Recently, Marc Mekki, founder of luxury travel curator Ode to Joy, popped into the Connections office for a catch up. I love it when you all come visit me when you’re passing through London on business – please follow Marc’s lead and stop in some time!

Last spring, Marc attended Connections Luxury in Italy, where he first told us about his plans for an ingenious new app, Symphony.

Almost a year later, Symphony has officially been launched. Marc brought a prototype of the app for us to play around with and, I have to say, it’s brilliant!

Symphony uses Tinder-like capabilities to build a data profile on a traveller, presenting them with a series of images which they can swipe left, up, right, or down on, depending on how strongly they feel towards them.

The level of personalisation for a traveller’s profile is extremely high, with four ways to swipe for 250 images. Marc tells me there are more possible combinations than there are atoms in the universe!

Another nice touch, is the app’s avatar –  aptly named, Ludwig. He can help travellers reserve and pay for any services or attractions listed in their bespoke travel “carousel.”

Marc and I grabbed a coffee, and I picked his brain about Symphony, and how he has re-imagined the concierge concept for the digital age.

Micaela) Marc, what’s the premise behind Symphony?

Marc) “People overwhelmingly want to feel like real travellers again and be spontaneous while travelling. What is stopping many from simply showing up at a destination and turning it into a real adventure is the lack of a local ‘friend’, a lifeline that is always there and online, ready to point you to the coolest insider spots and facilitate local experiences.

“Symphony was built to allow the experiential traveller to be free and adventurous while still having this pocket-sized local support system in place. Essentially, Symphony wants to rethink and rejuvenate the very concept of what a concierge is and liberate it from the conventional hotel environment it was born into.”

Micaela) Talk me through the user experience of Symphony.

Marc) “The spinning interface – we call it the ‘carousel’ – came about after a mundane subway ride in Barcelona. As one does, I simply stood there staring blankly at nothing in particular until my eyes rested on a young man’s hands as he was using his iPhone.

“What occurred to me as he was scrolling and handling the device is that the natural movement of a human thumb is not linear, it’s curved because of how our joints are structured. And yet, apps are often blocky and linear while few things in nature are, including our finger movements.

“So, staring at that young man’s thumb I understood that a curved, spinning ‘carousel. would not only look compelling, it would be much more ergonomic.

“The ‘tinder-like’ image-based swipe interface removes all the friction while significantly increasing the ‘stickiness’ of the app by turning a boring questionnaire into a game of sorts. It’s fun, very fast and visually appealing, not terms one often associates with questionnaires!

Micaela) At the moment, Symphony offers personalised recommendations for travellers to Barcelona. What are your plans for expanding it?

Marc) “Symphony was designed with Europe in mind. Our continent is simply the greatest treasure trove of travel experiences in the world, all in a relatively compact area. More than half a billion people travel to Europe each year, there’s more than enough potential here.

“And because the majority of those travellers pass through major hubs like London, Paris, Madrid, Rome and Berlin, that’s where we’ll go after Barcelona. The ultimate goal is to make Symphony the default travel companion for discerning cultural travellers in every compelling location in Europe. I would like Symphony to be operational in the 50 most visited cities and towns in Europe in five years.”

Marc Mekki and his team at Ode to Joy regularly attend Connections Luxury events. To find our more about Connections Luxury, please contact me at [email protected], or call me on 07852 557661