Can you tell me about how you met and what led to the setting up of Pomalo?
We both grew up in Jordan and that is where we met. Only much later, after studies in the U.K. and plenty of travelling, the idea for experiential travel surfaced. Pomalo, the company name, was inspired by a National Geographic article about the Croatian coast, representing a philosophy of life on the Dalmatian coast suggesting a combination of “relax”, “no problem” even “have another coffee”. This Dalmatian mantra was adopted by us to represent that same feeling. As travelers, we couldn’t be satisfied with the travel services offered in our market at the time. We soon found that the online travel market is for the masses and it doesn’t necessarily address the needs of the sophisticated traveler. We wanted to offer the insider knowledge that only experts have access to, those authentic and exclusive experiences that makes the cut between a truly genuine encounter and a touristy one.
Did you always want to get into this industry?
We both had successful corporate careers before establishing Pomalo. But we were always a source for family and friends, organizing their trips and helping them with their travel planning. Being avid travelers ourselves, we had many travel ideas, which we later discovered that we shared. We always wanted the lifestyle; although it wasn’t until later we turned our passion into our careers.
Where did you find investors and how has the company grown since?
We invested a small amount from our own savings. After the business generated returns, Pomalo Travel fed itself. We kept our profits to feed into the company again and bit by bit…we grew, the ‘Pomalo way’. Setting up our business was a risk, as we both had very successful careers, which we left in pursuit of our passion. But we also knew Pomalo Travel had all the elements required for a start-up to form a viable business. Today Pomalo Travel has offices in Amman, Jordan and we have just launched an office in Dubai. Word-of-mouth has been our best marketing tool in both Jordan and the U.A.E. as we soon received the most exclusive travel badges and became part of the most exclusive worldwide travel networks.
You’ve just launched in Dubai—what brought you to this region? How much potential do you see here?
Dubai has an interesting travel market and as travel designers it grants us access to an extensive platform of exclusive travel contacts, a central travel hub and a diversity of travelers. Our clients come from the region, Europe, Asia and even further afield. These travelers, in turn, bring a wide range of travel bucket lists we are keen to fulfill. As we are Arab women our-selves, we understand the way the region travels. One of us does a lot of solo travelling, whilst the other explores a lot with her family and friends, which gives us a wider view on different travel needs. Besides, we offer corporate travel for retreats and forums as well as for companies who focus on team building on a whole different level.
How do you go about designing and arranging your tailored tours and packages?
Firstly, let us state that we do highly personalized travel experiences. We’ve never done the same itinerary twice and it is all based on people’s preferences and needs. Our first step is to understand what the person wants to achieve from their trip, be it bonding with family or overcoming a challenge. We then do our homework of designing a concept for a travel experience and planning all the elements necessary to achieve that. We put a lot of thought into designing our clients’ trips as if we are designing our own. Our access to a vast network of partner hotels, and specialized travel services, gives our clients access to the world’s most exclusive experiences. Even when all is needed is a hotel booking, VIP treatment and great service are always appreciated.
How do you determine what will be popular with your audience? Do you personally visit every destination or quality-check suppliers?
We explore and stay up-to-date with what is available and find out the upcoming travel trends, the new hotel openings or exquisite places to visit. We are very proud owners of the most prestigious travel badges, which gives us access to like minded suppliers in the industry. Pomalo Travel prides itself on being selected as members for the industry’s most exclusive luxury and experiential travel networks such as Pure Life Experiences, Traveler Made and We Are Africa.
The number of bespoke holidays and companies that facilitate them seems to be growing—what do you think makes you different from your competitors?
We keep expanding our knowledge by continuously adding more experiences to our portfolio. We research and find those exclusive hidden gems, which are hard to come by. Being members of our networks, gives us access to like-minded travel companies, which adds even further possibilities to expanding our horizons. We are the only members of these networks in Jordan and among a handful of others in the Middle East. We also believe that personal interactions and attention to clients are valuable in our work. When we design trips, they are not system-generated or planned by an assistant behind a computer. Both of us personally work on each and every re-quest, we discuss it together, we get feedback, we create and we deliver.
What’s your most popular tour? What are the demands of customers from this region?
We see plenty of adventure travel—Icelandic trekking, hunting the Northern Lights in Lapland, luxury tent safaris in Africa, private cooking tours with Michelin star chefs in Italy and this year, special VIP access to sports or arts events are in demand. Next month, Mona will be hosting a 5-day trip to Nepal accompanying clients, where they will be exploring Mount Everest by helicopter Imagine flying over the roof of the world. We believe that in our region, locals and expats alike are accustomed to urban luxury. Pomalo Travel gives clients a different type of luxury; one that money cannot buy as the experiences and elements of surprise will create lifelong memories.