Sales representatives from Riviera Travel and Silversea recently shared their knowledge and experience with over 80 budding travel professionals.

Paul Mellon, key account manager at Riviera Travel, and Helen Crosbie, national and key account manager UK & Ireland at Silversea, held a remote session with students at Uxbridge College (part of the merged college group HCUC) on the paths their careers have taken them, as well as giving pointers on the cruise industry.

The guest speakers also covered off popular itineraries and destinations, guest demographics, and some of the key advantages and differences between ocean and river cruises.

The duo were invited by ex-Virgin Atlantic sales representative Natalie Connell, who now works as a travel and tourism lecturer at the college. Prior to starting at the college last year, Natalie was at Virgin Atlantic for 10 years. She began her career as ground staff at Heathrow whilst studying for her degree in Airline and Airport Management, before becoming a cabin crew member for three years. She was appointed a partnership development executive in the leisure sales team before moving into teaching.

Natalie's students are currently studying towards their travel and tourism qualifications, which begin at Level 1 diploma and progress to higher education HNC and HND programmes.

Natalie said: “We arranged the guest talk as part of our enrichment programme for students as this year has seen a halt to our usual work experience and overseas educational visits. It was a fantastic opportunity for our students to hear from our two guest speakers from Riviera Travel and Silversea cruises – not only did they share their product knowledge, but inspired them with their stories of how they developed their careers, from their own training at college to full time work in the industry. It would be great to work with them further going forward, particularly as the industry starts to pick up again now Covid restrictions are being relaxed.”

Paul said: “It was a pleasure to meet the students and help give them further insight into the background and benefits of a river cruise. Hopefully I’ve helped add to their knowledge of our sector – river sailings are a fantastic option, and the students were clearly keen to hear more. It was also helpful to talk up their sustainability credentials, which are becoming an increasing priority for both travel professionals and the wider public.”

Helen said: "It was such a great opportunity to be able to meet all the students virtually to talk about the wonderful world of the Silversea cruise product. I hope that they feel inspired and now have a greater understanding of the luxury and expedition cruise industry. I also really enjoyed giving them an insight into my varied travel industry career from the past 27 years, particularly as my journey into travel began with NVQ qualifications at college."

Dovalki Dejuie Mendes Ataide, Level 5 HND International Travel and Tourism student – who has been accepted onto a top-up degree at Northampton University thanks to her HND, and will join the final year of study - said: "The talks were inspiring and the images of the cruises really helped bring everything to life. It was very useful to hear about the specific routes, itineraries and excursions offered as well as sustainable practices.

“The talks also gave us a better understanding of the difference experienced on an ocean cruise and river cruise, and the opportunities to experience different cultures and meet up with local people.”