Interview with Erika De Santi, Co-Founder and Managing Director at WeRoad, an Italian travel company that organises group tours around the world

Erika De Santi is Co-Founder and Managing Director at WeRoad, an Italian based travel company that organises group tours on the road to more than 150 destinations around the world.

Erika is also an Equity Partner at OneDay Group, an Italian based business and community builder.

Before WeRoad, Erika worked as Product Developer and Marketing Specialist at Wish Days, an Italian company creating experiential gift boxes later sold to the market leader Smartbox.

Erika graduated in Arts, Modern Language for Tourism and Business Purposes at Università degli Studi di Trento, and received an MSc in Tourism Marketing from the University of Surrey.

WeRoad is a community that designs tours for groups of people sharing the same interests and lifestyle. Can you tell us more about the business model of the company? How the idea of WeRoad came about?

Erika: WeRoad in a nutshell is a direct-to-consumer brand that seeks to provide WeRoaders (our travellers) with life-changing experiences.  Our community is core to our business, so we communicate and sell our tours directly to our clients, as we believe establishing a relationship with our customers and hearing their feedback is paramount to our brand. Everything is done by us, in house, no travel agents in sight.  Our tours are designed by our incredible tour operator and product team and are then sold online through our digital platform. WeRoaders are the crux of WeRoad, they are groups of passionate travellers of a similar age, who can choose trips based on mood so they’re paired with like-minded individuals. 

I met Paolo De Nadai (CEO) and Fabio Bin (CMO and CDO of WeRoad) back in 2017, and from that day on we focused our energy on developing not only a company but a community of passionate travellers. The idea came about because we saw a gap in the market for authentic travel experiences, flexible programmes for millennials, a desire for connection and a broadening of horizons. We were millennials looking for travel mates, but we couldn’t find them. Millennials are busy, we’re at that awkward age of either starting in our careers, getting married, or having kids. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to make plans with your friends when you’re on different timelines or have different responsibilities. This way you can still go on holiday with people your age and on your wavelength, without the risk of needing to adjust itineraries to suit certain criteria.

There are many other companies offering travel services and organising travel tours. On what aspects does WeRoad differ? Why do users choose WeRoad instead of other companies?

Erika: Community. Community. Community. It’s crucial to understand that we’re not a tour operator but a community of local and vibrant travellers.

We combat loneliness by enabling our WeRoaders to meet like-minded individuals and build meaningful friendships. We believe the destination is important but the road there is also essential in creating amazing memories. Our trips aren’t your average trips, we focus on experience, culture and connection. We immerse ourselves in the country we’re visiting, embrace traditions, open our minds and get out of our comfort zones.

Before COVID-19, WeRoad was growing at a very fast pace. But then, like all businesses in the travel industry, you were forced to stop travels for a certain time. How did you react to the COVID-19 pandemic? What lessons did you learn during these difficult times?

Erika: The impact COVID-19 had on the travel industry was catastrophic, but we didn’t shut down, we fought to stay relevant, and we did so in two ways:

  1. Keeping our community engaged on our social media channels, creating inspiring content and online activities to drive interaction (in 2020 we were appointed the top-performing global travel brand on Instagram);
  2. Staying updated on travel restrictions and regulations so we could be quick to create ‘safe tours’ where possible. The volume of our tours that operated out of Italy and Spain speak for themselves and highlight the power of our ability to keep our finger on the pulse. 

In 2021 we became real wave-makers, spearheading the return to travel through our Canary Islands itineraries. We defied the odds and learnt many lessons along the way. We discovered that in every crisis there lies opportunity; we strengthened the connection with our communities, we sped up process innovation, we even launched WeRoad in the UK, we didn’t stop and kept our hands firmly on the trigger. We discovered that community is a powerful asset, and without it the travel industry is irrelevant. 

Now that the travel business is expected to recover, what are the expected developments of WeRoad? What’s your view for the future?

Erika: My view of the future is brighter than ever. Travel has proven to be essential for our generation (millennials). As soon as it’s possible to return to travelling safely we want to be at the forefront of reacquainting travellers with their world. We want to be sending WeRoaders to every corner of the globe in higher numbers than ever before, spreading our message to every continent.

One last question: what does it mean to be a woman in the startup/venture capital world? What would you recommend to other women hesitant in launching their start-ups?

Erika: Get it done, don’t find excuses to procrastinate, and most importantly, don’t be scared to fail.

Things don’t always work out on the first attempt, and that’s ok! You need to fail and make mistakes so you can pick yourself up and try again. Failure is always seen as finite, when in fact it is an experience that offers infinite possibilities. Failure allows you to learn not only about your project but most importantly, about yourself.


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For more info on WeRoad, visit: https://www.weroad.co.uk/