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Wednesday,  April 17, 2024 5:57 PM 

“This was a team effort": ACITA's Judith Coates honoured with advocacy award

“This was a team effort": ACITA's Judith Coates honoured with advocacy award
Judith Coates of the Association of Canadian Independent Travel Advisors (ACITA). (Supplied)
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.

A co-founder of the Association of Canadian Independent Travel Advisors (ACITA), a grassroots organization that has been fighting for fairness on behalf of independent travel advisors during the COVID-19 pandemic, has been honoured with an award.  

Judith Coates, an advisor with The Travel Agent Next Door, received the Gerald Heifetz Trailblazer Advocacy Award during the Association of Canadian Travel Agencies’ (ACTA) 2021 industry summit on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1.

The award is a nod to Gerald Heifetz, who was instrumental in the foundation of ACTA and CITC. 

"He established many of the laws that currently govern the Canadian travel and airline industry," says ACTA. 

The recipients are those who, in the most recent year, have had a "significant and positive impact through advocacy on behalf of Canadian travel agents and travel agencies."

Coates launched ACITA in June of 2020 alongside Brenda Slater of Beyond the Beach and Nancy Wilson of TravelOnly.

READ MORE: “We’re not taking no for an answer”: Group rallies independent advisors as lobbying efforts gain steam

Since then, the volunteer association has rallied their 1,800-plus membership base on a private Facebook group, urging agents to contact their local MPs, and arrange Zoom meetings, so they can personally explain why they’ve needed help during the pandemic. 

And to educate politicians about how the travel industry actually works.

ACITA’s efforts have led to impactful campaigns that resulted in the words “independent travel advisor” being spoken in the House of Commons for the very first time. 

From left (of ACITA): Nancy Wilson, TravelOnly; Judith Coates, The Travel Agent Next Door; Brenda Slater, Beyond the Beach. (Supplied)

In fact, Coates, Slater and Wilson met in person, for the very first time, just recently.

They first connected online, which limited their correspondence during the pandemic to phone, email and social media.

"A team effort"

“This was a team effort,” Coates told PAX on winning the award. “Nancy and Brenda have worked shoulder to shoulder with me. Our executive team (nine people) has done a lot of work behind the scenes, and each of our members have done an amazing job in reaching out to their federal and provincial representatives to ask for accountability, get meetings and do the work of following up.”

Coates said ACITA’s job has been to “keep everyone motivated, and give them the tools they need to get our message heard by the government.”

From left (of ACITA): Heather Kearns, Jamie Badowski, Mandy Armstrong, Mike Sanderson, Brenda Slater, Pam Pereira, Judth Coates, Nancy Wilson. Not pictured: Cathy Cordy, Kristin Hoogendoorn, Terry Declare, Caitlin Lajeunesse. (Supplied)

“MPs and government officials know the name ACITA, but we need to continue to let them know that we need sector-specific aid and that we aren’t going away,” Coates said.

Travel pros that do not belong to ACITA's private Facebook group for independent agents are welcome to message the association through its website or public Facebook page.

You can also follow ACITA’s progress on Twitter here.

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