Wednesday,  June 7, 2023  12:27 pm

Putter late than never: ACTA golf event returns with prizes, advocacy updates & singing

Putter late than never: ACTA golf event returns with prizes, advocacy updates & singing
From left: Collette's Ron Lonsdale, Nancy Benetton-Sampath, VP, media, Pax Global Media; George Christakis & Brett Walker (also of Collette) hang out at ACTA's golf tournament in Milton, ON. (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 Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.

Talk about a tee-rific and un-fore-gettable day.

Blessed with glowing sunshine and a blue sky that didn’t even look real, the Association of Canadian Travel Agencies (ACTA) resurrected its travel industry golf tournament on Thursday (July 14) after pausing the annual affair for two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

More than 130 travel pros, from suppliers to retail travel agents to trade media, hit the lush links at Royal Ontario Golf Club in Milton, ON, to par-tee and kick putt over 18 holes in a tournament that followed a best ball format.

From left (of ACTA): Fiona Bowen, membership manager, Western Canada, Ontario & Atlantic; Marco Pozzobon; director, marketing, communications & partnerships. (Pax Global Media)

“We’re coming out of some really serious challenges in the industry [and] it’s more important than ever to reconnect, reshape and reestablish. Today is the beginning of that and it feels fantastic,” Marco Pozzobon, director, marketing, communications and partnerships at ACTA, told PAX, which spent the day driving around in a golf cart, armed with signs depicting PAX-branded hashtags, to photograph players.

The golf extravaganza, ACTA’s 32nd edition, was supported by title sponsor Air Canada, whose logo graced the front of all golf carts, along with Manulife and Globus Family of Brands joining as major sponsors.

From left: Tracey Bellamy, Air Canada; Ana Paula De Souza, Air Canada Vacations; Dianne Pedroso, Air Canada Vacations; Jamie Fox, Air Canada. (Pax Global Media)

Antigua and Barbuda, as destination sponsor, placed models dressed in colourful carnival costumes at the club’s entrance to greet golfers as they arrived in the early morning.

READ MORE: “It feels fantastic”: Travel pros tee off at ACTA’s golf tournament in Milton, ON

Sponsored putting challenges and branded activations were scattered throughout the course, giving participants plenty of chances to win prizes.

Antigua and Barbuda served as the day's destination sponsor. (Pax Global Media)

From left: David Harris, Ensemble Travel Group; Michael Johnson, Ensemble Travel Group; Jacques Gilbert, Manulife; Joseph Adamo, Transat Distribution Canada. (Pax Global Media)

From left: Lindsay Pearlman, TL Network; Rob Coulter, Merit Travel; Robert Cole, Allianz Global Assistance; Caylen Wilde, Air Canada. (Pax Global Media)

From left: Monica Johnstone, Uniglobe Travel Innovations; Zeina Gedeon, Trevello; Jaime Fair, Air Canada, Mary Jane Hiebert, Oyster Travel. (Pax Global Media)

From left: Racquel Queensborough, Jamaica Tourist Board; Anju Bliss, TL Network; Lisa Lau, Okushu Tours; Lauren Hildebrant, Four Points By Sheraton Toronto Airport. (Pax Global Media)

The talk of the tournament, arguably, was a hole sponsored by the Barbados Tourist Board, which set up a makeshift bar to dole out rounds of sorrel rum punch, a traditional Caribbean Christmas drink containing ginger, cloves, cinnamon, hibiscus and Mount Gay rum (which was yum).

The Barbados Tourist Board served up sorrel rum punch. (Pax Global Media)

The travel industry's got talent 

After rounds of birdies, bogeys and beer, participants later piled into the golf course’s club house and dining room for a suppertime cocktail and buffet dinner, where tournament and raffle prize winners were announced.

From left (of WestJet): Sevi Anagnostis, Grant Lawlor (Pax Global Media)

The lively night, at some points, became an impromptu talent showcase as Tameka Wharton, sales and marketing manager for the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority, and ACTA Board Chair Mary Jane Hiebert flexed their singing muscles and serenaded the room acapella, prompting standing ovations.

