There are times when we can actually see the curve of history unfolding around us. 2020 has been such a year, and by no means easy. Most painfully, many have lost loved ones to this awful pandemic. Many others have lost their jobs and face difficult hardships, including colleagues who started the year with us but are now, unfortunately, unemployed. For those of us who love to travel, it has been filled with delays and disappointments brought on by Covid-19. Suffice to say, while all of us at The Travel Corporation began 2020 with great anticipation of celebrating our first century as a family owned and run business, this was not the year any of us had imagined.
And yet, even bad years can bring good things. While physical travel was more limited than at any point in our lives, we have nevertheless traveled tremendous distances through time and memory. It has been our great joy each month this year for those of us at TTC to look back over this past century and share with you tales of how we began, who we have become, and why we do what we do.
Thus, anxious as we all are to turn the page on 2020 and to begin a gradual global recovery in 2021, we invite you to join us as we look back over the stories we’ve told this past year, so beautifully narrated by Vicki in our videos, and through the voices of guest writers in this series of blogs.
While this year was not how we had envisioned the start of our second century, those of us at TTC know well that great journeys do not always have easy beginnings. That was true for our founder, Solomon Tollman who, as a boy of fifteen, was forced to leave his home and family in Lithuania to escape oppression of life under the Czar. After being smuggled out in a train, he eventually arrived in London with nothing more than the few gold rubles his mother had sewn into his clothing. Six months later he traveled steerage class on a steam ship to Cape Town, South Africa. There he survived the last pandemic – the Spanish Flu of 1918-19 – and made his way up South Africa’s rugged west coast to the sleepy fishing village of Paternoster.
Solomon’s story was the first we told, in January’s blog posting by Brett Tollman, our Chief Executive, 100 Years of Being Driven by Service. Brett recounts how his Grandfather Solomon – Solly, as he was known – purchased and refurbished a run-down community center, and in 1920 welcomed the first guests to The Paternoster Hotel, shown above as it appears today. Difficult as his journey had been, Solly ran that hotel so as to give other travelers the welcome he himself had not received. That spirit gave rise to that business principle which guides all of us at TTC to this day: Driven by Service.
Love and travel are forever linked, and in February we shared a story from TTC’s Chairman, Stanley S. Tollman. A Valentine’s Day Tale of Love and Oysters tells of a memorable journey to Durban, the birth of his vision for TTC – and the moment he literally fell for Beatrice Lurie. A love story for the ages, she went on to become Mrs. Bea Tollman – his partner, fellow visionary, and the love of his life – they celebrated their 67th anniversary this past March.
Bea Tollman picked up the story in March for International Women’s Day with a blog post entitled The Secret Ingredient. Through the story of her own journey to become a master chef, founder of Red Carnation Hotels, and guiding visionary for Uniworld, she celebrates the crucial role that women always have – and always will – play in the success of TTC, through the passion they bring to their work.
In April we celebrated the 50th anniversary of Earth Month with Paradise Lost & Found by Shannon Guihan, Chief TreadRight & Sustainability Officer for TTC. In it, she tells of growing up in Paradise, Newfoundland, a town which lived up to its name. As she grew up, however, she saw the impact of tourism without forethought, where visitors trampled the very sights they had come to see. This led her to her life’s work, ensuring that travel is a force for good, and the ongoing work of The TreadRight Foundation.
In May, as the extent of the pandemic became clearer to us all, we naturally turned our attention to what matters most in life. Vicki Tollman, Executive Director of Red Carnation Hotels, wrote We Are Family, celebrating Mother’s Day in many countries around the world and the United Nations International Day of Families. In it, she reflects on being part of the Tollman family, of TTC’s family of brands, and of the many families within these families.
June brought the silence of the quietest travel season we had ever known, with virtually all trips cancelled. Difficult as this was, we realized this was an ideal time to reflect and appreciate the gift of travel, the places we have been fortunate to visit, the experiences we have had, and the people we have come to know. Travel is, after all about creating memories that last a lifetime, and this seemed like the right time to share some of these. We invited employees of TTC around the world to share tales from past journeys they are thankful to have made in Reflections of Gratitude, From Those of Us At TTC. These sentiments were echoed in June’s video, Gratitude, narrated by our Chairman, Stanley Tollman. Through his words and his calm, reassuring, and wise manner, one truly understands why he has come to be so widely recognized as both a successful entrepreneur and great statesman.
One of the great joys of travel is the friendships that arise from our journeys. In July we reached out to our travelers to gather stories of friendships they had made while traveling with us, as well as to our employees, for tales of friendships with each other, our partners, and with our guests. These became With a Little Help From Our Friends.
As a fourth generation family business, we are always looking toward the future. For August’s blog, we reached out to Brett’s daughter, Ella, who is currently a student at NYU. A talented photographer, she shared some of her favorite travel shots in Bringing the Future Into Focus, recounting how her travels have shaped her world view, and how her camera has shaped her travels.
By September we were sorely missing our guests. We heard from many that they had been missing us as well, and that they had been flipping through scrapbooks and photos to remember past journeys. That encouraged us to do the same, sifting through letters, emails and photos we’ve received over the years. With their permission we shared some of these in Tales From Our Travelers.
Continual innovation is crucial in the world of travel, and it is what has guided us through our first century. For October’s blog we turned to a visionary leader, Gavin Tollman, CEO of Trafalgar, Costsaver, and Brendan Vacations. His blog posting, Innovation – the Key to Our Past, Our Present, and Our Future tells the stories behind some of the revolutionary innovations that have made these companies so successful. Not one to dwell in the past, he brought us up to the minute, sharing some of our current TTC innovations around health and well-being for our future travelers in this new era.
Finally, November brought us to what would have been the end of the 2020 travel season. As we have always done here at TTC, we turned our focus to the future, and more sustainable travel, through the “eyes” of our non-profit TreadRight Foundation, which we started over a decade ago to help protect and preserve what we love on our planet – its magnificent destinations, welcoming communities, and stunning wildlife – for future generations. In When We Travel Again we heard from three of the most inspired travelers in the world, Céline S. Cousteau – TreadRight’s Planet Ambassador, Sarain Fox – TreadRight’s People Ambassador, and Ami Vitale – TreadRight’s Wildlife Ambassador. Through photographs and stories, they helped all of us to think of how, when the time comes, we will Make Travel Matter more than ever.
With that, we thank you for joining us on this journey over this past year and through this past century, and return to the present moment, here at the tail end of 2020. Squinting a bit in search of the perspective one finds in reflecting on the past, we imagine what we might see on some future day when we look back on this year. Challenging and painful as 2020 has been for all of us, perhaps we may come to see it as a bridge – albeit a narrow one – that helped one another to cross, from the past to the future.
In that spirit, on behalf of all of our TTC family, we send our best wishes to you and yours for happy, healthy, and safe holidays and a new year, filled with light and love. We know none of us will take the joy of traveling to new destinations for granted again. May the year ahead bring better times, amazing journeys and rich experiences for you, our beloved travelers.
The Tollman Family