Midweek catch-up with Eurail’s Silvia Festa

Midweek catch-up with Eurail’s Silvia Festa

We recently caught up with Eurail’s senior business development manager Silvia Festa, only to realise how out of breath we were.

What’s your main goal for this year?

This year will focus on the recovery of our international markets after a successful 2022. With a long-term strategy of establishing Eurail as a purpose-led brand, we want to inspire international travellers to go “one-stop further” allowing their curiosity to take them off the beaten path to explore the best of what Europe has to offer.

What’s your favourite thing about working in the travel industry?

I like to dive deep into new ideas that disrupt the status quo and challenge companies to see things in a different way. I strive to find new ways to optimise solutions that benefit our travellers as well as our partners. It gives me happiness to think that travel creates connections that last a lifetime, not only with people, but with places, wider communities, and cultures. The travel sector is one of the most resilient and I am confident that it will recover and flourish in a more sustainable and meaningful way.

How do you like to spend your free time?

I like being on the move so skiing and walking are among my favourite activities. I fell in love with the slopes at the age of five and it has been my biggest passion ever since. On weekends I like walking around my city in Milan, looking for little hidden spots, cafe’ or shops waiting to be discovered.

Have you managed to do any travelling since restrictions began to ease (domestic or international)?

In late summer last year, I travelled between Stockholm and Copenhagen for business with my Interrail Mobile Pass and discovered another amazing route. Though I tried to work from the train, I was really distracted by the stunning natural landscape outside; we passed by beautiful lakes, and you could see the trees change to autumnal colours. Also, the train crossing over the Øresund Bridge between Sweden and Denmark made the trip even more exciting.

What’s your favourite travel company, besides the one you work for?

I am very interested in smaller tour groups providers that are proposing a more meaningful type of travel. Companies like Contiki and Intrepid Travel, for examples, are offering more authentic experiences and better environmental impact. They seem to share similar passions and the drive to create meaningful and unforgettable experiences, while committing to accelerate community-led sustainable development through travel.

If you could invite three famous guests (dead or alive) to a dinner party, who would you choose?

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe tops my list, as I consider him an early forerunner of Interrail. His Grand Tour of Europe during the late-18th-century, with a special emphasis on Italy, was widely viewed as an essential part of youth education and a rite of passage for young people in Europe.

My second guest would be Bebe Vio, the Italian Paralympic fencing gold medallist. Under her motto: “If it seems impossible, then it can be done”, Bebe raised to Olympic stardom despite a severe meningitis which caused the loss of both her arms and legs at the age of 11.

My third and final guest would be Katherine Johnson, a pioneering mathematician who was the first African American woman to work at NASA. Her calculations of orbital mechanics were vital to the early years of the U.S. space program. Johnson’s determination and bravery are a powerful reminder of how self-belief and perseverance are essential to achieving even the biggest dreams.

What’s something positive you’ve witnessed or experienced since the global pandemic hit?

Since international travel resumed last year, we are seeing a substantial shift in the way travellers approach their plans. More than ever, they are rethinking the way in which they travel. Choosing less conventional routes and discovering new places in a more adventurous and conscious way.

What’s your advice for others in the travel industry on coping with the global pandemic?

Our industry has seen its share of ups and downs, yet it continues to bounce back stronger than ever. Persistence is key to ensuring a sustainable longevity and combines with innovation will allows us to continuously evolve to meet the needs of the modern traveller.

What book and/or TV show can you not get enough of lately?

At the moment, I am intrigued by a new TV series on Netflix called ‘The law according to Lidia Poët’, based on a true story about Italy’s first female lawyer who investigates murder mysteries while fighting to overturn Court’s decision to forbid women to practice law in late-19th-centrury Italy.

Do you have any travel goals for 2023?

The pandemic gave me the opportunity to appreciate things at a slower pace. One of my travel plans this year is to take advantage of the vicinity to a vast array of natural wonders scattered all over Europe and a trip to see the Northern Lights in Sweden is on top of my list.

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