Name: Shelley Davey
Position title: Sales Manager – Australia
Company name: Riviera Travel
When and why did you join the industry?
By accident! I’m a qualified teacher and was between overseas teaching posts. I was waiting for my contract in Madrid to start and had eight weeks to kill. I knew I’d just end up spending a lot of money if I kept accepting friends’ invitations to visit here while not working so I called a temp agency and asked for some admin work (it was UK school holidays so I couldn’t teach). I was offered a position in the European river cruise operations team at Riviera and loved it so much I didn’t leave! Almost two years later I moved over to river cruise sales due to Riviera’s expansion into the Australian market and 18 months later I was promoted to sales manager!
What do you like most about your job?
Events! Being out of the office and being at events around Australia. I love the variety of events too. Expos for agents, expos for clients, conferences, seminars, morning coffees, afternoon teas and so on. Sales can be a bit of a lonely field when you work on the road a lot so meeting up with suppliers and clients is most welcome. On my very first trip to Australia, I walked into a travel agency in Canberra and the owner, Cathy, gave me a big welcome hug. It was the first hug I’d had in three weeks and meant so much to me! Australians are so friendly so being out on the road here is extra special.
What’s one of the biggest achievements of your career so far?
The Australia project in its entirety. When we started this project we really weren’t sure what to expect. We didn’t know if people would love us or hate us. We have massive success in the UK with agents and we wanted to emulate that in Australia but there are other fabulous brands out there that are so well-known in Australia that we weren’t sure if we would even create a ripple. But we have had amazing success in Australia so far. Everyone back at our UK office is really happy with what we have achieved and the numbers just keep getting better and better. August 2017 was our best month yet! I’ve been with this project from the very start. I’m involved in every aspect from creating the client documents, editing the brochure, choosing the images we’re going to use, liaising with our partners, Cruiseco and Cruise Traveller, providing information for our Australian PR company, meeting agents in their offices, arranging famils, arranging and attending client events, organising webinars and much more. It’s an exhaustive but exciting list of duties.
What’s the best advice ever given to you and who gave it?
“What can I do in this moment to make this situation better for you.” When I was in my early 20s, I worked at a summer school for the arts in the US. The owner of the school was this incredibly intelligent and wonderfully eccentric Jewish New Yorker who could work the students and parents, i.e. the clients, beautifully. I asked her her secret and she said that whenever a client is upset about something they already have an outcome in mind that would make them feel better whether they realise it or not. You can spend ages going over all the details and seeing who is to blame all the while getting more and more frustrated, but to diffuse the situation as quickly and as stress free as possible, simply ask them if there is anything you can personally do in this moment that would make them feel better. She said that people can hardly argue with that attitude – and she’s right!
Who do you admire and see as a role model in the industry?
My MD, David Clemson. (I hope he doesn’t read this!) David has bought skills and attributes out in me that I never knew existed. He has trusted me and given me freedom to run with our Australia strategy and has supported me wholeheartedly – like he does with all staff at Riviera. We are a relatively small company and everyone knows everyone. David is constantly reaching out to each department as well as individual staff members to ensure everyone feels important and included. There is absolutely no ‘us and them’ culture at Riviera Travel. We all work in the same office and we all drink at the same pub after work on a Friday. David joined Riviera Travel several years ago and worked with our wonderful founder, Michael Wright, to make Riviera the largest escorted tour and river cruise operator in the UK – all while remaining completely accessible and approachable to each of us at Rivera Travel.
What can people expect from your company and what sets it apart from the rest?
People can expect relaxed and refined luxury with choice from Riviera Travel. Clients can choose if they want alcohol included. They can choose if they want to pay tips. They can choose what to do with their free time after their included excursion.
What destinations are on your travel bucket list?
Italy. Believe it or not, although I’m British and based in the UK, having spent so many years living overseas I’ve seen so little of Europe and I’ve never been to Italy. Next year, my friend from Australia will be visiting Europe for a few weeks and we plan on doing and Italian extravaganza which will include Sorrento, Rome, Venice, Florence and Pisa and I plan on sampling the pizza in every location! I’d love to try and squeeze Sicily in there as well but I think I might be getting a bit too excited.
What’s a memorable travel experience you’ve had (good or bad)?
I visited Nepal shortly after the devastating earthquake in 2015. The Nepalese are so welcoming and have an almost childlike optimism which warms your heart. It was an incredible experience and put a lot of things into perspective for me.
What are three things you always take with you when travelling?
A multi socket extension cable. That way, you only need one converter socket for the wall. Attach your four-socket extension to the converter and hey presto, four plugs for the price of one! For someone who travels from the UK to Australia so much this is really useful!
My kindle. Australia is such a huge country and I cover so much of it when I’m out here on 4-6 week trips that I pretty much fly everywhere. A kindle comes in really handy when you’re waiting around in airports and flying on smaller planes that don’t have TVs or even the space to set up your laptop!
My travel insurance certificate and contact info! From two years working in operations and dealing with clients who fell ill or had an accident while on their cruise, I realised how important it is to have all of your important information such as your company travel insurance details to hand. I have my office contact details on the back as well as my mum’s phone number! Sounds a bit morose but the last thing you want to be dealing with if ill or injured is ringing around trying to get medical bills covered. With the time difference here in Australia to the UK, it’s useful to have everything to hand in my bag in the unlikely event I’d need it.
Name someone famous you’d like to travel with and a destination you’d like to go with them.
Jon Bon Jovi and Nashville. I realise he’s a rock star and Nashville is country music but they are two of my favourite things so to combine them in a once-in-a-lifetime trip seems a great idea to me!
What direction do you see the industry heading in over the next five to ten years?
It will all be about the experience. People have enough things, our homes are more cluttered than ever and we don’t want for much. What people will increasingly want are experiences and memories. The brands that will do well will be those that can harness technology to facilitate the customer experience, to make it slicker, richer and more engaging. The world may be smaller than ever, but with so much of it to explore, there couldn’t be a better time to be in travel.