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Designing Women: Chats with Collette Product Designers

Anna Drake
by Anna Drake

March 08, 2024

7 minute read

March is Women’s History Month in the United States and Australia and March 8 is International Women’s Day. In honour of that, we spoke with some of the many talented women at Collette who design tours and create unforgettable travel experiences all over the world.

vinette digregorio

Vinette Digregorio

At Collette since 2016
Regions: Western United States, including Alaska, and western Canada

How did you get into product design?
Well, I sort of fell into the travel industry back in 1992, but I’ve always had a knack for creating itineraries for my family and friends. A passion for travel, the process of doing research, and knowing who your customer is are all key to being a successful product designer.

What does your region mean to you?
I love the sense of adventure the American west represents, especially the national parks. We’re so fortunate to have these parks, and I encourage everyone to get out and visit them!

What's one place everyone should experience in your region?
Yosemite National Park!

What’s it like working on a team that’s mostly women?
Well, I never thought about that question before! I know that we’re all hard workers, we all take pride in our regions, we all step up and support each other when needed, and we have a great leader – also a woman!

sandra cardoso

Sandra Cardoso

At Collette since 2022
Regions: Portugal, Spain, Morocco, and France

How did you get into product design?
I've been working in tourism for over 20 years – practically always in design, although often with other functions such as purchasing, tour delivery, product managing, and sales. And even before I made tourism a profession, I was already designing holidays for family and friends as a hobby.

What does your region mean to you?
My region is first and foremost my home, Portugal. All the other regions are close to my heart, because my in-laws are Spanish, and I have uncles and cousins in France. I don’t have any relatives in Morocco, but I have an emotional attachment to the country.

What's one thing/place that everyone should experience/see in your region?
It's hard to choose, but I'd say:

Portugal: Listening to fado in a real casa de fados and understanding the feeling and the historical background of this music. Strolling along the terraces of the Douro while enjoying a good glass of wine.

Spain: Entering the Sagrada Familia (Barcelona) at dusk and being inspired by the lights and the transition of seasons and spaces. Tasting Andalusian olive oil (and a good glass of wine to accompany it) on a family-run farm.

France: There's no doubt that climbing the Eiffel Tower is something emblematic and unique. And visiting Provence, especially during the lavender harvest? My God, it's heaven on earth.

Morocco: Without a doubt, going to the desert and getting to know the people, some of the warmest in the world, and also appreciating the differences among the Berbers, the nomads, and others.

What’s it like working on a team that’s mostly women?

What’s been your favourite experience in this region?
Getting to know more and more wonderful people.

Are there any women vendors in your region you’d like to mention?
There are many, but I’d like to call out Nora from the Amal Centre in Marrakech. But she’s not a woman, she’s a super-woman!

shannon levi

Shannon Levi

At Collette since 2019
Regions: Italy, Malta, the Middle East (Jordan & Israel), and Egypt

How did you get into product design?
I’m from Italy, born and raised in Rome. All my family works in tourism and hospitality. My parents took me travelling around Italy starting when I was an infant. We went to places like the village of Cocullo, which holds its annual Festival of the Snake-Catchers in May. I remember the delicious aroma of toasted almonds and sugar filling the air at a confectionery in Sulmona – watching the almonds being tossed in huge copper cauldrons and changing colour with natural food dyes making them pink, blue, purple, and green.

What does your region mean to you?
Heritage. Italy is the ancestral home of over 80 million people around the world claiming full or partial Italian ancestry. And, of course, the “art of life” – architecture, music, food, sculpture, painting, wine, you name it!

What’s it like working on a team that’s mostly women?
It’s a joy and an honour. We have a team who all travel themselves, and are passionate about sharing their cultures with our travellers. There’s an incredible sense of support on the team, with the eager sharing of ideas, challenges, and always-fruitful brainstorming.

What’s been your favourite experience in this region?
I consider it the greatest privilege to be able to keep exploring my country. Our travellers give me the opportunity of looking at my culture through new eyes, and that keeps it fresh and exciting. Every time I find a place that feels like home, I get excited at the prospect of including the experience on tour – I anticipate the happy memories our travellers will be making.

Are there any women vendors in your region you’d like to mention?
Giada, from our hands-on cooking class on Italy’s Treasures.

On Tuscan & Umbrian Countryside, Francesca makes our truffle hunt possible, and is also the cheesemaker, shepherd, and person who puts everything together.

And Elena, who owns the Carmignani winery that’s a highlight of Spotlight on Tuscany.

ariana aaraj

Ariana Aaraj

At Collette since 2016
Regions: US Southeast, Hawaii, Eastern Canada, Greece, and Turkey

How did you get into product design?
I started at Collette in Marketing, and when a position on the design team opened, I knew immediately I wanted it. Creating and sharing memorable travel experiences has always been a huge passion of mine. Being a product designer gives me the opportunity to constantly improve and evolve my tours with the traveller at the heart of it all.

What do your regions mean to you?
North America has some fascinating history, which I get to showcase on our US and Canadian tours – it may come as a surprise to some that there’s such a difference in cultures between these countries. Greece is a very special place to me because that’s where my family is from. I’ve grown up with Greek culture, traditions, and food – getting to share these things with our travellers is priceless!

What's one thing that everyone should experience in your regions?
Just one!? How about one per region?

Southeast US: On our America’s Music Cities tour, travellers get to spend the morning with our local guide, Elaine Lee Turner, a civil-rights activist who marched in Selma and has dedicated her life to telling the story of African American heritage. Elaine and her siblings have earned the title of the “Most Arrested Family in the Country” because of their peaceful protests for justice and equality.

Eastern Canada: Niagara Falls, Cabot Trail, Old Quebec City. A bonus that we’ve added to The Best of Eastern Canada is a visit to Madahoki Farm, outside of Ottawa, where travellers connect with an Indigenous ambassador to hear stories and learn about Indigenous culture while making traditional bannock fry bread by the fire.

Greece/Turkey: The hospitality. I know that’s not a specific experience, but this is what really brings the country and culture to life. Greeks are warm, friendly, and hospitable, and their contagious energy is everywhere.

What’s it like working on a team that’s mostly women?
Powerful. Our team is made up of a group of very strong women and it’s an honour working alongside these brilliant minds. I’m inspired by my fellow designers every single day!

Many thanks to Vinette, Sandra, Shannon, and Ariana for sharing their points of view!

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