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Gavin Tollman, Global CEO Trafalgar: Ten Questions

Sometimes you meet people and their love and passion for their job just shines through.

Gavin Tollman is one of those people. The Global CEO of the world’s leading guided holiday company, Trafalgar, Gavin lives and breathes travel and clearly loves creating holidays that people will remember for a lifetime.

When we first met I’d really never considered taking a guided holiday. Fast forward to today and I’ve now done two unforgettable trips with Trafalgar, the first to Turkey and more recently I was able to join Gavin and a small group of media from around the world on the very first Trafalgar tour in Myanmar.

As we talked travel in the warm Yangon air with the Shwedagon Pagoda twinkling in the distance I knew I just had to get Gavin to answer Ten Questions, which happily he has done. Over to Gavin…

Gavin Tollman Global CEO Trafalgar

What’s the best thing about your job?

For me, having the great privilege to showcase the unique aspects of a destination for our guests is right up there. Trafalgar has been on a journey of transformation, and for the past four years in particular, we have been striving to uncover the golden threads in the fabric of each destination we visit to enable our guests to be immersed in such truly enriching travel experiences.

I am surrounded and supported by an extraordinary team that has a genuine passion for travel. The excitement they project when finding new and different places is invigorating, only made more so when we see and hear about our guests appreciating them. I’m fortunate enough to receive a significant amount of positive feedback via letters and online and I read each and every piece of commentary. Hearing the numerous stories of how we have succeeded in making authentic travel easily accessible and given our guests the best holiday is truly remarkable and touches me profoundly.

If you could change one thing about your job what would it be?

Like most people these days, I would love to find more time in my day, my week, my month and my year! I’m grateful to be able to travel the world and visit so many wonderful places, though alas often don’t have the chance to spend as much time in each place as I would like. I value the moments of discovery, looking for something new and different in every place I travel to and would relish the opportunity to linger longer. I remain optimistic as I continue to search for solutions on how to achieve this goal!

What’s something about your role that you wish people understood?

When you lead a change and chart a new course, clearly unforeseen challenges can and do arise. I understand that to evolve is impossible without actionable change; and this can result in fear and discomfort. This is normal and takes time. But it’s the destination that matters. I believe in the mantra of nothing being constant in the world but change.

What’s your favourite thing to do on your day off?

My life is one of perpetual motion and airline travel, so days off per se are pretty rare. However, when I am home in Geneva I love to take time to unwind with my wife and our two beloved dogs. My wife is an extraordinarily talented interior designer and our homes envelop me in the things I love most. If we are not at home, we also love getting in the car and driving off on journeys of discovery. I appreciate being surrounded by natural beauty and such adventures allow me to completely relax. When in a place of tranquility, I seize the moments and love to indulge in the pure enjoyment of reading without being interrupted.

What’s a cheap and cheerful food secret you (usually) only tell your friends?

I lived in New York City for many years and despite being surrounded by some of the most renowned restaurants in the world, the greatest treat for me was the street food. Whenever I am there, I always search for the best new food trucks. I love it and simply cannot get enough of the perfect hot dog with sauerkraut and mustard, an exceptional stuffed falafel pita or the greatest delectable empanada. It’s the best local foodie tip that I enjoy telling my friends about!

If money was no object, where would you go for lunch or dinner?

I always seek out people who do things differently. I recently read about a Zen Buddhist Nun, Jeong Kwan, who is creating astonishingly beautiful and delicious food in a remote South Korean temple. There is no restaurant, but chefs flock to see how she is creating deliciously exquisite vegan cuisine, using only produce from her garden (which she happily shares with the local wildlife, that freely roam the unfenced area). Her philosophy and creativity is an inspiration to me and I would love to experience it for myself.

Where do you take a friend when they come to visit?

A trip to visit me in Switzerland undoubtedly means a journey to the mountains. It is here I find that whether it’s for walking, climbing or snowboarding, my soul soars. The sensation is true for both my creativity and my appreciation for life. Invariably my friends also find the mountain air exhilarating and truly uplifting. I have often been asked why I feel so passionate about the mountains in Switzerland, the energy from which I attribute to the perfect three ingredients: the beauty, the solitude and the altitude.

What’s the best shopping experience in town?

Not a good question for me, given I am relatively time-poor! These days, I have a propensity for internet shopping over “conventional” shopping. The convenience of time efficiencies, the ease of finding what I want and avoiding crowds work well for me and importantly, frees up more time for travel.

Is there a local tourist cliché that’s actually worth doing?

Visiting museums. I always try and visit at least one in every city I travel to. Without a doubt, my favourite is the Musée du Louvre in Paris. I have been there countless times and without fail, I am always captivated by a piece of art I hadn’t previously noticed. My personal secret tip is to go on a Friday night, when the museum is open late.

Is there a tourist attraction nearby that you can’t believe you still haven’t visited yourself?

I have lived in Geneva for almost six years. It is a city where the most famous attractions are easily visible simply by wandering around: the striking Jet’D’Eau, breathtaking views of a snowcapped Mont Blanc or strolling around the charming backstreets of the Old Town. But right in my backyard is CERN, where scientists are trying to recreate the Big Bang. And yes, embarrassingly so, and much to the dismay of my team, I have not visited…yet.


Amanda met Gavin Tollman in Sydney ahead of her first Trafalgar experiences in Turkey and Myanmar where they were able to catch up and talk travel some more.

You can also check out Ten Questions with one of Amanda’s fellow travellers on the Turkey trip with Trafalgar, the lovely and talented Dawn Jorgensen from The Incidental Tourist.

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