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Friday,  April 19, 2024 11:39 AM 

ACTA’s golf tournament returns; President Wendy Paradis shares advocacy updates

ACTA’s golf tournament returns; President Wendy Paradis shares advocacy updates
ACTA President Wendy Paradis talks to PAX about the association's advocacy priorities. (File photo).
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 Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.

It’s one of the most anticipated travel industry events of the year, by par.

The Association of Canadian Travel Agencies’ (ACTA’s) annual golf tournament tees off Thursday (July 13), returning to Royal Ontario Golf Club in Milton, ON, with a day of fun on the links and a post-game cocktail reception and dinner.

Attracting travel agency owners, suppliers, tourism boards, and executives, the popular networking event, which is also an advocacy fundraiser for ACTA, was announced as far back as December 2022 so people had plenty of time to organize their calendars.

“We’ve been doing this event for a number of years and it always sells out quickly,” said Wendy Paradis, ACTA’s president, speaking to PAX over the phone last week. “People in the industry really value it. They book their vacations around it.”

Air Canada, once again, is this year’s Title Sponsor for the tournament. Major sponsors are Manulife and Globus Family of Brands, while Antigua and Barbuda is the day's Destination Sponsor.

The Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority will deliver “a taste of the islands” this year, according to a press release that went out earlier this week.

READ MORE: Antigua's Amaya Athill to tee off at ACTA golf tournament

Multi-genre Antiguan entertainer Drastic is set to welcome guests on arrival, alongside prominent Antiguan DJ, DJ Gravity.

Antiguan-born Canadian professional golfer Amaya Athill will join the travel industry on the links at ACTA's 2023 golf tournament on July 13. (Supplied)

Serving up authentic Antigua and Barbuda fare for golfers will be Giovanni Meyer, a Toronto-based Antiguan private chef.

Meanwhile, Antiguan-born Canadian professional golfer Amaya Athill will join attendees on the course to play and share pointers.

“Zoom and Teams are fabulous, but getting together, face to face, is incredibly impactful,” Paradis told PAX.  

And there’s definitely excitement in the air.

Collette's Ron Lonsdale, PAX's Nancy Benetton-Sampath, along with George Christakis & Brett Walker (also of Collette) at ACTA's golf tournament in 2022. (Pax Global Media)

After all, last summer, the Canadian travel industry faced a cloud of uncertainty as COVID-era travel restrictions still lurked in the shadows.

Team members from ACTA – including Paradis – didn’t even make it to last year’s tournament due to last-minute COVID symptoms and positive tests.

“It’s so great we’re not talking about that anymore,” Paradis remarked. “People are just really excited to have a day out of the office and take a break.”

Feedback wanted

While the pandemic, in many ways, is yesterday’s news, there are still serious conversations to be had about travel industry advocacy – ACTA’s main beat.

Earlier this week, the association launched a new 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.

READ MORE: New ACTA survey assesses industry's capacity to repay gov't loans

Many travel and tourism businesses accessed federal loans during the pandemic.

ACTA has launched a new survey that looks at debt levels and the trade's capacity to repay government loans. (Shutterstock/

However, tight repayment terms are proving to impede business recovery across Canada, says ACTA, which is also seeking feedback on preferred solutions for repayment.

The deadline to complete ACTA’s survey, which can be accessed here, is Friday, July 28 by 3 p.m. EST / (Noon PST).

Eliminating red tape

Paradis says there’s a lot of activity happening in the background right now that is adding burden and barriers to travel agencies and independent travel advisors.

“Our goal and focus right now is to eliminate those challenges so agencies and agents can focus on what they do best, and that’s sell travel and offer great service,” Paradis told PAX.

One of the most common things she hears is how busy the travel trade has been over the past year as demand for travel, after years of pandemic pauses, returns with a vengeance.

But governments and regulators have been busy too, Paradis says. 

And that’s not always a good thing in the advocacy world, especially as the travel industry, one of the hardest-hit sectors during COVID, continues to work towards a full recovery.

“We’re surprised at how often we are being contacted about new regulations, new red tape, and new fees that will impact travel agencies and agents,” Paradis explained.  

One battle ACTA is currently embroiled in pertains to insurance as the association challenges provincial regulators to eliminate excessive rules and fees.

“There’s a lot of red tape in this industry that bogs it down. Sometimes it’s valuable, sometimes it’s just not,” Paradis said.

