DESTINATIONS MASTERS
Escales Signature: The Female Duo Taking Morocco By Storm
XO Private Conversations

Meet Cyndie Marchand and Soa Faneva, the founders of Escales Signature. Two women, from opposite parts of the world, coincided in their passion for Morocco and design one-of-a-kind luxury trips that showcase the magic and wonder of the land. Their unique style and their personal commitment to their guests are intrinsic to the success of their brand. Join the conversation and find out how this dynamic duo made it in the middle of the desert.

The story of Escales Signature is one of two distant roads converging in the most magical of countries, Morocco. What was created when Cyndie and Soa came together, is truly a jewel in the crown of destination marketing. It was with great pleasure that I got to sit down with Cyndie today to hear all about how their adventure began, where they have taken it, and what they envision for the future. Fifteen years ago, Cyndie, who grew up in Antibes, France, flicking through travel magazines and dreaming of nights spent beneath a carpet of stars, decided to travel to Morocco after finishing her studies. What she discovered was not just another country to tick off her bucket list, but a land of wonder and delight. I ask when she knew it was true love and she replies without hesitation that it was love at first sight: the smells, the sounds, the colours and the people were as if out of Arabian Nights. It was exotic and romantic and everything she had ever dreamed of. And so, she made the decision to stay, not just for a couple of weeks, but for a lifetime, rather than to return to her native France.


She quickly settled in and found a role in one of Morocco’s biggest travel companies, Atlas, and helped them create their luxury travel brand. It was there that those two disparate roads came together, one from France and one all the way from another exotic destination, Madagascar, in the form of Soa. A passionate traveller, lover of customer service and one for whom providing luxury experiences is part of her lifeblood, they were a match made in heaven. After many long conversations, the two finally decided to combine the skills that they had honed as members of the Atlas team and branch out into the beautiful, sparkling world, on their own.

They knew that there were many DMCs active in Morocco, but the vision they had, says Cyndie, glowing with pride, was something above and beyond the ordinary. It was a manifestation of everything they believed Morocco to be, a piece of the most exquisite, handcrafted jewellery made up of the colours and gemstones of the different regions. She goes on to explain to me the inspiration for each jewel, from the emerald green of the Atlas Mountains to the sapphire waters of the Atlantic and Mediterranean that lap against Morocco’s coastline, to the gold of the Southern roads, and the sparkling diamonds of the white sand and the medinas. Finally on to the final jewel in the crown, that of the ruby of the red city, Marrakech.

Taking these different elements as inspiration, they launched a company dedicated to making travel feel as exceptional as a piece of handcrafted jewellery. Each piece specific to the individual wants and needs of the client. They now have over 150 bespoke, authentic experiences that they can offer to their clients. Each and every single one only bookable through Escales Signature. The Founders, and the other members of their small international team, have gone to painstaking lengths to meet and find the most interesting purveyors of stories, designers of artisan crafts and of once in a lifetime experiences that can be found nowhere else in Morocco. It is for this very reason that their clients return time and again, and why word of mouth has been so important for them.


I ask if was easy to transition to Morocco out of France, a country that has not always been known for its equal rights for women. Cyndie explains that it wasn’t always easy. She was not only a woman but a foreign one to boot. In fact, she was the only woman in her position on the team at Atlas. I ask if this caused problems and she said that at first they were always polite, but not entirely sure of her. However, as she says, you have to own your seat, believe in yourself and know that your reputation will eventually win them over. Which it clearly did. And it’s this reputation and trust in her skill set, and that of Soa’s, that enabled them to start Escales Signature and go on to have a global following with an elite clientele.

She is quick to point out that Morocco itself is changing in its attitudes towards women, and this is mostly being led by King Mohammed Vl, who came into power in 1999 and has been a driving force behind liberalisation, economic growth, protection of the poor and empowering women. Cyndie says that there is still a long road ahead, as it’s impossible to change things overnight, but they are improving. In fact, for the first time ever, the Minister of Tourism is a woman. Progress indeed.

Cyndie says that obviously it definitely helps to own your own business, in order to be taken seriously, but she has insisted on instilling the kinds of morals and values that she has always believed in, in Escales Signature. Take for example Covid 19. It was of the utmost importance to Cyndie and Soa to not let the team, who they refer to as their family, fall apart. In Morocco, there is no financial help from the government and everything from healthcare to schooling is private and needs to be paid for. Therefore, it was imperative that no matter what happened, the company carried on. Luckily the one thing people want to do more than ever now is to travel, or at least to dream of travelling, so the team were still able to work on the itineraries and building the experiences during the pandemic.
Soa Faneva and Cyndie Marchand, the founders of Escales Signature
In fact, Cyndie says that she learnt a lot about managing the team and how their working relationships were evolving, whilst locked down. The most important thing that she learnt was to manage her own work-life balance. The ability to work remotely allowed all of the team, including Cyndie herself, to spend more time on what is equally, if not more important – family and friend time. Something that I felt honoured to be told is that, and this is a brave statement for such a strong and independent woman, is that at one point two years ago Cyndie almost got to the point of burnout. The 24/7 nature of the world, with its constant calls and continuous access to the internet, almost pushed her to the edge of exhaustion. Luckily, she had a strong family, friends and the team around her. What it meant was that she had to learn more about balance, and it was an important life lesson that she has been able to apply to her own ‘family’ in these trying times.

I realise that time is running out, as we have been talking for a very long time without noticing, so I ask Cyndie for her final words for all of the women and men out there who are interested in taking the world of travel by storm. She smiles at the notion and tells me that passion, love, attention to detail, and looking after not just others but ourselves, are the keys to succeeding, not just in business, but in life. So not only are the team creating these bespoke pieces of travel jewellery for their discerning clients, but they themselves are crafting their own ornate piece of jewellery in Escales Signature. It’s a beautiful story, that cannot help but make you smile. Jewellery is the perfect analogy for what these two wonderful women are creating and delivering.

They quite literally shine like diamonds.
Victoria Pearce
                          
Victoria is an experienced writer, copywriter, proofreader and editor with a background in Sales and Marketing for multinational companies such as Cosmopolitan Magazine. Having moved to Mallorca a few years ago she has been able to combine her passions of yachts and writing, covering everything from restaurants to destination guides, high profile interviews to technical company overviews. 

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