Steve Fitzgerald Leaves Lasting Legacy in Adventure Travel Family

7 November 2017

We are saddened to report the passing of an industry leader and friend, Steve Fitzgerald. Steve and his life partner, Nicky, were key supporters of the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) in our earliest days by speaking at the Adventure Travel World Summit in 2007, sharing their wisdom, and, even more meaningful, supporting the ATTA's foray into Africa.

A keynote speaker from this year’s Summit, Robert Swan, made an amazing point in his talk. He said, “The greatest gift you can give someone is credibility.” This is what Steve and Nicky gave the ATTA in general and me personally in South Africa. There was notable caution and mistrust by much of the African trade about this group of Americans who didn't know Africa well but were trying to connect the dots of the global adventure trade. The Fitzgeralds, though barely knowing us, supported the ATTA unequivocally. With Steve and Nicky's strong voices, people viewed us as credible, and we were able to make many friends and business relationships.

I didn't get much time with Steve but treasured any input he gave us. Sometimes people leave this world and there's a notable vacuum — this is the case here. We send his lovely family and team much love and care from the ATTA family.

Here is the information released by them:

It is with deep sorrow that the Angama Mara family shares the unexpected news that Steve Fitzgerald passed away in the early hours of Saturday morning, 21 October 2017. Steve underwent a successful heart transplant on 24 September 2017 and was well on his way to a full recovery when he succumbed to unforeseen complications totally unrelated to his heart whilst still in ICU at Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg.

Steve 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 together with a remarkable team, opened and operated more than 50 luxury safari camps and lodges across sub-Saharan Africa, including four in India.

His swan song, alongside Nicky and his daughter Kate Fitzgerald Boyd, was the opening in 2015 of Angama Mara set high up on the edge of the Great Rift Valley overlooking the iconic Maasai Mara. Steve prided himself in inspiring a common vision, never wavering from his core value of doing good by doing well, and the total empowerment of staff.

Angama Mara stands as a legacy of his vision to invest in Kenya at a time when few others had the courage to do so.

“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, “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 more than 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 of 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.