Tributes have been paid to former Peltours general manager Gianfranco Colliva.
Known in the trade as Franco, he has been remembered as “one of the travel industry’s characters” who hosted many travel agents on fam trips to destinations including Israel, Egypt and Jordan during nearly 20 years at the Red Sea specialist operator.
He died earlier this month of lung cancer, aged 75.
Born in Rome in 1946, Franco moved to Israel aged five and went to a French Catholic school. He was fluent in five languages and joined tour operator Koppel Tours in Israel in 1972 before being posted to the UK to run its local office.
After joining Peltours in 1991 he became general manager and in charge of hotel contracting and day to day operations, reporting into managing director Stuart Lewis.
The Egyptian arm of the company was bought by the Preston Travel Group in 2009. Franco helped with the transition of the Eygptian business to Preston before his retirement in 2010.
Lewis recalled Franco as a tough negotiator when it came to hotel contracting and someone who would be remembered by hoteliers and travel agents alike.
He said: “I knew him for most of his career. He was a hard-ass but by the same token he was a professional. He had a gift for languages and was a very skilful negotiator and very loyal.”
He added: “I kept in touch with him after he retired. He had health issues and had to have a kidney transplant but he recovered from that. He was a heavy smoker but not a drinker; he didn’t drink [alcohol] at all. Apart from his health issues he was very happy in the second part of his life.”
Former Peltours sales and marketing director Darren Panto worked with Franco to expand the operator’s programme into the Egypt charter market, launching flights with new airline Astraeus to Taba in 2002.
Panto remembered a flight the pair took together to the new destination. He said: “Franco, a lover of classical music, could not comprehend my excitement when we flew there together one time and Bruce Dickinson [lead singer of Iron Maiden] was the pilot.”
Panto described Franco as “a true character and friend, who left a lasting impression”.
He said: “He relished a challenge and never took a step back. Not one to mince his words, or dilute his opinion, he certainly made his mark on everyone who met him.
“Indeed, following the agent fam trips he took to Israel, Egypt and Jordan, I would regularly hear back from the agents who participated not only about how enjoyable it had been, but also what a big softy “General Franco” actually was. He was greatly respected by all the industry colleagues he met over many years and will be sadly missed.”
He leaves behind wife Alfiya and son Timur.