The Red Carnation Hotel Collection is a proud TTC family Brand, and we are honoured to be celebrating 100 years of Hospitality in 2020. As one of 42 family-owned and run TTC travel brands, Red Carnation’s history began when Stanley Tollman’s father, Solomon Tollman, opened a small hotel in Paternoster (a small fishing village in South Africa) in August of 1920. As the TTC family embarks upon its second century, there’s never been a more exciting time to travel, nor a more pressing time in which to #MakeTraveMatter. Here, we reflect on where we’ve come from, what we’ve built, why our centennial is so special and what we have planned—both to celebrate, and for the coming years.

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Where we've come from

Through TTC’s 100 years, its core beliefs have remained pure: each of its brands is driven by service, placing guest accommodation at its centre – a philosophy directly traceable to TTC’s charismatic founder: Solomon Tollman.

It’s not easy to comprehend the sheer strength of character Solomon possessed. Smuggled out of the Russian Empire aged 14 to escape oppressive military service under the Czar, and with nothing but a few gold roubles stitched into his clothing, Solomon began his hospitality journey. After escaping by train to England, Solomon bought a ticket to board the steamship Braemar Castle and first laid eyes upon the veneered summit of Table Mountain a month later in 1911. Here, he befriended a number of prominent local farmers, entrepreneurs and expats. Just nine years later, he had accumulated enough lifelong friends to open his first property: the Paternoster Hotel, nestled sleepily in the eponymous fishing village two hours’ drive north of Cape Town.

The Paternoster was in many ways Solomon’s coming of age, the crucible in which he forged his attentive and thorough attitude to service that has since passed down through three generations and to the wider Red Carnation Hotels family. As a result of Solomon’s hard work and personal oversight, the Paternoster rose to fame for its hospitality. A few hotels and a move to Johannesburg later, Solomon’s son Stanley, TTC chairman and inspiration for the Red Carnation Hotels name, was born.

Despite a childhood spent in and around hotels, Stanley was encouraged by his parents to pursue pharmaceuticals—yet their carefully-laid plan was disrupted by none other than their son. When Solomon and his wife Evelyn embarked upon a half-year trip around the world in the 1950s, they left Stanley in charge of their Johannesburg property, The Palace Hotel. Upon their return, they discovered the seriousness with which Stanley had taken his responsibilities; he had fired the general manager and started running the hotel (very successfully) in his stead.

It was around this time that Stanley first met Beatrice (Bea), Red Carnation Hotels’ president and founder, at The Oyster Box in Umhlanga. There, Stanley promised Bea he’d eventually buy her the property, a promise realised in 2006. Two years later, in 1954, they married, soon after opening the boutique Nugget Hotel in Johannesburg. At the Nugget, the couple perfected their unique two-pronged approach to hospitality. Beatrice worked wonders in the hotel’s restaurant at a time when professional kitchens were male-dominated spaces, while Stanley saw to the front of house with panache.

Both Stanley and Beatrice brought unparalleled attention to detail and dedication to their respective roles. Years later, when Red Carnation Hotels began in the 1980s with The Chesterfield Mayfair, the Tollman emphasis on service and Bea’s personal involvement in all hotel matters combined to inspire our creed: “No request is too large, no detail too small.”

The road ahead

Through our 100-year history, our core values have remained constant. We’re still a collection of family-run and owned brands, united by a common creed of excellence in service. As we begin our next century-long chapter of hospitality in 2020, we’re inspired by the examples set before us, and are excited to carry them with us to new countries and across new ventures.

2020 will be the year Red Carnation Hotels reaches 20 properties, with two new destinations on the way. We’re already looking forward to the opening of our extraordinary Red Carnation Hotels jewel, Xigera Safari Lodge, opening up the world of the Okavango Delta in June. Often described as Africa’s Last Eden, the Delta is a real-life mirage, an oasis of waterways that are home to incredible collections of endangered wildlife and birds. A long-held dream of Bea’s, Xigera will deliver the Red Carnation Hotels’ exacting dedication to service in the heart of this wilderness

Xigera has been designed from the ground up to create a superlative guest safari experience. The lodge itself lies in the Okavango Delta’s principal protected area: the Moremi Game Reserve. Here, it sits in its own private area, offering guests serene privacy and utter immersion in the Seurat-like surrounding landscape, likely becoming the most exclusive safari lodge on the continent.

