EXO Travel (formerly Exotissimo)
The EXO journey began in 1993 in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, when the company was established by three young entrepreneurs - Eric Merlin, Denis Colonna and Olivier Colomes. At that time Vietnam was emerging from years of isolation and Exotissimo was the first foreign company to be granted a tourism operating license in Vietnam.
The company was an immediate success as Vietnam opened up its doors to intrepid and curious travelers, arriving in great numbers to explore this exciting destination.
1995 saw further growth in South East Asia when EXO joined forces with local partner Su Su Tin to open in Myanmar. The company quickly built a reputation as a ground-breaking and pioneering travel company, providing high-end international services within exotic and remote destinations.
By the turn of the millennium, EXO Travel had become a successful destination management company specialising in providing a deeper, cultural experience for tour operators with clients that wanted to understand and immerse themselves in a destination rather than just see it. Incentive operators also began taking an interest in Indochina and EXO was the first to operate groups in Halong Bay and Hanoi in Vietnam and Bagan in Myanmar, building unique and imaginative programs to unusual and less explored places.
During the year 2000, EXO Cambodia was launched in partnership with a local businessman, Meng Hieng, and offices were opened in both Siem Reap and Phnom Penh.
A year later in 2001, EXO teamed up with Duangmala Phommavong, and established offices in Vientiane, Luang Prabang and Pakse - bringing EXO Laos into the fold.
Following the openings of EXO Laos and EXO Cambodia, a deal was struck with Thai based tour operator Hamish Keith in 2002 to open EXO Thailand in the Kingdom’s Capital, Bangkok, which opened it’s doors following the completion of agreements in 2003.
EXO had developed a winning formula that is still as true and relevant now that it was back in 1993 - focus on authentic experiences and introduce clients to local people, places and cultures whilst providing excellent service at all times.
EXO also noticed that there was growing interest from Europe and seized this opportunity and established sales offices in France and Spain becoming a market leader in both countries. In 2004 founding partner Denis Colonna left the company and Jean-Marc Merlin (Eric's brother) joined the board.
In 2007, Olivier Colomes (CEO) and Hamish Keith (Group MD) setup the new EXO Head Quarters in Bangkok and started building a team of highly experienced people in Marketing, Product, Web and Systems that would drive and support the substantial growth of the EXO Group
EXO's reputation as a leading destination management company providing top quality services and creative tailor-made touring in Asia was growing fast. This fresh approach with unique travel products attracted a diverse international client base, with further sales offices soon established in Germany (2005), North America (2005), Australia (2007), and the UK & Ireland and Latin America in (2012) to cater for these markets.
In 2009 Indonesia became the sixth EXO destination when Erik Meriot and Trisna Agustini became partners, further expanding EXO's geographic reach within the area. In 2011 EXO Japan was opened by Ines Zand in Tokyo with EXO taking the first steps out of South East Asia. The opening of both these destinations was driven by strong demand from EXO's clients.
In 2012, EXO opened their eighth and largest destination, China, capping an unprecedented period of expansion that saw EXO grow out of Southeast Asia into the wider Asia region. Led by Olivier Marchesin from their base in Beijing, China represents the strength of EXO's business and desire from clients for unique, in-depth programs throughout Asia.
In 2014 it was time for a brand new look and Exotissimo became EXO Travel as part of a complete rebrand of the company. This wasn't a change of direction, it was to simply better reflect who EXO are now and the future direction of the company. We invited clients to 'Experience our Asia' through a new strapline which better reflected EXO's knowledge and expertise of providing exceptional Asian experiences for over two decades.
June 2015 saw EXO Travel receive the coveted Travelife certification, becoming the largest Destination Management Company in Asia to successfully achieve the award. This achievement was the culmination of an adventure that started 3 years previous under the guidance of the EXO Foundation, with the goal of spearheading change across the sector at large, and taking a pioneering role in the movement towards truly responsible travel.
September 2015 saw EXO expand into Malaysia, with Gennaro Nardone taking the reigns as Managing Director. Malaysia provides the perfect fit for EXO, with opportunities to service every niche market we operate in, namely tailor-made, adventure travel and Mice. The potential for fresh, innovative experiences in Malaysia is exceptional with such an expansive range of cultural influences open for exploration and provides another dimension to EXO's Asia offering.
Today EXO has over 23 offices and 770+ full time staff working from our destination based offices in Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Indonesia, Thailand, Japan, China and Malaysia. Although now a large global business, EXO remains firmly committed to its roots in each destination and its guiding principles that has enabled this growth for over 20 years.
Each EXO country is managed by the original local partners as well as an experienced General Manager who is responsible for the operations and reservations in their country. There are also dedicated teams in place within each destination for adventure, MICE and luxury, supported by multilingual reservations teams.