The philosophy of Magic Travels
XO Private Interview

The Magic Travels group is an independent and family-owned Destination Management Company
established in 1985. The company DNA is to be different and innovative.

Join us for this interesting interview with CEO Samer Jabri 
and discover the philosophy of Magic Travels.

 What inspired you to set up Magic Travels?
The creation of Magic Travels was inspired by my mother, who had an ambition to set up a ground handler. We are Syrian and she believed in the potential of Syria’s natural and historical heritage, and long held a dream to set up a DMC, which she eventually fulfilled when she retired from the Syrian government. At that time, I was finishing my studies in Belgium, and I decided to support that dream, and this was the beginning of the journey that has led us to where we are today with DMCs in Jordan, Oman, UAE, Egypt (Magic Arabia), then Armenia, Georgia, France, and Portugal (Magic Roads).
What was your profession before founding Magic Travels?
Can you believe I was originally trained and practiced as a dentist in Belgium and was very settled before I changed vocation to help my mother's launch of this venture! I had a wonderful childhood in Aleppo, and my eyes were opened to the world through travels with my mother, where I experienced so many wonderful places, people and cultures. So, when my mother started this business, it felt like a 'calling' to join her. And now it's a passion.

Magic Travels rapidly developed into a quality point of reference in the marketplace. What is your 'magic' formula?

From the outset my mother was determined that we deliver the very best possible experiential arrangements and quality of service, with no compromise. We found and trained the best guides and worked with Syria’s limited and challenging infrastructure. It taught us a huge amount and we won the confidence of many international operators. This original philosophy and our over 35 years of experience is the bedrock on which we now base our business; client first, quality of service, seeking out the extraordinary, exceeding expectations, creating unforgettable memories, working with the best in their field and wherever possible connecting visitors to community. 
Samer Jabri heads up Magic Travels, a regional group of businesses spanning 8 countries.
Recently you have expanded into Armenia and Georgia. How did that come about?
Firstly, I grew up with Armenians, because Aleppo had a very significant Armenian community, and therefore I was familiar with the culture, history, people, and country. I knew the Caucasus in which Armenia is located has huge tourism potential. and yet is so little known or understood. It’s a striking region of dramatic mountains, rich culture, and Silk route history, and I was able to expedite the setting up of a DMC by connecting with the brilliant Saty our country manager in Armenia. The natural progression was to explore connections in Georgia where we found the highly experienced Tamuna to set up our operation. One of Magic’s values is focusing on human strengths and relationships, so we ensure we employ the right people to lead and work for us with passion and commitment, and this I am delighted we have found in the Caucasus.

Meanwhile, the Magic Road's brand also now includes France and Portugal. What's the strategy behind this decision?

Our commercial office has been based in France for 8 years and as we are here, we began to receive enquiries requests from some of our existing clients. 

We live here so it is clearly a country we love! France is a number one tourist destination, and we are here in the heart of its rich culture, history, sophistications, food, and wine… so it seemed like a natural step to rise to the challenge and open our own DMC. And the pandemic has given us time, space and opportunity to research and develop products for our targeted high-end individuals and small special groups. Sometimes in our business things just happen often through contacts, networking, and meeting people with the same values and drive as yourself. This is how Portugal came about, with Maria who holds the same vision as ourselves.
The Magic Travels group offers a meaningful discovery in the heart of each destination.
You were among the first to identify the needs of high-end experiential travellers, as a result you created Magic Camps. Can you tell us more about this?
I had the most extraordinary and fantastic holiday some years ago staying in tented camps in Kenya. Kenya really pioneered this concept of accommodation and the close to nature experience blew me away. I knew then I had to take this concept and adapt it to the regions we operate in, and so I became a pioneer, offering a tented camp desert experience in the Libyan Sahara. Sadly, Libyan tourism died and so I took the concept, upgraded it and created a true top end experience in the deserts of UAE and Oman. Here our guests now sleep under white canvas, and between crisp cotton sheets whilst enjoying ice in their gin and tonic and fine cuisine. However, luxury camping does not mean that we are not eco-friendly; we are very respectful to the environment. We only use solar energy and are as sustainable as possible, buying local food and using local resources. Whether guests have a totally private camp set up or stay in our 10-tent camp in Wahiba Sands, Oman, the experience is exclusive, intimate, and supremely comfortable.

The latest addition to your steadily growing empire is a new brand called Beyond. What should we expect here?

Beyond in some ways is an extension of the concept of our Magic camps, which offer an immersive and eco-sensitive experience. We wanted to translate this into a touring experience in all our destinations by offering an immersive journey with soul, delivered via interaction with locals, through learnings, cultural exchanges, and practical hands-on visits. These journeys have been carefully researched to go beyond the ordinary and to get under the skin of our destinations. For example, its awe inspiring to visit Petra in Jordan, but to be guided by a local Bedouin who will surely tell you his family history and what it really means to belong to that place adds a different dimension!
The environmental and social impact is at the heart of the Magic team's consideration.
You have built an impressive client base over 35 years. Which geographical markets would you consider as your main markets? Are there any new markets that you're currently considering?
Western Europe has always been our main market (France, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, UK), however we are seeing an increasing demand from Russia and the USA.

Given your experience in tourism, what is your view of the future customer demands?

We have just lived through the most challenging and difficult times ever imagined. Guests (and travel agents) with busy lives will increase their demands, needing simple one-stop shops that deliver exceptional service and tailored recommendations. High-end travellers will continue to demand more exclusive experiences and even better service and will continue to focus on this as we did in those early days in Aleppo. It's all in our DNA... service, service and more service, developing end-user products, finding off-the-beaten path experiences, offering boutique products staying ahead of the game, anticipating needs, exceeding expectations, and not forgetting the devil is in the detail, all delivered by our exceptional, passionate and dedicated people....

Tell us a couple of anecdotes about your own travel experiences!

I consider deserts to be the most inspiring natural space on earth, but second best is being in the African bush. This pristine natural environment is naturally the home to wildlife more than me a passing visitor! The sounds at night when you try to sleep in a tent are quite out of this world. From cacophony of nocturnal insects to the sound of croaking frogs, the almost imperceptible presence of enormous elephant by your tent, the call of startled antelope, roar of lion, cough of a leopard to the resonant honking of hippo are all sounds I never forget.

However, I once foolishly got lost in the desert in Libya …., this is a vast impressive desert, with volcanic cracks and shifting sands, where you might think you’re on Mars. I took a walk after dark to admire the skies and shadows of dunes cast by the moon and after a while, I had lost my bearings and couldn’t find my way back to camp. I felt small and feeble and thought I would never find my way back… which I didn’t until the search party from camp found me a few hours later!
Yvan Vermeesch
Belgian by birth, Yvan Vermeesch grew up across Africa before heading to the Caribbean followed by the stunning city of Prague before calling the Mediterranean island of Mallorca home. Always looking to innovate across the board and with a clear penchant for everything experiential in travel, Yvan Vermeesch takes great pride in connecting the finest players in bespoke travel around the globe.