Diana Ditto, the Director of Product Design at Collette, may have the ultimate dream job. She researches—and tries out—all the accommodations, from Bedouin camps to igloos, and all the unique experiences that then become part of Collette’s itineraries.
When did you first decide you wanted to pursue a career in travel? Since I was a child I’ve had an incredible sense of adventure, it may have gotten me into a bit of trouble! Fortunately, I never lost that passion or the sense of fearlessness that we have as children. Traveling just comes naturally for me, I genuinely love to explore.
How long have you been at Collette?
I began my career at Collette as an intern in the customer care center when I was a sophomore in college. Many years later, I assumed the role of project manager for Northern Europe and in 2013 as a product manager for the Ireland region. I am now Director of Product Design.
What does a typical day in the life of a design manager look like when you are exploring new itineraries/destinations for Collette?
As a design manager, we are constantly researching new and unique experiences, restaurants, and hotels. We don’t want to be like every other tour operator. Our goal is to handcraft bespoke experiences and to move away from ones that are so commercialized they’ve lost their uniqueness. Collette tour designers spend 100+ days on the road each year, sourcing the best for our travelers. Our designers also find unique accommodations— castles, igloos, Bedouin camps—that guests can’t book on their own. We introduce our guests to local people and local cultures, we don’t just stare at them from a distance. But all this takes a tremendous amount of preparation and research, visiting countless restaurants or cooking schools to find the perfect one.
Tell us about the new line of product that you’re working to develop.
Explorations tours are for those who truly want to interact with the world around them. These tours allow guests to connect with culture on an intimate level through conversations with locals and experiencing what life is like in a new and different corner of the globe.
What types of experiences and accommodations can an Explorations client expect?
On an Explorations tour, guests will find themselves going beyond surface level experiences. Accompanying a chef to a local market and preparing a meal using the freshest ingredients. They will see the must-sees, but also the incredible natural landscapes, architectural wonders, and historic landmarks that evoke a sense of awe. And the best part is that guests will do all of this with exceptional access due to the small size of the groups—an average of 18 travelers.
What does Explorations offer that other tour companies don’t?
After speaking with various travel professionals and conducting extensive research we identified a gap in the competitive landscape of small group tours. We are designing itineraries that include all the things people want to do, but may be afraid to do on their own. I was recently in Old Delhi in India and knew I wanted to try some street food—it’s so famous and said to be some of the best cooking in the world. I was petrified, however, of picking the wrong vendor and getting sick. We spent two days sourcing vendors and experiences for our street food tour, and the result is incredible. There are many times where I see tourists, longing to participate in an activity, but really struggling with how they would go about arranging something like this. Explorations solves this issue, and more, by allowing guests to see and do things they had only dreamed about.
Where was your most recent trip and where have you always wanted to go?
I just got back from Jordan and Vietnam and I would love to travel to Cambodia. Southeast Asia is such an incredible part of the world to explore.
Why is travel important to you?
I want to change the world, and I truly believe travel has the power to do that.