ACTA President Wendy Paradis addresses Summit attendees in Toronto in September 2022. (File photo/Pax Global Media)

Another focus is to help build win-win relationships between travel agencies and suppliers.

It’s a task that has been ongoing as more travel advisors, amid a changing business landscape, call on suppliers to commit to sales and commission policies that are fair and equitable.

ACTA, in recent months, has also zeroed in on educating travel agencies, via webinars, about New Distribution Technology (NDC) – a program that Air Canada recently implemented – and its impact on business.

“NDC is the future of airline distribution,” Paradis said, noting how agents, now, have a much better understanding of the program compared to a few months back, when there was “a tremendous amount of confusion.”

Frustrations with TICO

One specific issue ACTA is tackling this fall and winter, Paradis said, is taking the Travel Industry Council of Ontario (TICO) to task over its funding review.

As previously reported, TICO (Ontario's travel industry regulator responsible for consumer protection laws) is undergoing the largest review of its funding framework and fee structure since its inception, and ACTA, along with the Canadian Association of Tour Operators (CATO), is really frustrated with the process.

Both groups say they’ve been provided with partial information and no financial impact analysis on the industry.

They jointly oppose maintaining TICO’s current registrant fee system to fund the Compensation Fund, which reimburses customers in situations where, for example, a client has paid for travel services that were not provided, and the payment was made through a TICO-certified business.

READ MORE: ACTA, CATO protest lack of transparency in TICO review; TICO responds

This Fund is financed by registered travel advisors and wholesalers in Ontario, and ACTA and CATO call it a financial burden.

Stressing the need for a new model that provides “real protection,” the groups are calling for a legislated consumer “insurance” contribution system, similar to one in Quebec.

In Quebec, consumers pays for protection that amounts to approximately $3.50 per $1,000 in travel expense.

TICO says its review will be submitted to the Ministry of Public and Business Service Delivery prior to launching consultations.

And last month, in a press release, TICO’s CEO Richard Smart said that while the council was eager to disclose its fee review analysis, it would be “premature to share incomplete information at this stage."

At any rate, ACTA, which has been advocating for a review of TICO’s fees for some time now, isn’t thrilled about being left in the dark.

“We are very frustrated with the process,” Paradis told PAX. “We object to information, or a report, going to the Ministry without our input.”

Paradis says 40 per cent of travel sales in Canada happen in Ontario, making this a “significant issue.”

Attracting new talent

Other ACTA initiatives in the months ahead include advocating for smooth operations at airports and tackling the labour crisis.

"The labour shortage is still here, and it’s going to be here for a while,” Paradis said.

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

READ MORE: Pam Hoffee & Bruce Poon Tip named keynote speakers at ACTA Fall Summits

ACTA’s online training program for industry newcomers, which existed prior to COVID, will also relaunch with stronger emphasis, Paradis noted.

“There’s a lot of interest in joining the travel industry. We’re seeing 40 to 60-year-olds starting second careers,” she said.

Attracting younger folks remains a challenge, however.

“We need to be very creative and tap into markets we haven’t tapped into deeply in the past,” Paradis said, citing newcomers to Canada and people with mobility issues (who can work from home) as examples.

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

Even experienced agents can brush up on their knowledge by registering for one of ACTA’s training courses, some of which are discounted by up to 20 per cent during the summer.

Industry rally at Fall Summits

All of these hot topics, and more, will take centre stage at ACTA’s Travel Industry Summits, taking place this September in Toronto, ON (Sept. 14), Richmond, BC (Sept. 21) and Laval, QC (Sept. 27).

The theme is "Connect. Inspire. Grow,” and the events will feature motivational speakers, power panels, and leaders from various sectors who will share ideas, opportunities and experiences.

On location at ACTA's 2022 Fall Summit in Toronto. (Pax Global Media)

Bruce Poon Tip, founder of G Adventures, has been announced as the keynote speaker for the BC summit, while Pam Hoffee, president of Avalon Waterways, will speak in Toronto.

The Summits, which will cover topics like business trends, mental health and artificial intelligence, will be “travel advisor centric,” Paradis said.

And anyone who’s new to the biz will have opportunities to connect and learn from others.

“There’s a lot of newcomers in our industry,” Paradis said. “Getting them to network with seasoned advisors is the goal.”

For more information on ACTA’s Fall Summits, or to register for an event, click here.

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