Interview with Vicki and Beatrice Tollman | Red Carnation Hotels

01 July 2020

Finding a luxury hotel with character can be a feat. While there are plenty of groups all offering their take on luxury and style, there can be little room for the personal touch so many guests crave when away from home. Beatrice Tollman, CEO, founder and owner of Red Carnation Hotels (RCH) knows all too well how important it is for her guests to feel at home in one of her hotels. Her success in making them feel welcome has earned her many accolades over the years across the hotel industry, notably in 2012 when she was crowned European Hotelier of the Year and in 2016, when she was named Leading Legend 2016 by The Leading Hotels of the World, as well as being recognised with the Lifetime Achievement Award at The Cateys.

The quality, among many, that makes Mrs. Tollman stand out as a CEO, is her innate understanding of what makes people tick. There's a reason why her staff all around the world affectionately knows her as Mrs. T. She knows them by name. She's also the sort of person who will roll up her sleeves and get to work with them. We caught up with Beatrice and her daughter Vicki, both esteemed Quintessentially Members and part of the driving force behind this family business, to better understand what it is to work in this highly demanding sector.

Q: What's the most challenging aspect of being a successful hotelier?

Vicki: Ensuring that you keep delivering the best guest experience, maintaining standards and fulfilling expectations at all times no matter what. You have to looking after and invest in your teams, and give them good reason to share your vision.

Q: How do Red Carnation Hotels stand out apart other luxury hotel groups?

Beatrice: Our service. Our teams truly care about each and every guest and our family is deeply committed and passionate to boot. All of this reflects on the properties and the guest experience. It also explains why our properties feature in Trip Advisor's Top 5 and why we frequently win industry awards.

Your hotels also cater for pets…

Beatrice: In part, this is inspired by my own passion for animals. I'm a real dog-lover, as is the whole of my family, and I travel with my two dachshunds, Honey and Hanzi, as much as possible. But more importantly, we are seeing that more and more of our guests like to travel with their pets and so throughout the Red Carnation Hotel Collection, we not only do our best to be welcoming to pets, but also to go the extra mile for them. We have a pet concierge in all of our hotels and offer dedicated amenities like dog menus, beds and walking services.

Q: You currently have 17 hotels around the world; do you plan to add to the collection? What inspires your choice of location?

Vicki: If we find a property that fits with our philosophy and criteria, then we can consider: such as boutique size, stunning location and within easy reach so that we can be personally involved.

Beatrice: The location and local culture is always really important and we integrate the environment into every property, from the food and service to the design and amenities. A good example is Ashford Castle, the flagship in our collection, which was recently reopened after a complete restoration and enhancement programme. We were very careful to ensure that local artisans, suppliers and materials were used in that process. For example, we used beautiful Connemara marble in the bathrooms and in the Prince of Wales bar. Likewise, the ingredients used in our restaurant menus, such as our roast rib of beef or wild salmon, are locally sourced.

Q: What recent trends have you noticed in the hotel industry? Do you adapt your offering to meet these trends?

Vicki: The latest trends are important to follow and integrate where possible but we try and stick to our ethos of old-world hotel management. We do listen to what's happening and ensure we keep up with what guests expect today - the latest technology, healthy cuisine, exciting cocktails, VIP experiences.

Q: What has been the proudest moment of your career so far?

Vicki: Working with my family naturally, and witnessing each hotel's unique success. Most of all assisting at the events where my mother was awarded the Leading Legend Award 2016 by The Leading Hotels of the World, as well as The European Hotelier of the Year 2012.

Q: After 40 years, do you see the Red Carnation Group always staying within the Tollman family?

Beatrice: Absolutely. We are now into our fourth generation in hospitality as a family and have acquired a lot of expertise, from cuisine to interior design, from staff development to the most important thing of all, an understanding of guests' needs. As a family business, everything we do comes from the heart which then reflects in the guest experience. It means so much to us when we get amazing feedback from people staying with us, when we win awards, and when our staff excel and are happy. I think that passion really comes from it being our own business, and our children's business.

Q: What's your favourite dish currently served across the group?

Vicki: Chicken curry.

Q: What advice would you give to someone looking to follow in your footsteps?

Beatrice: Don't be in the hotel business unless you love it. Be close to your teams as well as your guests. My main message is that anything is possible if you have the right attitude and you work hard. When my husband and I first started out leasing a small property in Johannesburg, we never imagined that 60 years later we'd have a collection of 17 properties and more than 2,000 staff in the Red Carnation Hotel Collection. From HR to PR, housekeeping to management there are lots of opportunities to grow and develop and the hotel industry is a really inspiring business, because we create such memorable moments for our guests.

Quintessentially Members enjoy benefits in a number of Red Carnation properties. These value added benefits can include:

Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
Breakfast included in rates daily, served in restaurant
$100 USD equivalent Food & Beverage credit to be utilised during stay (not combinable, no cash value if not redeemed in full)
Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability

For more information on which Red Carnation properties you might enjoy these benefits with don't hesitate to contact: Interested in becoming a Member? Request more information

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