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Sunday,  June 23, 2024 7:17 AM 

ACTA announces name change, outlines advocacy priorities at Toronto summit


ACTA announces name change, outlines advocacy priorities at Toronto summit
ACTA President Wendy Paradis addresses attendees at the Toronto stop of ACTA's travel industry summit series. (Pax Global Media)
Michael Pihach

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.

Travel agent? Travel counsellor? Travel specialist? What’s in a name? A lot, it seems.

The Association of Canadian Travel Agencies (ACTA) kicked off its 2023 Eastern Canada travel industry summit in Toronto Thursday morning (Sept. 14) with confirmation of an official name change.

Addressing a ballroom of more than 500 industry pros at the Toronto Congress Centre, ACTA President Wendy Paradis revealed that the national trade association representing Canada’s retail travel sector will now be known as “The Association of Canadian Travel Agencies and Travel Advisors.”

The change was done to “modernize and be more reflective of active members,” Paradis shared, saying that discussions to change ACTA’s name began in 2018.

Traditionally, travel agencies have been ACTA members, and years back, the industry didn’t have the high number of independent sole proprietors that it has today, Paradis explained.

With many host agencies serving sole proprietorships, “we thought it would be a great idea to change our name to better reflect ACTA members,” she said.

ACTA's travel industry summit kicked off in Toronto on Sept. 14 with more than 500 attendees. (Pax Global Media)

It also became clear to ACTA during the pandemic that it had to advocate on behalf of members differently because many sole proprietors were blocked from accessing COVID benefits.  

Moving forward, ACTA will use the term “travel advisor” when referencing the trade in media interviews and messaging.

“Traditionally, travel agent has been a very respected term, but as we modernize, we find more and more that travel advisors are specializing. They're consulting with their clients, they’re playing a much more transactional role than they did 40 years ago,” Paradis said.

“But honestly, you should call yourself whatever it is that resonates with you.”

Advocacy priorities  

The theme of ACTA’s 2023 summit series is "Connect. Inspire. Grow,” and events are taking place this month in Toronto, Richmond, BC (Sept. 21) and Laval, QC (Sept. 27) to help facilitate those goals.

Each event features motivational speakers, power panels, and travel leaders from various sectors who will share ideas, opportunities and experiences.

Paradis took time on Thursday to outline ACTA’s advocacy priorities, which includes lobbying Ottawa to reduce unnecessary administration and financial burdens by investing in workforce development so the travel industry can rebuild.

Travel agency and ITA loan forgiveness and delayed payments are central issues.

(Later in the day, Ottawa revealed that it will extend the repayment deadline for its CEBA loan program by one year).

Last month, ACTA launched a survey for travel agencies, host agencies and independent travel advisors to share their current debt level and confidence in their capacity to repay government loans by Dec. 31, 2023.

Of the 239 individuals who filled out the survey, the majority of travel agencies and independent travel advisors said they are not confident they can repay principle and interest on CEBA, RRRF and HASCAP loans by Dec. 31.

ACTA President Wendy Paradis addresses summit delegates. (Pax Global Media)

ACTA is also monitoring independent advisors in their network who have been asked to return their COVID relief payments, such as the CERB and CRB.

“For the most part, we're not seeing it as a large issue,” Paradis said, encouraging those who are facing recalls to contact ACTA’s Director of Advocacy and Industry Relations Steve Olmstead for guidance.

ACTA, meanwhile, has launched an industry-wide letter writing campaign calling on Minister Freeland to provide more time for federal loans to be repaid. The campaign runs until September 29.

The association is asking industry members to send a letter to their Member of Parliament and Minister Freeland.

A sample letter is provided by ACTA and MP information will auto fill when an addressed is inserted. The process takes less than two minutes (click here to get started).

The strategy will include tactics throughout the Fall, including formal submissions to government, mainstream news media, social media, and meetings with MPs across Canada.

Paradis also took time to address The Travel Industry Council of Ontario (TICO),  which is currently undergoing the largest review of its funding framework and fee model since its inception.

As previously reported, ACTA and the Canadian Association of Tour Operators (CATO) in June withdrew their respective appointees from the TICO board out of frustration over the lack of transparency regarding the financial impact on TICO registrants.

“ACTA and CATO have not been kept in the loop about what the fees are, and so on, which we totally disagree with,” Paradis said Thursday. “Based on our experience, when a report goes from TICO to the Minister, it's very difficult to change afterwards.”

Both ACTA and CATO have outlined a list of demands, including the need for a new funding model that will provide what they say is a “fairer playing field and real protection” to consumers.

The two associations have called for a legislated Consumer “insurance” contribution system, similar to the one in Quebec, where the consumer pays for protection of approximately $3.50 per $1,000 in travel expense

TICO’s annual AGM is coming up on Sept. 26, and Paradis urged all Ontario-based travel advisors to attend. (For details, click here).

Another priority at ACTA includes the need to build a stronger travel industry by helping improve advisor-supplier relations, Paradis said.

The association is looking to fix cash flow issues faced by members by asking suppliers to find a way to process commissions at the time of final payment versus departure or after a client returns from a trip.

And to pay commission on penalty fees and non-refundable amounts.

“It needs to be a win-win,” Paradis explained, adding how “there’s already a lot of organizations in this room who do these two priorities.”

The team from Boutique Travel Services attend ACTA's summit in Toronto.  (Pax Global Media)

Future ACTA initiatives include advocating for smoother operations at airports and tackling the labour crisis.

Over the next few months, ACTA will be using social media to invite individuals to join the travel industry and to promote travel advisors as a profession.

ACTA’s online Travel Agents Essential Program now includes a matching program that pairs industry newcomers with experienced agents, creating space for mentorship.

Paradis said ACTA has also enhanced its diversity and inclusion training.

A jam-packed day

The Toronto stop of ACTA’s summit features a jam-packed agenda, including educational sessions that address some of the latest toolkits for the trade, artificial intelligence and its impact on the industry, mental health and wellness discussions and expert tips on selling cruises.

Air Canada will also be sharing some of its current initiatives, including updates to Aeroplan, its digital landscape, in-flight gastronomy and on-board connectivity.

From left: Air Canada's Andrea Arkell, Lisa Pierce and Jamie Fox. (Pax Global Media)

A power panel featuring Lisa Pierce, vice president, global sales for Air Canada and Air Canada Vacations, Zeina Gedeon, CEO of Trevello Travel Group, Joseph Adamo, president of Transat Distribution Canada and chief sales and marketing officer of Transat, and Michael Johnson, president of Ensemble, also unfolded Thursday morning.

Each shared their own insights on the latest industry trends, which PAX will share in a future report. Stay tuned.

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