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How one man built one of the world’s biggest travel names

The fascinating heritage story behind the Travel Corporation

Contiki are part of the The Travel Corporation family, a collection of brands who genuinely care about the future of travel. But there’s a rich and intriguing history behind TTC, and as we approach its 100-year anniversary, we’re share some of the fascinating stories that shaped us – and the story of a man called Solomon Tollman.


Image source:Brett Tollman @

Solomon – or Solly as he was later known – was born in 1895, in the small town of Riteve, Lithuania. Faced with military conscription and a lifetime of oppression under the ruling Czar, Solly escaped the country at the age of 14, with just a few gold rubles stitched into the lining of his clothes. With uncommon determination and a thirst for adventure, after being smuggled into England Solly took a steam ship bound for Cape Town, South Africa. 

In the summer of 1920, Solly came across a large, deserted building along the coast of Paternoster, a sleepy fishing village. Where locals saw a dilapidated shell, Solly saw an opportunity. Soon after, the Paternoster Hotel opened its doors, and The Travel Corporation was born.


Image source:Brett Tollman @

Then came family: his wife Evelyn and the arrival of their son Stanley Tollman, who is TTC’s chairman and guiding hand to this day. Stanley himself proved a talented hotelier, but was disheartened when The Nugget, his hotel in Johannesburg, had an underwhelming opening. It was then that he learned what it meant to be “Driven by Service.”

One night, as two guests dined in The Nugget’s otherwise empty restaurant, Stanley looked towards the busy restaurant across the street. 

“What have they got that we don’t?” he asked his father.

“You must never do that,” Solomon replied“You must not worry about what someone else is doing.  You have two customers. Take great care of them. Give them the best possible experience. They will come back – with two more…” By the end of the year, The Nugget was the most famous hotel in Johannesburg. 

TTC is ‘Driven by Service’ to this day, and what began with a small hotel on the coast of South Africa has grown into a successful, still family-owned and globally-run business, with 42 award-winning brands – including Contiki. 

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