Stanley Tollman, chairman of The Travel Corporation (TTC) which has a portfolio of brands including Red Carnation Hotels, has died at the age of 91 following a battle with cancer.
He spent the final days of his life in France surrounded by his family.
Tollman was born in the small fishing village of Paternoster in South Africa in 1930, where his family ran a hotel. At the age of eight, the family moved to Johannesburg, where his parents acquired another hotel, early exposure to the world of hospitality that inspired him to become a hotelier himself.
In 1954 Tollman married Beatrice Lurie, known as Bea, and they used their wedding money to purchase their first business venture, the Nugget hotel in Johannesburg. Their Hyde Park hotel in Johannesburg, acquired in 1955, saw Stanley responsible for front of house while Bea operated behind the scenes including as head chef. The hotel attracted famous visitors including Marlene Dietrich and Maurice Chevalier, and was the base for film crews, including Stanley Baker's Zulu, starring Michael Caine.
However, due to the apartheid policies enforced in South Africa at the time Tollman left South Africa in 1976 together with his wife and four children for London, where they had purchased the Montcalm hotel in Marble Arch. The Chesterfield hotel in Mayfair was acquired in 1984 and on the acquisition of the Montague on the Gardens hotel in Bloomsbury, Bea named the company Red Carnation Hotels in 1996 after the red carnation lapel pin Stanley wore.
TTC has grown to a portfolio of 40 brands including Trafalgar, Contiki, Insight, Cullinan, Luxury Gold, African Travel, Costsaver, Uniworld River Cruises and the Bouchard Finlayson Vineyards in South Africa, encompassing 10,000 employees across 70 countries.
The Red Carnation group of hotels has grown to 18 properties, including the Milestone, Rubens at the Palace and Egerton House in London; Summer Lodge in Evershot, Dorset; the Duke of Richmond and Old Government House in Guernsey; and Ashford Castle and Hatch Hall in Ireland. In 2006 the group acquired the Oyster Box hotel in Durban, South Africa – where Stanley and Bea had their first dinner date together in 1952. The group launched Xigera Safari Lodge last year in Botswana and the latest property, 100 Princes Street in Edinburgh, is due to open next year.
Tollman and his brands have garnered numerous awards including him personally being inducted into the British Travel & Hospitality Hall of Fame in 2015 and a lifetime achievement award by Travel Weekly.
According to Tollman, his greatest legacy was his family and three generations of Tollmans are now involved in the business, including three of the Tollman's four children – Toni, Brett, and Vicki – together with Gavin, the son of his late brother Arnold, and nephew Michael.
Jonathan Raggett, managing director of Red Carnation Hotels, said: "I had the honour and privilege of working for Mr Tollman for 23 years. During this time Red Carnation grew from three hotels to the 20 we are today. Mr Tollman loved his hotels and each and every one of the team working within them.
"He had an amazing eye for detail; an innate sense of what guests wanted; made quick, considered decisions; and always pushed myself and the team to be our absolute best. He was genuine, kind, caring and had incredible humour. He will be greatly missed by me and all at RCH."
Clive Jacobs, chairman of The Caterer owner Jacobs Media Group, said: "I feel fortunate to have met and had Stanley in my life. He was without doubt my greatest inspiration in the travel industry. Not only was Stanley a highly successful businessman, he was also a man of enormous integrity and values. They certainly do not make them like Stanley anymore.
"I cannot begin to imagine how devastating Stanley's passing is for Bea and the family, and my thoughts and deepest sympathies are with them on this sad day."