with Cathy McManaman, Director of Travel Services for CAA National Office in Ottawa

Open Jaw

From her earliest job at Dairy Queen, this travel pro has never forgotten how important service is in the service industry.

Where were you born? In Cornwall, Ont.

How long have you been in the business? 33 years.  

How many people work for you? This is actually a very small office, in total there are only about 32. We are a support office for the eight CAA Clubs across Canada. In the travel department we are just two full-time.

What’s the best part of the job? I love dealing with the Clubs – there’s always something going on. We always get to meet new people and develop new skill sets.

What did you want to be as a kid? I think something in the medical field…likely a nurse. 

What was your first ever job? Working at Dairy Queen. I can still make a Dairy Bar or Peanut Butter Parfait in my sleep. Miraculously I did not gain weight!

Any guilty pleasures? I started out as a Dairy Queen girl and I still absolutely love ice cream. And chocolate. And wine.

What’s on your tablet?  Mostly work-related stuff – how boring, eh?  Lots of family photos, travel photos.

What do people not know about you? I have a couple of hobbies including hiking and making stained glass. And when I was younger I took bagpipe lessons!

What would you tell your 20 year old self? “Oh, chill out. Stop getting fussed over details. (laughs) And stop playing the bagpipes!”

Who do you most admire in the industry? I have a great admiration for travel agents in general.  They have to know so much and deal with clients.  You have to have it in your soul.

What skill or talent do you admire in someone? Anybody who’s musical. And people who can make decisions on the fly.

What’s at the top of your bucket list? I’d like to walk the Camino in Spain. 

Ever had a brush with fame? Not that long ago I met Jon Landau, the producer of the movie Titanic. Nice guy, loves Canadians.

What keeps you awake at night? Right now I’m about to get a root canal so I think about that. I worry about my family, my son Andrew, who’s 24. Once a mother always a mother!

How do you spend your frequent flyer points? Travel. My last vacation was to the California Coast.

How do you stay fit when you travel? Walking and making better food choices. 

If you could change one thing about the industry what would it be? I guess right now, be more responsible as tourists and take sustainable travel seriously indeed.

If you could sit next to anyone on a long-haul flight, who would it be? Oprah. She fascinates me and I think she’d be wonderful company.

Do you have a favourite charity? I do a lot with Ryan’s Well, named for a young lad in my home town of Kemptville who, when he was 7, started saving his birthday money for a well in Africa. It’s a beautiful story. He still has his foundation.

What will be the biggest challenge for the industry in the next 12 months? Safety and security continues to be of concern. And again, sustainability.

What do you hope to be doing in 10 years? Retired and travelling!

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