Wharton performed a soulful rendition of the Ben E. King classic “Stand By Me” while Hiebert raised the roof with an operatic number.

Update on advocacy

Hiebert also took a moment to outline ACTA’s latest advocacy initiatives and priorities.

Fighting for the removal of remaining border restrictions and preventing new rules from being introduced tops ACTA’s list, along with efforts focused on loan extensions and forgiveness for travel agencies and independent travel advisors.

Other actions include building better relations between suppliers and travel advisors, and addressing the industry’s labour shortage, which ACTA is doing through its updated Travel Agent Essentials online training program.

From left: Air Transat's Steven Brown & Susan Kooiman; Sunwing Travel Group's Deana Murphy. (Pax Global Media)

ACTA also has a social media campaign directed at the public that promotes the travel profession as a new and exciting career.

The association, meanwhile, continues to meet with industry players every Friday to collaborate on advocacy and solutions to the ongoing operational issues that are plaguing airports, such as wait times.

ACTA golfers gather for dinner at Royal Ontario Golf Club. (Pax Global Media)

And as epidemiologists have already called a summer wave of COVID-19 in Canada, the possibility of new variants restoring travel restrictions this fall and winter remains a concern.

“If new COVID restrictions are introduced this fall and winter, ACTA’s strong message is that any restrictions must automatically include financial supports for the travel industry, including travel agencies and independent travel agents,” Hiebert said.

Thursday's tournament, at heart, was about catching up and reconnecting after more than two years of separation. 

Fiona Bowen, membership manager, Western Canada, Ontario and Atlantic at ACTA, noted how it was exciting to “be back together again and see familiar faces.”

“It’s a day for people to come together, network and forget about all their worries and just have fun,” Bowen told PAX

To see more pictures from ACTA’s 2022 golf tournament, visit the photo gallery currently posted on’s Facebook page here.

Which teams and players were victorious? Who won the grand prizes? See the list below!

Top Mens Team (score of -9) - Sponsored by Air Canada

Patrick Doyle - Amex GBT, Paul Georgopoulos - Amex GBT; Ian Dale - Enterprise Holdings; Matt Bruyn - Enterprise Holdings

Top Ladies Team (score of -5) - Sponsored by Air Canada

Shelley Kopys - Manulife; Lynne Wheeler -; Michelle Roelofs -; Carol Reid – Manulife

Top Mixed Team (score of -7) - Sponsored by Air Canada

Brian Robertson - Direct Travel, Ian Race - Direct Travel; Daryl Stockman - Enterprise Holdings, Emily Hill - Enterprise Holdings

Most Honest Golf Team - Sponsored by Enterprise Holdings

Jason du Sautoy - ParkN’Fly, Paul DeRose, Mary Santonato - Air Canada Vacations

Ladies’ Closest to the Pin - Sponsored by Iberostar

Monica Johnstone - Uniglobe Travel Innovations

Men’s Closest to the Pin - Sponsored by Iberostar

James Allen – Virtuoso

Ladies’ Longest Drive - Sponsored By Air Canada

Denise Luciani - Marlin Travel

Men’s Longest Drive - Sponsored By Majestic Resorts

Karel Gomez – Iberostar

Best Photo Award - Sponsored by Allianz Global Assistance

Anna Judek - Virtuoso, James Allen - Virtuoso, Caroline Hay - Trevello, Denise Harper – Exoticca

Top Grand Prizes

Three-night stay at the five-star Blue Water Resort & Spa with Port Health Clearance, two Executive Lounge Passes, seven-day Valet Parking at ParkN’Fly, two rounds of golf at Antigua’s Cedar Valley Golf Course and two Air Canada Economy Class round trip tickets to Antigua and Barbuda compliments of Antigua and Barbuda, Park N’ Fly, Air Canada.

Cyrus Rustamji - UNIGLOBE The Premiere Travel Group

Two round-trip Air Canada business Class tickets for system wide travel compliments of Air Canada

Deborah Delgado - Red Label Vacations

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