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The Minds Behind the Tours: Tour Designer, Sam Pezza

Lane A
by Lane Atteridge

August 13, 2019

5 minute read

Who are you?

Hello! I’m Sam, a Product Design Manager at Collette. In my role, I have the challenging but highly rewarding task of creating dream tours for our travelers. A lifelong adventure seeker myself, I am passionate about connecting people and cultures in impactful ways. My personal travel style is hands on and active. I want to see, meet, touch, smell, and taste everything! When I am not on the road designing, you can find me at home enjoying some smaller-scale adventures with my fiance and our adorable mini-golden doodle, Marty.

 croatia dubrovnik city walls

What does a Tour Designer do, exactly?

We identify destinations that would be of interest to a traveler. What is trending? What is no one else doing? Which destinations have potential to be epic vacation spots? Once we determine a region of interest, we analyze every itinerary option possible. We then spend hours on the phone with local restaurants, guides, hoteliers, and tourism boards, asking them question after question in order to identify those special experiences that will take our tours to the next level.

We leave no stone unturned. It is so important that we meet every vendor, inspect every hotel, and get to know every local guide so we can deliver the tour that we promised to our traveler. I eat in the restaurants we dine at on tour and sleep in the hotels. We have to treat every tour and every inclusion as if the traveler that purchased it saved their entire life for this dream vacation and now it’s up to us to deliver.

 estonia bogging

What are your favorite things to build into the tours?

Cultural connections are my absolute favorite experiences to build into a tour. This is doing something or interacting with someone that makes you grin from ear to ear as you stop and think to yourself “Wow, this IS the destination.” I was just in the Baltic States designing a new small group tour. In talking to locals prior to my trip, I learned that 22% of Estonia is wetland, and that the Estonian people place a high value on nature. So, I set up a bogging experience with a local naturalist. We drove to the middle of nowhere, put on these crazy shoes and walked across a snow-covered bog. Our guide pointed out various plants and explained the wildlife. I touched the moss, smelled the leaves, and even tasted water straight from the bog! It was truly a local experience that I’ll never forget.

 croatia with buyer toni

What’s your advice for first-time Collette travelers going on one of your tours?

Disconnect to connect. This is your time to experience! Put your phone down and gaze out the window, take in the sights, be present. It is the best gift you can give yourself. I know it’s easier said than done and I am guilty of it too. Nevertheless, when I am in a place or in a moment that really moves me I make a conscious effort to take a minute to remember it and allow myself to feel gratitude for being there.

Say yes to everything! Forget the word no. This is vacation you. You are adventurous, curious and a lot of fun. There is so much to see and do in this world and why not try as much of it as you can? Eat that weird food. Talk to that random couple sitting next to you. Get up and dance at the folk show! Look at every new experience is an opportunity to grow and learn, that’s what travel is all about. That’s what makes travel so great!

Be open to new friends & cultures. On a guided tour, you will meet people from all over without even leaving the coach. Get to know your fellow travelers and make some new friends. Can you think of a better “how we met story” than one that started on an exciting overseas adventure? When learning about local cultures be mindful that everyone has their own unique story and just because it may be different from our own, it does not make it wrong or any less important. Take those opportunities to increase your compassion and understanding of the world.

Relax. Going overseas, especially for a first-time traveler can be intimidating but that is the beauty of booking a guided tour. We take care of all of the details and provide you with a local expert the entire time so you can just show up and enjoy. It’s that simple.

 france loire valley

What inspires you?

What inspires me is summed up in my favorite quote: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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