Our leadership team
Brendan Jones, Chief Executive Officer, Experience Education.
Brendan has been in the travel industry for almost 25 years, starting his career with Stena Line in Southampton after gaining a Post Graduate Diploma in Tourism. He moved to Eurotunnel as Groups Sales and Marketing Manager and then to be MD of Harris Holidays, a coach tour operator.
From 2000, Brendan ran and was joint owner of European Study Tours (EST), an Education based travel company, and Skiweekends.com. He led the sale of the company to Holidaybreak PLC in 2009.
After the sale of EST, Brendan took a short sabbatical and travelled around the world with his wife ending up in Tanzania. Upon his return in 2010, Brendan joined TUI Group’s Specialist and Activity Sector as the Portfolio Managing Director for the UK Education Division. In 2012 Brendan moved to run the North American Education Division and since 2014, he has been responsible for Experience Education as a whole with all brand MDs worldwide reporting directly to him.
Brendan lives with his wife in East Sussex and enjoys all spectator sports, hiking, half marathons and extensive travelling.
William Irwin, COO/ Finance Director, Experience Education
Bill has been in the travel industry for almost 20 years. He began his journey with the Experience Education Group as the CFO for StudentCity in October 1998. He has since held roles as Finance Director for the North American Education Division, Managing Director for the North American Education Division, Chief Financial Officer of Experience Education and is currently the Chief Operating Officer/Finance Director of Experience Education.
Bill was part of the team that acquired the brands throughout North America which are now part of the Experience Education Group. Bill is a vital member of the Experience Education Executive team, who is often sought for his industry expertise. Prior to joining EE, Bill held various accounting and finance roles at Raytheon during his 12-year tenure.
Bill and his wife of 28 years live in North Andover, MA with their 4 children. Bill enjoys spending time with his family, riding his motorcycle and going to the gym.
Christine Raffa, Managing Director, Brightspark US.
Christine Raffa has been a member of the educational travel industry for 14 years. Beginning her journey with Jumpstreet, she has held positions in Sales, Operations and Information Technology both at the business and wider Group level. Two years ago she took on the role of Managing Director of Brightspark, moving to Chicago, IL. In this role, Christine and her team provide experiences for 52,000 passengers each year, both domestically and internationally. Having an extensive background in the travel industry, Christine provides a fresh and innovative perspective to Brightspark’s sales, marketing and operational teams which has allowed Brightspark to grow as a business during her tenure.
Originally from Montreal, in her free time, Christine loves to travel and spend time with her family and friends.
Linda Philp, Managing Director, Brightspark Canada.
Linda Philp has been involved in the student travel industry for over 30 years. She began fresh out of school working with a student ski tour operator. Here she met her future business partner and they promptly started Young Explorers Inc. in July 1987, servicing the educational student tour market. Linda and her partner grew the two-person company into a well-established educational travel company, employing a staff of nine.
In 2007, Young Explorers was purchased by First Choice Holidays PLC (later becoming TUI Travel PLC), joining what is now Experience Education, along with two other educational tour companies in Toronto. The three companies began sharing office space in 2007 and in 2008 named Linda the Managing Director of all three brands. In 2010, Brightspark was formed, merging all three brands into one. Linda has successfully lead a team of 40+ staff to deliver wonderful educational travel experiences for students and teachers both domestically and internationally.
Linda loves to travel, discovering local wines and cuisine along the way. She and her husband share their time between Toronto and Rossland, British Columbia.
Mark Clarke, Managing Director, Jumpstreet/Educatours.
Mark has been in the educational travel business for nearly thirty years. He began his career as a tour guide leading groups throughout North America. After learning the business, he and his brother Tom co-founded Jumpstreet Tours which they ran for seventeen years before being acquired by First Choice Holidays PLC in 2006. Through this acquisition, Jumsptreet joined what is now Experience Education, along with fellow Montreal business Educatours. In 2007, Jumpstreet and Educatours merged into one company, with Mark being named the Managing Director.
