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Who was Marcello's travel guide?

Marcello Pacenti van BMS-Travellers

As a 6-year-old boy, Marcello Pacenti was also called "the Emperor of Rome". With his baby blue eyes, he stole the show on every street in the Italian city, then spent his teens in Cape Town, South Africa. An adventurer in heart and soul and that from an early age. The director of BMS-Travellers, specialized in extraordinary travels, tells LXRY about his life path. Who was Marcello's travel guide during his career?

What was your very first job?

“My Italian family had an unwritten rule: you go to work for your money. My father was one of the greatest perfume designers in the world, with my mother and I working in the business. My father was one of the first to market the spray pressure perfume (aerosols). I never had the ambition to take over the company. I saw the ups-and-downs that the company brought with it and my parents' obsession with success: I swore to myself that I would never start my own business. I wanted to discover! My mother was always looking for me. We lived in a flat and I used to escape via the drainpipe to explore the streets of Rome. With my charms I got a cheese there, an olive here and a sandwich there.

In the 1960's the family moved to Cape Town. My mother was Dutch and could not settle in Italy. My father also had too many snoopers in the factory in Rome, in Cape Town he could go on secretly and do his work for all renowned perfume brands.

Because of Apartheid, my mother didn't want me to go to a public school where there was a clear brain wash regime of the difference between black and white. That is why I went to the Constantia Waldorf School, based on the teachings of Rudolf Steiner, where I came into contact with a freer way of thinking.”

"At the time, my mentality was largely about stubbornness, know it all and impulsiveness."

How did you get into your current work?

“I wanted to discover, travel and know how other lives and cultures went through life. If someone said "no" I did not accept this. If someone said, "the door is green," I wanted to know why the door was green. During Apartheid times, my environment in South Africa used to say, "If you travel outside the South African border, you're dead." And what did I do? I travelled outside the country's borders on a motorcycle.

The plan was to travel across Africa with Europe as the final destination. My first attempt was not successful. At the time, my mentality was largely made up of stubbornness, know it all and impulsivity. The journey was not properly mapped out due to the wrong equipment, the wrong routes and the wrong season of the year. I finished halfway through Africa after which I travelled back again.

During my return trip to Cape Town (and my further Africa travels) I met a lot of influential people, like a sponge I absorbed all the knowledge that I gained while travelling and decided to fly to the Netherlands to earn money so that I could continue travelling. After three years the time had come: I had saved enough money to stay travelling for a year. In the Netherlands I bought a Jeep and drove to Africa. ”
“The country I remember most often is Tanzania. The purity, the social and the hospitability of the people is so heart-warming. They have nothing, but they share everything. It is in Tanzania that I met someone who would determine my future career: Bernd Michael Schötz, the then owner of A-Reizen and BMS-Travellers. While enjoying a drink, Bernd said: "If you ever come back to the Netherlands, you should definitely visit me."

So I did that. At one of Bernd's lectures, he spoke about his company and travelling. I was sold. I wanted that too. My own travel company. Not knowing that thirty years later, in 2001, my wife and I would take over his company. In those thirty years I became an instructor at Camel Trophy Adventure. In 20 days we had to brave impassable roads in the rainy season. Later I founded the company Off-Road Adventures, specialized in incentive trips, together with a number of partners from the Camel Trophy world. Bernd did our logistics with BMS-Travellers and that is how, after all these years, we came into contact again.

At one point I was no longer satisfied with the company and spoke to a mediator about what would be the perfect company for me to take over. I described BMS, but did not mention the name. The broker contacted me and indicated that he had found the perfect company: BMS-Travellers. This was a pure coincidence. I took over the company.”

Who was your mentor in it?

“My father and Bernd have been two mentors. My father always said, "It's not what you know, it's who you know." It quickly taught me that entrepreneurship, which I had learned a bit, came in handy when travelling. I got to know different people and gained knowledge. Actually, as a traveller, I was a "mini entrepreneur": I had to budget, get from A to B and plan ahead. Bernd taught me to offer the best to the customer, to arrange everything well and to offer unique tailor-made trips.”

What is your greatest passion in your profession?

“To be honest, I have multiple passions, I cannot choose. Finding the most unique pearls in the world, involving cultures in the successes of tourism and improving and continuing to discover them for the future are important to me. That's what I do it for.”

What has been the greatest learning moment in your career?

“I have benefited so much in my life from travelling alone at a young age. The big journey when I was 21 years old has had many highs, but also many lows. I got to know a lot of new people, came into contact with different cultures, but I also became deadly ill from Malaria. Despite that, it was the best investment I have ever made: I got to know myself and my limits, developed the gut feeling more and learned to deal with setbacks. In short: with travelling you learn everything that they cannot teach you at school.”

What did you learn as a director during this corona period?

“The current pandemic has taught me not to believe everything you see. Ask the right critical questions to yourself and those around you. This crisis also taught me to quickly realize that we are in this situation and that we have to accept that you are stuck in a rapid that is gaining momentum, paddle with the current, but determine your own course. The past period is the perfect time to look at your company, come up with new ideas and investigate what is good and what can be improved. To enjoy the next peak, you first have to go through a valley...

I myself have opened a channel and it is hopeful. I can't say much about it yet, but it concerns new ideas in the way we travel, media and lifestyle in the future. I am going to do this together with a number of partners, one of which is Harm-Jan Bloem, Bushkitchen's BBQ man. ”

What advice would you give your 18 year old yourself?

“Take time to think and not being too impulsive. Sometimes advice from a third party is wise. I was very stubborn and often listened only to myself. As a result, I sometimes paid a high price because things didn't go the way I wanted. While I was warned about the consequences. ”

Have you been a mentor for someone?

“I have a special way of thinking about how to deal with problems and successes. Here and there I have inspired young people and afterwards I received a 'thank you' while I did not even realize that I was a stepping stone for them. I hope to inspire people, to impart knowledge and to offer beautiful trips. Then my job is done.”

Mical Joseph
LXRY's People & Finance column

Online interview with Marcello Pacenti in LXRY's People & Finance column.
Text: Mical Joseph


Herenweg 238b, 3648 CR Wilnis
The Netherlands

+31 (0)85 04 10 400

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