The recently appointed Director of Sales & Marketing for Banyan Tree Group’s brand-new ultra-luxe Ilha Caldeira private island in Mozambique, Tracey Bolton, survived a terrifying pulmonary embolism and one of the worst urban explosions in living memory over the course of just 13 months.

Tracey Bolton

The odds of one person surviving both of these devastating events are slim at best, but Tracey did, crediting her positive attitude and passion for everything she does for giving her the strength she needed to come back stronger than ever.

Born and raised in South Africa’s Gqeberha (formerly Port Elizabeth), Tracey always dreamed of travelling the world and meeting people so the decision to study for a Travel and Tourism Diploma when she left school was an obvious one.

After graduating she moved to Johannesburg and started out as a travel consultant at Pentravel but quickly found out that a desk job was not for her and moved across to sales, working for SAA Indojet Travel in a position that was created especially for her.

“It was the beginning of my passion for not only the travel industry but for sales,” muses Tracey, reflecting on the humble beginnings of her long and illustrious career. “I have always been focused on where I needed to grow in order to reach my full potential,” she says. “So I had my sights set on eventually leading a sales and marketing team.”

After a successful spell with Imperial Car Rental as a sales executive and key account manager she was offered a position with Sun International as a key account manager based in Cape Town. Eventually moving back to Johannesburg, she joined hospitality representation company Extraordinary as National Sales and Marketing Manager, finally achieving her goal of running her own team.

“Working with Extraordinary gave me extensive experience on strategic budgeting and financial management and really paved the way to where I am today,” says Tracey.

After two years with Extraordinary Tracey was head-hunted by the Radisson Blu Gautrain Hotel to be their Director of Sales and Marketing. “This was my dream – heading up a team for an international hotel brand,” she says. She spent five years helping to build the brand into the leading corporate hotel in Sandton, but then felt the need for a bigger challenge…

“I felt I had done all I could in South Africa so I began to look abroad to see if I could find a fresh challenge in the overseas market and make sure my success at Radisson could be replicated. I was offered the position to head up sales and marketing at the iconic InterContinental Phoenicia Hotel in Beirut, Lebanon, and jumped at the chance,” explains Tracey.

Just 18 months later Tracey was awarded the Commercial Leader of the Year Award at the IHG IMEA Commercial Leaders Workshop – affirmation of her skill as a leader and innovator.

However, tragedy was to strike twice in Lebanon… In July 2019 Tracey collapsed and stopped breathing. Unbeknown to her a deep-vein thrombosis in her calf had caused a pulmonary embolism.

“The fast action of my husband, Grant, and a determined ER team who spent 40 minutes trying to resuscitate me helped me pull through, although due to the ER’s teams efforts, my liver was damaged,” she says stoically. Such trauma caused her kidneys to fail, resulting in further surgery, 10 days in the ICU, 19 days in high care, and three months of dialysis. Her colleagues donated blood and platelets when she was in need and by a miracle she made it.

Then, in August 2020, Beirut was rocked by one of the biggest non-nuclear explosions in history when 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate exploded in a warehouse at the city’s port. Tracey and her husband were at home in their apartment which was only 1km from the blast’s epicenter. Their home was destroyed. Tracey was critically injured, losing the sight in her right eye, a damaged tendon at the base of her spine, a broken ankle and deep lacerations to her legs. Once again she found herself in ICU fighting for her life. And once again she overcame the odds.  

Now based in South Africa’s

St Francis Bay, Tracey is excited about her new position with the Banyan Tree Group and the challenge that launching a brand-new product – only the second in Africa under this prestigious brand’s umbrella – presents.

“I have a philosophy that as long as you give 100% to anything you set your mind on you will succeed,” she says.

“With the team I have chosen to join me on this journey with Banyan Tree Ilha Caldeira private island, I have no doubt that it will become the next big ‘must-visit’ holiday destination in Africa.” she adds confidently.

Tracey was specifically selected because of her esteemed reputation within the tourism industry. Her strong background, years of experience and exceptional achievements at other luxury hotel brands made her the perfect choice for this position. Her strong survival instincts and “never say die” attitude are the icing on the cake.