Red Carnation Hotels: The Power of Personal Passion
A sense of place, personal touches and a focus on sustainability present a unique guest experience.
On a truly great vacation, your accommodations should be as memorable as the sites you visit. That’s what you’ll find at Red Carnation Hotels. They offer an experience tailored exclusively for you with a passion that is at the heart of everything they do. This is no massive hotel franchise boasting hundreds of rooms. Instead, you’ll enjoy a family-owned and -operated business that specializes in one-of-a-kind boutique hotels—most with only 60 to 80 rooms—all dedicated to one thing: your unforgettable stay.
Tiny Noticeable Touches
Even before guests arrive, Red Carnation Hotel staff consult with travel advisors to learn about their visitors. Then they surprise their guests with Tiny Noticeable Touches (TNTs) that help make the stay extra special.
These touches may be minor: a complimentary dessert, another round of tea sandwiches, vegan or gluten-free treats, or Harry Potter–themed bedding for the kids.
Or it could be even more personal.
A guest arrived at one of the Red Carnation hotels in London with a broken luggage lock. The room attendant noticed the lock, purchased a new one and had it back in the room with a note later that evening.
A guest of the historic Rubens at the Palace, also in London, had come to participate in the local marathon. The race route went by the hotel, so when staff learned that the runner was approaching, they organized to cheer him on as he ran by.
“It’s such a simple thing, but that was quite fun to have that cheering squad when the guest was visiting from out of town,” says Melissa Young, director of sales for Red Carnation Hotels. Staff have the autonomy to initiate these TNTs without the need for approval from management.
“They’re just little bits and touches. They make people feel like they’re at home,” says Young. “Our hotels are boutique; they’re smaller. This is what we do well. We really take care of everybody in a warm and genuine way.”
A Sense of Place
This attention to detail also applies to the connection between the property and its guests.
“Even some of our advisors who book our hotels all the time will ask, ‘Is this the right match for this family?’ This is especially true in London, where there are six hotels to choose from. It’s all about match,” says Young. And with hotels as diverse as the Xigera Safari Lodge in Botswana, Ashford Castle in Ireland and The Chesterfield Palm Beach in Florida, your choices are far from cookie-cutter.
The Tollman family, owners of Red Carnation Hotels, typically purchase historical buildings and landmarks and converts them into boutique hotels. Each room in each hotel is different, with the design and décor chosen by Beatrice Tollman and the design team headed by her daughter Toni—including original artwork, antique furnishings and selected fabrics.
“When you’re in Ireland at Ashford Castle, your room tells you you’re staying in a centuries-old castle,” says Young. “There’s a tremendous sense of place.”
Ashford Castle was voted the No. 1 hotel in the world after a $75 million restoration in 2015. It’s the only Forbes Five-Star hotel in all of Ireland. “It tends to sell out,” says Young. “There aren’t that many 800-year-old castles lying around.”
Sustainability and local involvement
In addition to their uniqueness, each property in the Red Carnation collection is deeply connected to its local community, with a focus on sustainability through Make Travel Matter experiences.
In London, guests can go urban foraging, bringing back the foraged food to have it made into lunch or a cocktail. In Florida, guests of the Chesterfield Palm Beach can work with the Loggerhead Marinelife Center to help rescue and rehabilitate sea turtles.
The properties themselves contribute to sustainable solutions in their communities. During the height of the pandemic, the South African government lacked a program to help residents who were out of work. The Tollman family continued to pay wages for all of the local hotel employees during the pandemic so they could maintain their livelihoods.
At the Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve and Wellness Retreat in Botswana, the challenge was more complex. Cape leopards were attacking herds of sheep owned by local farmers. The farmers responded by shooting the apex predators, causing their numbers to drop. So the Tollman family donated Anatolian shepherd dogs to the farmers. These dogs bond with the sheep and protect the herd.
“Now the farmers have a solution to their problem, the sheep are safe and the cape leopard are not being shot anymore,” says Young. “This has become an experience at Bushmans Kloof. Guests can go visit the farmers and learn how we found this sustainable solution to protect wildlife in the area.”