Twelve uniquely designed, spacious and air-conditioned suites look out over wildlife migrating through flooded plains, with room-service sightings of graceful elephants and acrobatic lechwe a regular occurrence. Over 100 staff will cater to Xigera’s 24 guests and unlike other safari lodges in the region, Xigera will be committed to guest flexibility. Our specially designed safari vessels and expert guides will depart at different times throughout the day, according to guest preference. We’re also thrilled to offer multiple modes of safari: from mokoro (a local type of dugout) to photographic to even walking ventures, our wildlife encounters will go far beyond the iconic jeep excursions.

At the same time, Xigera champions our commitment to sustainability, a core value of ours that we’re excited to further in the new decade. Our luxury lodge will be 100 per cent solar-powered, its energy deriving from a purpose-built solar field nearby. Xigera, of course, will also be part of our pledge to eliminate single-use plastics across our collection by 2022.

In 2022, we’ll bring Red Carnation Hotels to the storied hilltops of Edinburgh, with the opening of 100 Princes Street. Few cities possess the charming atmosphere of Scotland’s capital, its winding highland alleys home to gorgeous Victorian-era townhouses revetted in fine northern mists during the nights and early mornings.

100 Princes Street is located in the heart of the city with a direct, broadside view of Edinburgh Castle and of the Princes Street Gardens below. This boutique will be the debonair Scottish sister to our London property, Hotel 41. Here, 30 individually appointed bedrooms, stylishly furnished with local Scottish designs and specifically selected artefacts, will replicate the club-like elegance of our acclaimed London address.

In 2022, we will also continue growing our Red Carnation Hotels family, establishing our second and long-awaited outpost in Ireland: Hatch Hall in Dublin, set just off the historic lawns of St. Stephen’s Green. A landmark property that’s more than a century old, built in Victorian neo-gothic style, Hatch Hall has long been a welcome and warming presence in central Dublin. The gorgeous building was the brainchild of famed ecclesiastical architect C.B. Powell, and enjoys a privileged location within walking distance from Dublin’s National Gallery, Temple Bar, Trinity College and, of course, St. Stephen’s Green.

Both 100 Princes Street and Hatch Hall have rich histories. We take it as our personal responsibility to restore them faithfully, and we look forward to bringing back to life their impressive aesthetics, combining each with our signature Red Carnation Hotels design.

Celebrating our centennial

To celebrate 100 years of hospitality and to honour our past while we look forward to what’s ahead, the TTC family is opening its archives. Every month, we shall share a suite of stories from our century-long journey, celebrating the joys of travel and tracing how we have helped shape our guests’ incredible experiences across the world over the years.

Alongside, Red Carnation Hotels is commemorating our unique brand of TTC hospitality, our approach to guest wellbeing and responsible tourism that has made us so beloved throughout the world of travel.

Each Red Carnation hotel is brought to life by a combination of themes, united by an ever-present dedication to service. From the very onset, each of our hotels is a considered acquisition. Our properties are filled with heritage and history, each a charismatic reflection of the culture in which they reside. From County Mayo’s Ashford Castle to Umhlanga’s The Oyster Box, each is inseparable from its surroundings. After acquisition, our properties’ rich histories are the clear muse for their interiors, with colour palettes, room layouts and antiques all specifically chosen for their relation to the overall hotel aesthetic.  

Long after we first opened our doors, our hotels continue to uphold our distinct Red Carnation Hotels style of hospitality. We constantly work with local partners, scholars and guides to immerse our guests in the worlds into which we welcome them. Our hotels themselves live Bea’s legacy, from their signature culinary creations—featuring Bea’s original recipes—to their commitment to sustainability and personal touches.

As we celebrate 100 years of hospitality, we reflect upon our core values and anticipate how we’ll carry them forward. With soon-to-be 20 hotels across three continents, we look forward to welcoming you and acquainting you with the wonderful world of travel we love so very much. All the while, our symbol, worn on the lapel of every staff member, is, and shall always remain, a reminder of the personal passion and care we show each and every one of our guests; it is, after all, the flower Bea Tollman’s husband was wearing when they first met.

We at Red Carnation Hotels are beyond excited to embark upon a new year, decade and century, alongside our partner, The Travel Corporation. Stay at one of our properties this year to experience the multitude of experiences we have planned.