Travel agent cel­e­brates 35 years as a spe­cial­ist in Latin Amer­ica

Calgary Herald - - CITY + REGION - DAVID PARKER NEWS AND NOTES David Parker ap­pears reg­u­larly in the Her­ald. Read his columns on­line at cal­gary­her­ald.com/ busi­ness. He can be reached at 403-830-4622 or by email at [email protected]­parker.ca.

This week­end, 14 Cal­gar­i­ans will set off on a spe­cial tour of South Amer­ica led by Ge­orge Romberg, who will be cel­e­brat­ing 35 years since he opened a travel busi­ness in Cal­gary.

Or­ga­nized by Romberg ’s Magic Tours & Travel, The Pres­i­dent’s Tour in­cludes guided vis­its to Lima/Cusco, Machu Pic­chu, Men­doza, Iguazu Falls and Buenos Aires, giv­ing va­ca­tion­ers his ex­pe­ri­ence of more than three decades of spe­cial­iz­ing in travel to Latin Amer­ica.

Romberg has built Magic Tours into the first choice for pack­aged tours through­out West­ern Canada, serv­ing Mex­ico, Cen­tral and South Amer­ica.

Born in a small town in Ar­gentina, Romberg says his mother felt that her son should learn English and, when he was six, sent him on his bi­cy­cle ev­ery day to learn from Mrs. Robert­son, an English lady liv­ing close by.

His love of lan­guages took him to Buenos Aires Uni­ver­sity, and af­ter grad­u­a­tion he worked as a trans­la­tor in com­merce and the le­gal sec­tor, then for nine years he was em­ployed by Ar­gentina Air­lines, help­ing en­gi­neers and me­chan­ics un­der­stand the spe­cific pro­ce­dures for Bri­tish Air­craft Corp. One Eleven air­lin­ers.

Romberg was for­tu­nate to have been ac­cepted as a Ro­tary ex­change stu­dent that had him liv­ing in Nanaimo, on Van­cou­ver Is­land for a year. He says liv­ing with fam­i­lies there opened his eyes to Canada and he was ap­proved to move here in 1978. His mem­o­rable ar­rival in Cal­gary was one day be­fore the Stam­pede Pa­rade, and look­ing for work the fol­low­ing Mon­day was a tough propo­si­tion, but he knocked on doors and found em­ploy­ment with a travel agent along 17th Av­enue S.W., which pro­vided him with nec­es­sary lo­cal ex­pe­ri­ence.

Af­ter two years with Travel Con­nec­tions in Mar­ket Mall he was made man­ager, and then it was down­town to work as sales man­ager for White­side World Travel in Cal­gary Place, where his wife, Mon­ica, was work­ing for Mex­i­cana Air­lines.

Then, Mex­i­cana closed its Cal­gary of­fice and White­side closed his of­fice, want­ing him to re­lo­cate into Elve­den House. But a good client who ap­pre­ci­ated Romberg ’s ser­vice per­suaded him to open his own agency and stay in Cal­gary Place.

He did, and de­cided to con­cen­trate on tour pack­ages to Latin Amer­ica. It wasn’t an easy start, be­cause at that time tourists had to fly to Mon­treal Dor­val and trans­fer to Mirabelle air­port by bus. But thanks to his travel ex­pe­ri­ence and knowl­edge of the Latin mar­ket, he was able to es­tab­lish won­der­ful re­la­tion­ships with sup­pli­ers and des­ti­na­tion com­pa­nies — many of which he still uses to­day — and Magic Tours quickly be­came the agency to go to for re­gional peace of mind, pro­fes­sion­al­ism and re­li­a­bil­ity.

Over the years Romberg has been in­volved in Cal­gary’s Latin com­mu­nity and is vis­i­ble at many Span­ish-speak­ing events, while also pro­duc­ing and host­ing twice-weekly talk shows in Span­ish on 947FM.

A fre­quent sup­porter of the Cal­gary Phil­har­monic Or­ches­tra, seven years ago — af­ter buy­ing raf­fle tick­ets at per­for­mances for trips over­seas and hav­ing a pro­mo­tional ta­ble at con­certs with Latin con­tent — he asked if he could pro­vide a tour. Romberg says get­ting in­volved with the CPO was the best mar­ket­ing de­ci­sion he ever made. Magic Tours do­nates trips for two peo­ple and his ta­ble is prom­i­nent at ev­ery per­for­mance.

The Cal­gary of­fice has a staff of five full-time and two part-time spe­cial­ists in Latin Amer­ica who cater to tourists from across West­ern Canada look­ing for a dream va­ca­tion on one of the most colour­ful, di­verse and ad­ven­ture-filled places on Earth.

It’s too bad the Cal­gary HandiBus Foun­da­tion will close in early 2019. Pres­i­dent and CEO Pat Pel­li­grino says that three years ago the or­ga­ni­za­tion moved the op­er­a­tion of its buses to Cal­gary Tran­sit, which has served its cus­tomers well. But he says it was deemed that the cost of con­tin­u­ing to op­er­ate the char­ity, which like many oth­ers has suf­fered from a sig­nif­i­cant drop in do­na­tions, is not a re­spon­si­ble use of the re­sources pro­vided by sup­port­ers. Any funds re­main­ing will be do­nated to the Cal­gary Foun­da­tion and other not-for­prof­its pro­vid­ing trans­porta­tion and mo­bil­ity op­tions to the city’s dis­abled com­mu­nity. Since its in­cep­tion in 1971-72, Cal­gary HandiBus has pur­chased 437 buses and, with the City of Cal­gary, pro­vided more than 16 mil­lion trips.

Ge­orge Romberg of Magic Tours and Travel.

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