Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and DailyXtra.ca. Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.
Jenni Berg has worked at The Travel Corporation for her entire adult life.
“For nineteen years, in almost every role and brand possible!” says Berg, who was long affiliated with Contiki until she sashayed into the reservations department at Trafalgar.
Today, she’s a national accounts director for TTC Tour Brands Canada, a portfolio that includes Luxury Gold, Insight Vacations, Trafalgar, Brendan Vacations, Costsaver and Contiki.
“I work alongside our amazing trade partners to ensure that we have the best plans in place to mutually benefit,” Berg says of her role. “My goal is to make their lives easier and to help however I can.”
Born in High River, AB and raised in Northern Ontario, Berg describes herself as “a country girl at heart.”
“I would not change how I grew up, which was in the country outside of a tiny town called Powassan – ‘The Friendly Town,’” she says.
Berg now lives in Pickering, ON and loves her location by the lake, where she enjoys paddle boarding and hanging out with friends.
But when it’s time to take care of business, the travel pro is hard at work, elevating the role of TTC Tour Brands in Canada.
On any given day, she may be assisting with budgets and marketing plans, incentives, sales activations, or helping launch initiatives with her “awesome” sales team.
“Since I have a reservations manager background, I find it helpful to be able to see the business from the eyes of the travel agent as well,” she says.
Travel has been the focus of Berg’s working life, but it wasn’t always that way. During a year abroad in her early twenties, she worked as a waitress in Australia’s “Top Steakhouse of the Northern Territories.” (“It was a blast!” she says).
She also, in her early years, served honey crullers and double doubles at Tim Hortons, bagged milk and eggs at her local grocery store and helped out at her Grampa’s woodworking shop after school.
“My first sales experience was selling saw blades and woodworking machines,” she says. “We even went to trade shows, which was really foreshadowing my future!”
Berg eventually caught the travel bug while interning at a travel agency in North Bay, ON.
“I was typing up an Ireland Contiki itinerary for one of the travel agents and I remember imagining myself on this tour and how cool every day’s activities sounded,” she says. “At this point, I had travelled only within Canada or to Florida.”
That epiphany led her to apply for a job at Contiki, “and the rest is history.”
“I do want to give a shout-out to Mrs. Daphne Mayne who took me under her wing while I was still in high school,” Berg noted. “She is a travel industry legend and gave me first-hand knowledge that was so valuable. Also, to Chris and the entire Mayne Travel team for teaching me so much!”
What does she love about the travel biz?
“The people!” she says. “My job has taken me around the world, and I have seen and experienced things I never could have imagined, but it still comes back to the people who were with me along the way. Travel attracts the good ones!”
She also loves that the industry is “full of hard-working people who also love to have fun!”
“I feel very fortunate to be surrounded by others who appreciate this extraordinary planet as much as I do,” Berg says.
Here, PAX Checks In with Berg to discuss travel pet peeves, being polite in Croatia, and the one trend that North American travellers are warming up to.
PAX: What are three essential items you always travel with?
Jenni Berg (JB): Backpack, ChapStick and earplugs. (For anyone that complains about being in a noisy room, I have one thing to say: earplugs!)
PAX: What’s your favourite airport?
JB: Koh Samui Airport in Thailand. It’s the only airport I have experienced that is open air, so you can still enjoy the outdoors!
PAX: What was the first trip you ever took?
JB: Not my first trip, but my first trip to Europe. I was sent at the last minute on a Trafalgar FAM to Spain when I was 21. I was so blown away by the culture, architecture, and history. Plus, at the Prado Museum, I saw the actual painting of the piece I used for my grade 12 art history essay! That was a memorable moment. Also, I remember walking through the cobblestone streets, observing how the locals had such a laid-back pace of life and that they all seemed so in love. Also, discovering sangria was a fun time by the beach!
PAX: What’s the biggest splurge you’ve ever made on a trip?
JB: I am not much of a shopper, but I did buy an amazing leather bag in Florence once. It was the softest leather I have ever felt. They even put my initials on it with golf leaf!