In this role, Mark has lead his team in developing new product and branding Jumsptreet and Educatours as a ‘go to’ in the student travel industry. The Jumpstreet and Educatours team are active within the community through volunteerism and community outreach. Mark is often asked to speak at events and conferences throughout North America where he shares his extensive knowledge of student travel and its importance and impact on shaping young people’s lives. He and his team pride themselves on delivering exceptional tours. Some say Mark was born on a motor coach and to this day he is known for hopping on a bus, microphone in hand, ready to lead a tour.
Mark lives in Montreal with his wife and 4 children. He enjoys spending time with his three boys and his daughter at their cabin in northern Canada and also enjoys swimming, skiing and music in his spare time.
Sam Cox, Managing Director, Student City/Grad City.
Having been in the travel industry for the last ten years, Sam joined TUI Travel PLC as a Senior Business Improvement Manager. Within this role she consulted with TUI’s businesses on ways to improve margin, revenue generation and overhead spend. In 2009, she became the Managing Director of Trek America. In addition, she became the Managing Director of Real Gap in 2010. In 2012, Sam moved to Boston, Massachusetts where she took on the role of Managing Director of StudentCity and its sister brand, GradCity within the Experience Education Group. Sam and her team have focused on building eCommerce platforms, creating sponsorships with business partners and product development.
Prior to joining TUI, Sam was in the pub industry for eleven years where she worked in business development, operations and marketing throughout the United Kingdom.
Sam, resides in Boston’s North End with her husband and enjoys traveling, playing tennis, good food and wine!
Rob Brown, Managing Director, World Class Vacations.
Rob started World Class Vacations in 1978, right out of college, and the business is celebrating 40 years in student travel in 2018. Many of the original management are still with the company today. World Class Vacations remains one of Disney’s top student travel planners in the world, sending thousands of students on Senior Class and Music Trips to Disney World, Florida each year. However the business also now owns and operates unique events that Rob has created, such as Dance the World Disney, The World Dance Competition, Cook Around the World, Dance the World Holiday Season Edition and Dance the World Broadway, which allows parents to join their children to enjoy World Class Vacations’ amazing experiences together. Rob oversees the creative, sales/marketing and operational aspects of the business and surrounds himself with top professionals in the industry to implement his business plan.
Rob has received many honours through the years. Other than having the privilege of working with some of the most talented and dedicated people in the industry at World Class Vacations, and his philanthropic work with St Christopher’s Hospital for Children and other children based charities, his most coveted award is the ‘Disney Partner Award’, presented to only a select few key partners.
Bryn Robinson, Managing Director, Skibound, Travelbound & JCA Adventure.
Bryn has been involved in educational travel for over 25 years.
He started his career running ski schools in the French Alps for clients of British educational tour operators and is himself a highly qualified ski instructor in both the French and British ski school systems. He spent 5 years teaching and training ski instructors in France before joining Skibound as French operations manager in 1992. Bryn became a Director of Skibound in 1999 and subsequently Managing Director for the SkiBound and Travelbound from 2003. Between 2009 – 2012 Bryn held various other MD roles within TUI, becoming the MD for its university ski businesses, followed by MD of its school sports brands (Edwin Doran and Gullivers Sports Tours).
Bryn returned to Experience Education to run its Brighton based brands in 2013 and lives close by with his wife and 2 children. Sport is a big part of family life and they manage to ski several times a year as a family.
Pete Fletcher, Managing Director, World Challenge Group.
Pete started his career working in finance in London before travelling and adventuring around the world, eventually settling in Melbourne. In 2004 a life threatening car accident led Pete to reassess priorities and leave his role as a diamond wholesaler to join World Challenge in Australia. In 2008 World Challenge was sold to TUI, following which Pete became General Manager Australasia in 2011 and Global Sales Director in 2014.
Pete was given responsibility for all of World Challenge in 2016, being appointed Managing Director of the UK headquartered business. He spends several months each year living in the UK as part of his global MD role as well as travelling to World Challenge’s other source markets on a regular basis.
Pete holds the Guinness World Record for the fastest 24 hours in an ocean rowing boat and became the first Australian to row across the North Atlantic when he and a friend rowed unassisted across the North Atlantic from New York to Falmouth in 2015, completing the crossing in 98 days. He lives on the Mornington Peninsula in Australia and enjoys surfing, karate and travelling with his wife and three daughters.