Philip Fourie and Anton de Kock, who have collaborated with renowned Southern Guild in a design partnership. Xigera’s evocative design is a ‘living gallery’ of African art and creativity, embodying Indigenous traditions with a bold aesthetic. The lodge accommodates just 24 guests with 12 exquisite suites, each one handcrafted by Africa’s most acclaimed artists from over 80 studios and inspired by the remarkable landscape.
With our TreadRight mission to “Make Travel Matter,” sustainability and conservation are at the heart of everything we do and in every aspect of Xigera including eliminating single-use plastics in our lodge operations, on-site composting, building a reverse osmosis treatment plant and implementing a superb Tesla battery solar-hybrid power solution. We are also making an engaging, ongoing effort to empower the local communities and care for the local environment.
Cruising the Nile with Uniworld’s S.S. Sphinx, Egypt
I am also so looking forward to returning to iconic Egypt during the new year, which is an endlessly fascinating destination. I will be embarking on our newest Uniworld Super Ship, the S.S. Sphinx, which will make its debut on the Nile River in 2021. This newest ship on the Nile has an intimate, luxurious ambiance of 42 lavishly appointed staterooms and suites which all have French balconies. We will be offering a once-in-a-lifetime cruising itinerary, Splendors of Egypt & the Nile, in luxury and style with Egyptian artwork, fabrics and hand-carved furnishings. Our guests can enjoy two gourmet dining venues, a swimming pool and a massage room.
The 12 adventure-filled days include exploring the Temple of Karnak, the world’s largest ancient spiritual complex, and the majestic Temple of Luxor. Onwards, guests will visit the unforgettable Valley of the Kings, the ancient burial grounds of Egyptian royalty. Featured excursions also include a sailboat ride in a traditional Nile River felucca and afternoon tea at the Old Cataract Hotel. This famous hotel in Aswan was featured in Agatha Christie’s novel, Death on the Nile.
Another item on my Egypt bucket list is the highly anticipated opening of the spectacular Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) in Giza (just 2 kilometers away from the Pyramids) and the inauguration is now scheduled for June 2021. The Egyptian government has spent over one billion dollars on this antiquities museum which has been 19 years in the making. The GEM’s main entrance will display the colossal 3,200-year-old statue of Ramses II. The museum will also display King Tutankhamun’s complete royal tomb collection with more than 5,000 artifacts.
In Cairo, I will spend time with our trusted on-the-ground partner and friends at Spring Tours, which has worked with TTC and my family for over 32 years. They are one of the leading destination management companies in Egypt. We are working closely together to warmly welcome back our Insight Vacations, Luxury Gold, Trafalgar, Costsaver, Uniworld, Contiki, , and guests in the coming months. There is a heightened interest in Egypt with the recent archaeological discovery of over 100 elaborately decorated coffins and 40 gilded statues in Saqqara, buried over 2,500 years ago. I hope you too will make Egypt your chosen destination in the next year or two.
Wine Cycling Tour in Burgundy with Contiki’s Detour Mini Adventure, France
I am yearning to return to one of my favourite European destinations, France. Contiki is the world leader in travel experiences for the modern traveler (18 to 35 years old) and helps build lifelong connections with new people. Our Contiki team continues to innovate – the latest being 12 new Detour Mini Adventures which are ready to launch for 2021. These offer short and sweet rejuvenating breaks, averaging three to four days. They will offer immersion in the local way of life and change the way we look at the world. These mini adventures are off the beaten path and our guests can learn new skills with a local host which can include surfing and yoga in Morocco, wilderness glamping in Wales or turtle trekking in Tortuguero.
I would like to join the new Wine Cycling Tour in Burgundy mini adventure for a few days with a focus on wellness while staying active, cycling along the country’s renowned “Grand Wine Route.” Our local host, Dimitri from Lille, who was born and raised in France, will arrange a foodie picnic at a château’s gardens and wine tasting at Caveau Moillard, a 19th century magnificent vaulted cellar. We will learn about the different stages in the vinification and aging of great Burgundy wine in Nuits-Saint-George.
Please share your wanderlist with me when you can. This is a good, appropriate time to start dreaming more actively about where and how to travel in the new year. The exciting, very positive news about the new vaccines being rolled out in many countries right now, or in the days ahead, is great news for all of us who have a strong desire to get back out there and travel the world. I think we have all learnt this year to not take this for granted, and to make sure we make our travel count and matter in 2021. I look forward to seeing you out there.
Wishing you much happiness, good health and prosperity throughout 2021,