Interview with Claudia and Andrea, founders at Polo Marco Experience Ltd (PME).
How is it to be a travel company that specializes in crafting tailor-made travel experiences in Europe for Indian customers? We asked this question to Claudia Cocolin and Andrea Sigoni, co-founders and respectively COO and CEO at Polo Marco Experience that six years ago decided to create its own company to deal exclusively and specifically with the high-level Indian market.
Hi Claudia and Andrea, you just came back from two of the most important travel trade shows that take place in Europe. Can you tell us more about this experience?
Claudia – Yes, we attended the International Business Travel Market (IBTM) in Barcelona, and then we also participated to the International Luxury Travel Market (ILTM), in Cannes. IBTM is one of the most important events in Europe for the MICE industry, while ILTM is definitively the biggest trade format for luxury tourism worldwide and is by “invitation only”. We are proud to be privileged “hosted buyer” at IBTM and to be invited at ILTM since 2013.
To what extent do you feel your participation in such events impacts on the service quality of a specialized travel company such as Polo Marco Experience?
Andrea – It is a unique opportunity to find the best suppliers in their respective segments, all under one roof with the aim of establishing valuable connections; along the years we have been able to meet 350+ MICE suppliers and 500+ luxury suppliers. We have always personally handpicked and carefully selected the best operators in Europe that meet our quality standards to serve the Indian market.
Have you noticed any changes in the way European suppliers work with the Indian market in the last 6 years?
Claudia – Yes, for sure! When five years ago Andrea and I were meeting suppliers at these exhibitions explaining that our company addresses JUST the Indian market, basically none of them had any experience with Indian clients yet, and most sellers were very surprised at our choice – some of them were looking at us as if we were coming from Mars…[laughs!].
Now the good news is that, year after year, there is an increasing number of suppliers who had some experiences with Indian travellers: sometimes with few clients, mostly by chance, sometimes not with a positive experience… But today the majority of European suppliers that we met start to consider India as a new interesting source market, and some of them clearly feel the huge potential of this market.
So now all the Indian buyers can easily work with European suppliers?
Andrea – Not really… Despite what Claudia has just said, the “bad” news is that in Europe just very few suppliers have yet the capabilities to work with the Indian clientele in a proper way since, compared to travellers from any other part of the world, Indians are more demanding clients and even “moody” sometimes: this derives from a culture that is quite different from our own, and requires a solid experience to be understood and interpreted…
This is why many suppliers declared to be open to take on this new market provided that Polo Marco Experience can help them in establishing the necessary “cultural bridge”. We are also very happy that some suppliers have explicitly asked to have PME involved in the loop any time they receive a request from India: this is a great chance for us to offer a wider range of attractive and unique travel experiences across Europe to our Indian guests.
Which is your takeaway from IBTM about the future of the Meetings & Events sector?
Claudia – As pointed out during the keynote speeches at IBTM, in the next 10-20 years technology will develop even faster than expected and it will strongly impact the MICE sector.
However, in order to create a successful business, to build trustful relationships, and create engaging events for the attendees (especially Millennials and GenZ participants), personal connections are and will remain key: future focus should be all about “bridging the gap between humans and technology to create remarkable experiences for [our] customers”.
It comes with no surprise that IBTM 2018 at his 31st edition has had the record-breaking number of 77.600+ pre-scheduled appointments in 3 days: this is a tangible proof “that face-to-face is still thriving”.
Creativity and playfulness will also need to come into the picture in order to think differently, and see innovation from a new angle. A first answer to this comes from an increasing number of meeting venues that create relaxing environments, where the line between working and socializing tends to fade; venues where participants can enjoy a unique experience and where networking is easier than in standard traditional meeting spaces.
As niche travel company delivering tailor-made experiences, I think you need to always be ahead of your competitors… In a nutshell, which do you feel are the top upcoming trends in luxury travel that are more in line with your specific market/target?
Andrea – Also in the luxury travel segment we are seeing great and fast innovation, particularly applied to product features and personal experiences, with a growing focus on the intangible benefits that wealth can achieve: wellbeing, valuable time, “betterness” goals, meaning for instance to seek a deeper connection to oneself and one’s inner circle and to the surrounding world (also through sustainability).
We have noticed that especially newly opened luxury hotels are focusing above all on guests’ experiences through multisensory stimulation. This applies both inside – using design features, sound and smell, innovative food & beverage concepts – and outside the hotel – giving special access to local art, food, tradition, and so on… connecting guests to the authenticity of the place.
We are very excited about these trends! We feel quite comfortable about them, since, from the very inception, the experiential aspect of travel has always been our core focus – starting from the choice of our company name, Polo Marco Experience.