DESTINATION MASTERS
The Future of Massari Travel
XO Private Interview

Massari Travel was born under the guidance of the skilful deeds of Lucio Massari in 1967, who kept all the secrets to the art of tailoring bespoke travel experiences for over half a century. A leading light in the Italian incoming travel industry, Massari Travel maintains the same golden standards nowadays under the guidance of Lucio's talented daughter, Sabrina Massari.

Find out more about this family-run business in the heart of Italy in this exclusive interview with Sabrina Massari

Massari Travel has a genuine pedigree of more than 50 years in the business. How did it all get started?

The history of Massari Travel traces, in its small way, that of Rome, which became the great capital of the Roman Empire from a small group of shepherds.

My father, Lucio Massari, was a man with a humble past. His first work experience was with my grandfather, Antonio, in a mountain village in Abruzzo, as a simple sheep farmer. Growing up, Lucio challenges his biggest dream: to take off in the United States and create something big. Thus was born Massari Travel, which initially bore the name of Group Tours International. Tenacious, a perfectionist and with a deep-rooted love for Italy, my father revolutionized the travel industry in our country, offering impeccable elite service to many travellers from all over the world since 1967.

Being the heir to such an important company is, for me, an honour and a mission: I am immensely proud of my father's revolutionary achievements and I work every day to live up to his name.
What were the major challenges and/or hurdles that you came across when taking on this exciting adventure?

The biggest challenge has certainly been the change in the tourism industry which, in recent years, has left more and more space for individuals to the detriment of group travel.

Initially, it was a tough fight with my father, yet I managed to check the new trajectory that was affecting incoming tourism, both during the long intergenerational transition of our family business and in more recent times.

The global travel industry has meanwhile encountered some significant changes over the past decade. There's no doubt that these have also impacted Massari Travel. How did the company evolve? What's the DNA of the company today?

As I told you, the real initial core business of Massari Travel has always been the groups. When I joined the company, I worked my way up through years of learning the different roles.
So when the trends gave way to individuals, I was ready to respond to the new challenges of the market.

Of course, there have been many difficulties in recent decades: from the episodes of terrorism in Italy to the historic attack on the Twin Towers. Yet, we have always faced everything head-on, with perseverance and resilience. The same values that today, this time without my father, is accompanying me in this terrible pandemic.

Massari Travel did not remain inert: we changed offices, moving to our new headquarters with panoramic views over the rooftops of Rome and San Pietro, and settled our repositioning our focus on luxury and eco-friendly travel. "Portami a Roma" was also born, a new challenging project to re(discover) the Eternal City in a low key. We have been working on the restyling of the new Massari Travel website for weeks and, right now, I am writing to you with a heart full of emotions. We have just returned from our Fam Trip in the Valpolicella region and from the great Travelux 2021 event in the splendid setting of Venice. We are constantly moving and listening. As you can see, we remain more active than ever.
Image of Sabrina Massari | "Since 1967 we have anticipated the future of luxury tourism, the most experiential and conscious one, by creating exclusive, unique and unforgettable itineraries. "
The are an incredible number of destination specialists operating within Italy. How do you manage to differentiate Massari Travel from the others?

Since 1967 we have anticipated the future of luxury tourism, the most experiential and conscious one, by creating exclusive, unique and unforgettable itineraries.

Why choose Massari Travel? First of all for our passion: we are in love with our destination and driven by an ever-burning curiosity that drives us to stay constantly updated on the latest news of Italian tourism and its immense artistic, natural and cultural heritage. Ours is a friendly team, with a deep knowledge of Italy and a great collaborative and creative spirit.

We realize tailor-made dreams and design multisensory experiences capable of actively involving our travellers in a path of constant enrichment, leisure and well-being. All with a winning quality/price ratio thanks to the high bargaining power towards our suppliers.

For us, hospitality is a priority, not just a service. We make our guests feel at home, taking care of the details of their stay in a personalized way and offering them efficient and reliable advice 24 hours a day.

Finally, Massari Travel believes in the values of accessible and inclusive tourism: in addition to being an LGBTQ + friendly tour operator, we place the utmost empathy and attention towards female tourism, ethnic minorities and all those travellers with special needs.

Last but not least, for Massari Travel respecting the environment is no longer a luxury but a priority. We pay the utmost attention to safeguarding our planet, making ourselves promoters of the challenge of the 2030 Agenda, or the 17 goals defined by the United Nations for Sustainable Development.

How would you describe the profile of your ideal client? Which are your main markets today and which new markets are you keen to explore?

In reality, there is no ideal customer. Massari Travel is positioned on medium-high luxury tourism. Our target market certainly caters to a niche in search of exclusive and unique itineraries: travellers who want to get out of the crowds to seek a real and authentic experience of Italy.

Consider that my DNA is 50% American, having grown up with an American jewish mother. Our customers come, not surprisingly and for the most part, from the United States, although in recent months we have also been focusing attention on the Northern Europe, Israeli and Oceania Market.
"We at Massari Travel are preparing to ride the great wave that awaits us"
Have you personally always been involved in the business or did you originally have other plans and dreams?

As a child, to the classic question "What would you like to do when you grow up" my first answer was proud and unsettling: "The astronaut". I saw myself, wrapped in a spacesuit, with my deep green eyes, bright as two headlights, becoming the first citizen of a lunar colony. As I grew older, I realized that pursuing a more realistic career would be easier.

I finally was enlightened "I want to be a travel agent like my dad". And that's what I've always been after failing as an astronaut. I learned everything that I know about tourism today from my dad, Lucio Massari. In 1987 I started out as a simple secretary. After a long apprenticeship and many handyman roles, I started in management, to become in 2015 the undisputed head of the company.

How do you see the market evolving over the next five to ten years? Which direction are you planning to take the company?

I believe that in 5 years the pandemic will be just a bad memory, we will experience in the true Renaissance period for tourism.

It will be a boom, especially here in Italy, where two important events of worldwide impact are expected: the Jubilee of 2025 in Rome and the Expo 2030 which could once again involve the capital and relaunch it as an international metropolis.

Surely the next few years will see many last minute bookings and by the relaunch of the importance of travel agent, who will return to being key. on the other hand, I see the big OTAs, such as Expedia or Booking.com destined for a slow decline.

The tourism of tomorrow will be increasingly experiential, sustainable and focused on more integrated wellness. We at Massari Travel are preparing to ride the great wave that awaits us.
"For our Tour Operator, the word "experiential" is a true mantra"
What does the word 'experiential' mean to you and which role does it play in your overall business?

For our Tour Operator, the word "experiential" is a true mantra. Perfumes, colors and flavors, even before numbers and reservations in exclusive locations, are the real leitmotiv of our entire core business.

Our clients always return home with hearts full of new emotional, physical and spiritual connections.

Not just photos to share with friends and family but indelible memories destined to remain vivid for a lifetime.

Travelling with Massari Travel means, first of all, embarking on a path of enrichment and transformation: what matters is not the destination, known or not, but to live the holiday as protagonists and immerse yourself in authentic, genuine experiences capable of involving all senses.

What would be your best advice for someone wishing to set up a destination management company these days?

Curiosity, passion and innovation: without these 3 ingredients any company, especially in our sector, is doomed to failure.

Tourism is, and will increasingly be, a constantly evolving macrocosm. Today more than yesterday, we need to listen and have the ability to get back into the game with humility, resilience and conscious foresight.
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.
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