One of the pleasures of working in this industry are the many relationships that we as a company have built up over the years, particularly with those hospitality partners who share our vision, values and the versatility that we offer our clients. The Red Carnation Hotel group is such a company in that it’s a family-owned collection of boutique luxury hotels and spas that offer the most discerning, hands-on service and experiences in the most exceptional locations.
I started working with The Red Carnation Group fifteen years ago, just after they took over Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve and Wellness Retreat in the Cederberg. Since then, it has been my delight to see their business go from strength to strength through the offering of a service standard so unique and personal, that it puts the platitudes often churned out by today’s hospitality hegemony to shame. In fact, their passion for what they do has earned them a profusion of industry awards and made Bushmans Kloof a favorite wilderness experience for many ROAR AFRICA guests.
But then hospitality is in the Tollman family’s genes, for their history goes back 100 years ago to Paternoster, a small fishing village on the west coast of South Africa where the family of Red Carnation’s co-founder Stanley Tollman was born, and where his father owned the local Paternoster Hotel. The birth of The Red Carnation Group (RCH) came a few years later when the grown up Stanley took a young woman called Beatrice Lurie on a date to the grand old Oyster Box Hotel in Durban’s Umhlanga. It was the beginning of a love story and a dynamic relationship that would see the couple work side by side for the next 65 years as together they created 35 brands under the Travel Corporation, of which Stanley is the founder and chairman, while Beatrice is the founder and chairman of The Red Carnation Group.
That some 35 years later they bought The Oyster Box Hotel, a grande old dame and undertook an epic renovation to restore the iconic luxury beachfront hotel to its former glory, speaks to their passion for the romance of hotels. Their three children Toni, Vicki and Brett work in the business too. Toni is the director of design and projects, for Red Carnation and UniWorld while Vicki is the director of the family’s highly acclaimed Bouchard Finlayson Winery and a director of RCH, and their son Brett is the CEO of Travel Corporation.
With their latest passion project in Botswana, Xigera – they are once more telling a story. This time of an ancient place, of rebirth and of family legacy, as they create an authentic and pioneering lodge that they predict will reinvent the very idea of what it means to experience the African bush. The lodge, situated in the Moremi Game Reserve in Botswana’s Okavango Delta, set beneath an awe-inspiring canopy of ancient trees commands endless views over the floodplains. Conceived with a light footprint, the lodge will comprise of twelve suites, each with an exquisite reimagining of the safari experience. ‘Our vision is to showcase the finest Southern African artisans in the creation of a design that is utterly in sync with its surroundings,’ explains Toni.
‘In many ways this represents a coming home for us as we have always had a special love and passion for the bush,’ says Vicki Tollman. ‘Botswana is where we have spent the most time as a family and so we have a special affinity both to the area and for the unique game experiences it offers.’ Ultimately though, the family’s involvement and the excellence of their team will define Xigera (their team of 105 exceptional staff will look after just 24 guests).‘As a family and a business, what matters most is that our guests have an experience of exclusive flexibility.’ And as everything they do is driven by service excellence, we can’t wait to see what this next chapter brings.
If you’d like more information on Xigera, or if you’d like us to include it in your next luxury African safari, email firstname.lastname@example.org