Wednesday,  July 28, 2021  7:05 am

Feds scrap travel attack ads after ACITA meets with Health Minister Hajdu

Feds scrap travel attack ads after ACITA meets with Health Minister Hajdu
The Association of Canadian Independent Travel Advisors (ACITA) met with Health Minister Patty Hajdu on June 7. (ACITA)
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.

The Government of Canada has changed the tone of its messaging about travel on social media thanks to a recent Zoom call between The Association of Canadian Independent Travel Advisors (ACITA) and Health Minister Patty Hajdu.

Meeting virtually with Minister Hajdu on Monday, June 7, ACITA, in a presentation highlighting their concerns around travel restrictions, addressed the negative-sounding ads that Ottawa had been posting to Twitter and Facebook, via travel.gc.ca, for several months.

The visuals in these posts stated messages such as “now is not the time to travel” and “don’t book that trip just yet.”

“We explained how this was putting fear into the hearts of Canadians and how we need messages of hope for the future,” TravelOnly’s Nancy Wilson of ACITA told PAX on Thursday (June 10), sharing details of the call.

READ MORE: #WeAreNotDoneYet: ACITA social media campaign urges travel advisors to keep fighting

In response, the Health Minister told ACITA that she would look into revising the government's messaging online and ACITA was “happy to see” that the negative posts in question were removed from social media the very next day.

Twitter and Facebook posts coming from travel.gc.ca, now, appear to focus more on travel safety tips.

Ford frustrations

Minister Hajdu also told ACITA that she has been “particularly frustrated” with the negative travel advertising coming from Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s office.

“It was interesting for us to hear her say that travel is not the issue after months of ACITA advocating these very words,” Wilson told PAX.

Minister Hajdu said travel is “not the evil” the Ford government makes it out to be and asked ACITA and the industry at large to support this message, Wilson said.

“She explained that, up until now, the federal government wanted people to stay put, but they are now cautiously looking at opening things as more Canadians get vaccinated,” Wilson said.

“Interestingly, she talked about the U.S. rates of vaccination stalling and the fact that we will catch up to their levels soon.”

CHANGE THE TONE. The government is now focused on posting travel safety tips. (Travel.gc.ca)

The Minister expects Canada to soon pass the U.S. on vaccinations on a per capita basis as there is less hesitancy in Canada, Wilson said.

“She stated, ‘The faster we get this done, the faster we get our lives back,’” Wilson said. “She was very impressed by our Association, along with others such as the Chamber of Commerce, Union and Industry Ads, calling us all influencers, urging us to keep up with our message to move forward.”

Falling through the cracks

The virtual call was a “full house” with 93 independent travel advisors tuning in.

“We took her through all the various aid programs and showed her how independent advisors have fallen through every single crack,” Wilson said.

READ MORE: "He offered us his support": ACITA meets with Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole

One example of this is how the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) will be reduced to $300/week starting in July.

“This reduction will be devastating for us, after hanging on by a thread for the last 15 months solely on the CRB,” Wilson explained.  

Health Minister Patty Hajdu. (File photo)

Minister Hajdu promised ACITA that she would have a conversation with fellow Ministers Chrystia Freeland and Carla Qualtrough to outline this gap in assistance – on ACITA’s behalf.

ACITA’s Brenda Slater of Beyond the Beach asked Minister Hajdu if she could go as far as setting up a meeting between ACITA and the two Ministers.

“This is something we have been aiming for, for almost a year now, and we made sure she understood the critical need for this meeting as soon as possible,” Wilson said.

“She was quite agreeable”

ACITA also urged Minister Hajdu to consider the data-driven recommendations made by the COVID-19 Testing and Screening Expert Advisory Panel, a federally-appointed group of science experts that, last month, released a report calling for changes to testing and screening at the border, including the elimination of hotel quarantine.

“She was quite agreeable,” Wilson said, “which is something that took us a bit by surprise given their previous position on the matter.”

After Wednesday’s announcement about relaxing quarantine rules for fully vaccinated travellers, “it is clear she knew these changes were imminent,” Wilson said.

Of ACITA: Judith Coates, TTAND (left); Nancy Wilson, TravelOnly (top, right); Brenda Slater, Beyond the Beach (bottom, right).

“Overall, we were quite happy with the meeting. We felt it was a very open and productive dialogue, from both sides.”

ACITA, a volunteer-run advocacy group that supports home-based and independent travel advisors, formed in June of 2020. The group is led by Wilson, Slater and Judith Coates of The Travel Agent Next Door. 

Amassing a membership of more than 1,700 independent advisors on a private Facebook page, the group encourages members to schedule Zoom calls with their local MPs so they can personally explain why they need help.

To date, ACITA has completed more than 220 meetings with MPs, ministers and policy advisors to inform and educate them about the unique circumstances independent advisors face during the pandemic.

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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