Remembering Nelson Mandela’s Lasting Legacy and Honoring our South African Heritage Through Service
“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”– Nelson Mandela
Greetings from London,
As a proud, dual citizen of South Africa & the USA, these past few days marks a special milestone in my beloved birth country, the 100th birthday anniversary of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. Millions of people are celebrating Mandela’s enduring legacy which continues to inspire citizens across the world to make a difference and bring about positive change. Our Red Carnation team members in South Africa, including the 12 Apostles and the Oyster Box Hotels, were doing special initiatives to honor his centenary through service and compassion including making meals for those in need in Cape Town and providing care bags for TAFTA (The Association for the Aged) in Durban.
I had the great honor of briefly meeting President Mandela in 1997, when I attended Davos with my wife Miranda. The iconic, inspirational Nobel Peace Prize winner captured and captivated the world’s attention with his forgiving, true statesman qualities – so magnanimous, compassionate and a true world leader. Admired by everyone. When he walked out of jail after 27 years in prison, he embraced peaceful transition and led South Africa away from awful apartheid to majority rule.
During his remaining years, he also pursued a variety of social causes, such as bringing forth women’s rights, delivering better opportunities for impoverished rural children and promoting scientific research throughout Africa. During his last years, he was a magnificent shining symbol and example for the civil rights movements worldwide.
Compassion through Action
For many years now, my family, The Travel Corporation (TTC) and our TreadRight Foundation have been supporting South Africa’s the Amy Foundation (formerly the Amy Biehl Foundation) which has long been one of our nearest and dearest projects to empower and develop young people in vulnerable communities. Created in the wake of tragedy, the Amy Foundation serves more than 2,000 youth each day through six centres throughout townships in South Africa, offering after-school programs including academic support, sport, arts education, and life skills training.
We have been supporting the Amy Foundation financially, by donating musical instruments and supplies to their after-school programs and by giving our Lion World Travel guests the opportunity to personally visit the care centres around Cape Town on their trips to South Africa. In addition, our TTC brands Red Carnation, Uniworld and Thompsons Africa continue to raise money through the purchase of beaded bracelets made in South Africa, which also support this foundation.
It was heartening to also recently see the organization making waves in my current hometown of Los Angeles. It’s always inspiring to see the efforts we help to support evolve and inspire in new and exciting ways. Earlier this month, as reported on in the Los Angeles Times, a group of 15 young singers from the Amy Foundation made their way to Los Angeles to join the Angel City Chorale to help the acclaimed group celebrate its 25thanniversary with a lively performance. The coming together of the two choral groups was said to be not only uplifting to experience, but also provided each group with revelation and inspiration to take with them. As the Amy Foundation’s long-time leader and good friend Kevin Chaplin so beautifully said in the Times article, it calls “to mind a popular Xhosa saying — ukuhamba ukubona,”which translates in English to “travel opens a window to the world.”
Remembering our South African Heritage
My entire family and I have the deepest admiration, affection and gratitude for Nelson Mandela and the people of South Africa, since this special nation is where it all began for us. We still have numerous family who live there too. Our roots can be traced back over a hundred years to a small fishing village called Paternoster, located in the Western Cape of the country. My grandfather, Solomon owned a small hotel in this fishing village, that still exists today, and where my father, Stanley and my Uncle Arnold were born.
The Red Carnation Hotels Story – A Love Story which Started over Fifty Years Ago
When my father was eight years old, his family moved to Johannesburg where my grandfather purchased his next property, a charming 30-room hotel. While attending university, my father was asked to look after their hotel as the General Manager while his parents were abroad, while he was studying to be a pharmacist. The hospitality bug got to him and he dropped out of university. About this time, he also met my beautiful mother, Bea who was then a nursery school teacher and a regional tennis champion at 18.
Once they were married, they were able to acquire their first 22-room hotel, The Nugget, and created their first restaurant there too.
As newlyweds, they began opening other hotels and restaurants, with their immense passion to offer world class hospitality and exquisite fine dining. They later opened The Colony which would become one of the first boutique hotels in South Africa and featured popular international entertainers in their supper club. They also set new standards in unsurpassed service, outstanding excellence and impeccable taste.
Then in 1976, my family began our next chapter in our lives by moving to Britain and in 1984, my parents purchased the Chesterfield Hotel located in the heart of the fashionable Mayfair area. My mother’s passion to exceed guest expectations with faultless service, phenomenal attention to detail are the bedrock of our hotel collection today. In celebrating my father’s signature flower (My stylish father still wears a small red carnation in his lapel, which is a symbol of hospitality), the hotel group commemorate this ode to our Chairman as today’s renowned Red Carnation Hotels collection.
In Pursuit of Excellence and Putting Our Guests at the Heart of Everything We Do
It has now evolved into a collection of 18 luxurious, admired and highly awarded properties in South Africa (3), Florida (1), Geneva (1), Dorset (2), Guernsey (2), Ireland (2) London (6) and one under development in the Okavango Delta of Botswana. Both of my sisters are also involved in the hotels, and our parents have instilled in us the core importance of putting our guests at the heart of everything we do, and delivering outstanding, consistent quality service and value in a warm and personal manner each and every time. Our family motto is “in pursuit of excellence” and we work hard and strive for this every day, in that we do.
To achieve industry-leading, award winning service and experiences, requires the passionate and dedicated commitment of incredible people – we are honored and delighted to work with some of the best people in hospitality, who each help deliver warm, considerate, consistent service every day, to every Red Carnation Hotels’ guest, around the world. We thank, appreciate and recognize every one of them.
This dedication and exemplary service was recently recognized as well by Travel+LeisureMagazine, who announced their 2018 World’s Best Awards earlier this month. We are so proud of the following accolades of some of our TTC brands from this very high-profile luxury US magazine:
“This year’s list has a newcomer in the No. 2 spot: family-run Red Carnation Hotel Collection, which has Ireland’s Ashford Castle (a perennial World’s Best favorite) and Hotel 41 in London in its portfolio.”
- Red Carnation Hotel Collection – Score: 95.33
- Ashford Castle – Score: 91.41
- Hotel 41 – Score: 91.26
- Chesterfield Mayfair – Score: 90.74
- Lion World Travel – Score: 96.57
- Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection – Score: 96.70 – which took the No. 1 spot again this year
Coming back to the remarkable example set by Madiba and the legacy he left behind, in these very turbulent, unsettled and angry times, in my view we should all try to remember more actively the grace, the calm, the accepting and forgiving nature and example set by this great man. We all need to learn to forgive and forget, to look to the future and not to hark on the past nor try to change history, to think of “we” rather than “me”, and to actively work to help make our planet a better place.
My family and I are doing that now, by embarking on a purpose driven social experience trip, traveling to India for the first time next week, working with the superb charity, WE.org and metowe.com, in traveling to Rajasthan to help build a school there, and to engage with, learn about and from the local community we’ll be living with for the time we are there. I’ll share that story in my next blog.
Wishing you all the very best and thank you for reading my blog,