In Memoriam: Luxury Hotelier Steve Fitzgerald

In 2015 Fitzgerald opened Angama Mara, which overlooks the Masai Mara. // Photo by paulafrench/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Longtime luxury hotelier Steve Fitzgerald passed away unexpectedly in the early hours of Saturday morning, October 21, according to a statement from the Angama Mara family.

Fitzgerald underwent a successful heart transplant on September 24, and was reportedly well on his way to a full recovery when he succumbed to unforeseen complications totally unrelated to his heart while still in ICU at Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg.

Fitzgerald launched his career in hospitality in 1981 with his life and business partner Nicky Fitzgerald, with the rebuild of the Arniston Hotel in the Cape. In the years that followed, he built and opened Blues Restaurant, The Bay Hotel, and numerous other well-known Cape hospitality establishments.

In 1994 he joined what was then Conservation Corporation, and opened and operated over 50 luxury safari camps and lodges across Sub-Saharan Africa, including four in India.

In 2015, alongside Nicky and his daughter Kate Fitzgerald Boyd, he opened Angama Mara set high up on the edge of the Great Rift Valley overlooking the Maasai Mara.

"We extend our heartfelt thanks to all those who have supported us thus far," said Nicky Fitzgerald on behalf of Kate and the whole Angama family in a written release, "and we look forward to working hard to making Steve's dream a success."

"There are some clients who are just clients, and then there are the Fitzgeralds, who come into your lives and you know that they will always be part of your family," said Geoffrey Weill, who has worked with Steve and Nicky for more than 15 years. "We are heartbroken at the loss of a great mentor and visionary in the travel industry and in Africa, and on a personal note, the loss of a true friend."

Steve's achievements:

  • Founded Halcyon Hotels in 1981 (luxury hotels and city eateries)
  • Joined CC Africa in 1994 as Managing Director. Rebranded as &Beyond in 2008, CC Africa pioneered the high-yield, low-impact community-based tourism model
  • Appointed as CEO with a focus on restructure, Steve grew the business from three safari lodges in South Africa to over 50 across sub-Saharan Africa and India, including travel and property development divisions
  • Became the first hotel owner to acquire a tour operator and realize the value in vertical integration up the supply chain
  • Was responsible for negotiating lease agreements with communities across Africa
  • Led expansion initiatives into India; concluded a ground-breaking land claim settlement in South Africa; and explored expansion opportunities into Central and South America
  • Opened Angama Mara in 2015
  • President SATSA (South African Tourism Services Association)
  • Board Member of the Tourism Business Council South Africa
  • Recognized as one of the industry's 35 Innovators by Travel+Leisure magazine
  • Served as a judge on Travel+Leisure's Global Vision Awards 2008
  • Leadership Council of the Bodhi Tree Foundation (based in New York)
  • Addressed Relais & Chateaux 2008 International Congress on sustainable travel
  • Member of YPO and WPO and a regular keynote speaker

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