Jackie David talks to Carlson Wagonlit business travel consultant Valery Savioli, winner of the Travel Weekly Agent Excellence Award for Best Business Travel Consultant, London and Southeast

Valery Savioli with the award for Best Business Travel Consultant, Southwest and Wales

Last year saw Valery Savioli, business travel consultant at Carlson Wagonlit Travel, notch up a number of professional successes to add to what was already an impressive CV.

Within two weeks of joining a blue-chip management consultancy as part of a two-person team, she completely changed the clients’ view of the value of a business travel consultant with her infectious ‘can do’ attitude.

Always one step ahead of her clients’ needs, she worked tirelessly to meet their requirements – from requests for chauffeur-driven cars, visas or hotel bookings to online check-ins and general travel guidance.

Then there were the targets. Not only did she exceed all of hers – which had doubled from the previous year – she succeeded in helping her client meet its supplier targets too. Not surprisingly, the company was delighted.

So it should have come as no surprise when her exceptional performance was recognised by her boss at Carlson Wagonlit Travel, senior director, traveller and transaction services, Karen Dawson, in the form of a nomination for Travel Weekly’s Excellence Award for Best Business Travel Consultant.

“Having my name announced and going up on stage felt like being at the Oscars.”

In fact, despite an obvious talent for forward planning and anticipating the unexpected, the accolade came as a complete surprise – especially when she learnt she had won.

“It was unexpected and I was grateful that Karen recognised my work. Winning the trophy was a surreal experience. The awards event was spectacular: good food, great company, lights and cameras. Having my name announced and going up on stage felt like being at the Oscars,” said Valery.

So what is the secret of her success? Listening to feedback is key, said Valery. “I pay particular attention when a client makes a by-the-way remark, because this is often important to them.

“If a travel provider says something cannot be done, I try to investigate an alternative before going back with a ‘no’ answer,” she said.

Attention to detail and continually updating your knowledge of the industry are essential. “It’s impossible to know everything, but it helps to know where to find the information,” she added.

Flexibility is also a must. “Different clients require different types of travel services, and as a business travel consultant you have to be adaptable,” said Valery.

Such responsiveness is standing her in good stead in her latest posting at the House of Commons – a placement that she is finding fascinating.

“I am honoured to be working in one of the most beautiful palaces in the world. And Big Ben makes sure I am never late for work.”

Q&A: Valery Savioli

What makes an excellent business travel consultant?

Exceptional customer service, being a ‘yes’ person, fantastic communication skills, impeccable knowledge of a global distribution system and flexibility.

Have you got any top tips?

Ask for training on the systems that you use, continually request knowledge updates, read as many of the travel periodicals as possible and sign up to travel websites.

Also, don’t hesitate to continue your education under your own steam – knowledge is strength.

What’s your favourite destination?

Italy – but I am biased because my parents are Italian and I visit as much as possible.

Italy is so diverse, going from one region to the next, you could almost be entering a different country. Italy has so much – history, culture, art and food – not to mention all the well-dressed Italian men.
Where would you like to go next and why?

I would love to go on an educational to New York. London and New York are the two cities that I have always wanted to live and work in.

Since I can’t live in the US, it would be amazing to walk the city’s world-famous streets. What an adventure.
What are your long-term career goals?

I have already reached my travel career goal – I had my own travel agency at the age of 27.

I would like to open and run my own business in customer service, teaching young people how to deal with business people. Eventually I would like to become a motivational speaker.

Agent Excellence Awards 2008