PAX: What’s the most memorable meal you ever ate while travelling?
JB: In Barcelona, right off La Rambla, there is a food market. Our Tour Director tipped us off and we went on the hunt to find what he said will be the best seafood you will eat. It was a tiny, hectic grill bar, and they grilled this fresh seafood right in front of us. You could choose your flavour (garlic, butter and herbs of course!). The smells and sounds of that special lunch stay with me! Could I ever find it again? Probably not, but I am willing to try!
PAX: What’s your biggest travel pet peeve?
JB: Indecisive people! And slow walkers (unless they have a good reason to be walking slow, of course).
PAX: What is your funniest travel anecdote?
JB: Several years back, a group of friends travelled with us to Croatia, which included an eight-day sailing trip. The group we met up with (on a Contiki) was one of those that clicked immediately. One of the Aussie guys decided over a card game that we must be the politest group of our entire trip. So, for the week, you would hear us all going out of the way for each other: “Kind sir, might you pass me the salt”…“Oh yes madam, I would be delighted,” pulling out chairs for each other. One of the guys even carried his friend up the stairs at a monument so he would not have to strain himself. Maybe you had to be there, but it made the whole trip so funny!
PAX: Would you travel for a month in luxury or travel for a year on a budget?
JB: While I love to dabble in luxury, those who know me know that I am a budget traveller at heart! Accommodations are the key to my heart, but they don’t always have to be super high-end. I love places with character and, of course, location, location, location! I would rather spend my travel budget on experiences for the most part as I am not too fussy. Give me some tasty food, wine, good people, and adventurous days and I’m happy. A great day to me would include a hike leading to a breathtaking view, or a walk/bike ride around a new city, followed by a hot tub and laughs at the local! However, I love getting an amazing hotel or villa at the end of my touring adventure to go out in style.
PAX: What do you consider your greatest achievement in recent years?
JB: As someone who is very high-energy and finds it hard to sit still, I am proud to say that the last few years taught me to slow down. While we had no choice at times, I really learned to appreciate my own backyard. I even got into gardening, which my mom never thought would happen! Now that life has returned to the fast pace that I am kind of addicted to, I still carve out an hour a day to get out into nature for a walk.
PAX: What is your motto?
JB: You will never be younger than you are today.
PAX: What is your idea of perfect happiness?
JB: Being surrounded by friends and family with no shortage of laughs and good times. The ability to be content in where you are now and not constantly wanting for more. Each day is a new day, not always looking back with regret, but forward with anticipation.
PAX: What is your biggest fear?
JB: The passing of time. While I have enjoyed every year as much or more than the previous, growing older is a nagging fear! However, getting wiser will hopefully be an added bonus.
PAX: Who is your favourite singer or band?
JB: Depending on my mood, you can find me dancing to Bob Marley, singing to Alanis Morissette or tearing up to The Counting Crows.
PAX: What are your hidden talents?
JB: I can find the good in anyone! Everyone has a story to tell, and I want to hear it. Also, I used to be a portrait drawer. And I love painting.
PAX: How has the pandemic changed your outlook on life?
JB: Empathy has always been a needed characteristic in our industry, and this is even more so now. I know that our travel agent partners have been through it these past few years. Those that have worked through all of these obstacles are so special. Post-pandemic, I would say I am more empathetic than before.
PAX: What is the biggest challenge facing the travel industry right now?
JB: The ever-changing political world climate makes people afraid to travel to some places, or at all. The news is a scary place sometimes, and depending on what is being reported on, the industry is constantly adapting.
PAX: What is this year’s top travel trend?
JB: Ancestral travel seems to be on the rise. Everyone wants to know their roots and where they came from. Our Ireland and Scotland trip specifically has seen a rise in this type of traveller from North America.
PAX: What should travel advisors should know right now about TTC Tour Brands?
JB: TTC Tour Brands has a tour for any and everyone across our six tour brands: Trafalgar, Insight Vacations, Contiki, Costsaver, Brendan Vacations and Luxury Gold. Visit our one-stop-shop for all your needs, our Travel Agent Portal here.
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