Silversea’s regional sales manager for the south-east, Donatella Valzasina on her Italian heritage, I-spy car journeys and the perils of navigating London.
Describe your typical week
Every week is different but on average I will be on the road for four days, saving one for admin duties. Mileage can be quite low if I travel into London by public transport or conversely I can do up to 350 miles in a week.
Weekends are often dedicated to supporting trade events, occasional fams and at the moment ship visits – it’s always very varied.
How big is your sales team?
At Silversea we have a great team that leaves no corner of the UK and Ireland untouched, which is no mean feat given there are five of us. In addition to the regional sales managers we also have a national and key accounts manager, expedition sales manager and a trainer.
What’s in the glove compartment?
Just the car manual! For anything more interesting like a snack or sweets, look in the armrest between the seats.
And what’s on the radio?
Heart and, being from Essex, sometimes Heart SX. When the radio isn’t available Coldplay goes on.
What fast food outlet keeps you going on the road?
I try to be good and avoid them and opt for a salad or sushi, but I will sometimes indulge in a packet of nuts or seeds, which usually end up on the floor of the car – and they are difficult to get out.
What’s the silliest thing you’ve ever done on a sales visit?
Turning up without my coat on a freezing January day when I left the house without it. I’m sure the agent was wondering why I was turning blue.
What’s your favourite alcoholic drink?
Does it have to be one or can I make a list? I’m quite partial to Franciacorta; it’s similar to prosecco but comes from a different area near Brescia in Italy, not far from my hometown, Milan. But as it is rare to find here, a good glass of white wine is always welcome.
Who would be your ideal driving companion on a long journey?
I know who wouldn’t… Stuart, my partner. Every time we drive to Italy, he beats me playing I-spy.
Alternatively I think Dave Chidley from Uniworld would be good as he is one of the funniest guys I know in the business.
What’s the best question a travel agent has ever asked you?
"As you’re Italian, are you related to the family who owns Silversea?" Sadly not!
What’s the most lost you have ever got?
On my way to a meeting in Fitzrovia. The building work at Tottenham Court Road confuses me every time – I could do with a satnav whenever I’m in London.
Which is your favourite destination that your company sells?
It’s really difficult to narrow it down to one destination as Silversea visits more than 900 places in the world.
Perhaps some European destinations such as Portofino, Monte Carlo and St Petersburg because our small ships get right into the port, so you really make the most of it.
Antarctica has to be right up there as such a unique destination and Silversea does it very well with an outstanding expedition fleet and team.
What key messages do you try to convey in an agent visit?
I like to ensure the agent has seen all our latest promotions. They in turn need to convey the offers to their clients, which can help them close the sale.
Another message is to give an update on what is happening at Silversea, such as the launch of Silver Muse, and Silver Cloud undergoing renovation to become an ice-class vessel.
Other updates include any incentives we might be running at the time, as well as our monthly Silversea Advocates recognition programme.
What’s your advice for agents who don’t currently sell your product but are keen?
Contact me or a colleague. All you need to do is learn about the wonderful world of Silversea. I would start with our Silversea Academy – an innovative online training portal.