with Pat Rotz, Vice President Auto Club & Travel, CAA Niagara

Open Jaw

Pat with Alison Hermansen, on a bike excursion in Germany while on an Avalon Rhine cruise last spring

Pat’s staff Christmas party photo from this year’s event

Is that right – your entire working career has been with CAA? Yes, since 1974, straight out of high school. We had just one branch in Niagara at the time, and I started on the desk, greeting customers, doing triptix [customized maps for CAA clients]. I really did learn on the job, and can say I’m the only CAA travel person who didn’t go to travel and tourism college.

What was retail travel like, back in the 70s? It was so different. We hand-wrote tickets. We looked up fares in the OAG [Official Airline Guide, a massive phonebook-type publication that was published every 2 wk]. It was the early days of computers, and we had a ReserVec  Air Canada system. The change has always been constant, but that’s part of the fun and excitement of the business.

Many changes at CAA? Huge. When I started at CAA Niagara we had something like 13,000 members, we now have over 120,000 and have grown from 1 small office to 5.

Any memorable trips along the way? I’m very fortunate to have seen most corners of the world. A safari in Kenya was probably the highlight, flying between game camps in an 8-seater airplane. I’ve stood on the Great Wall of China, visited Lake Como and Buenos Aires. Mexico and San Francisco are 2 big personal favourites, and I’ve done a few river cruises now and think it’s a stellar way to travel.

You must have some crazy/fun stories? The best was when I was once flying to a meeting in Phoenix from Buffalo. Delta flights were all cancelled and I explained to the passenger agent that I was in the industry, was there any chance I could look for a re-protection flight on her computer? She agreed and I went behind the counter and found myself a perfect US Air flight!

Is there anything you miss from “the good old days”? Talking to people. It seems so much is done by e-mail and text, why can’t we just pick up that phone?

So… I’m sure everyone is asking how you plan to spend your retirement. Actually, I’m not really retiring – I plan to be a home-based agent for CAA! I’m already building up my clientele and knowledge as a specialist in small ship and river cruising. I like the smaller ships – I went recently on the Oasis for 3 nights and told them not to bother giving me a cabin as I’d never find it!

Any hobbies? Golf, for sure, and yoga. And I want to do some volunteering, perhaps reading to small kids in schools or helping people with dementia, which my mom had. As my retired friends say, you get to do what you want, when you want.

What do you think you’ll miss? I’ve made lifelong friends in this business including Doug and Lori Patterson, Bill and Mary Goldsmith. I plan to stay in touch with them all!

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