This article was updated on Monday, July 4 at 3:32 p.m. EST.
One of the founding members of the Association of Canadian Independent Travel Advisors (ACITA) has announced that she will be stepping down from her role.
The Travel Agent Next Door’s Judith Coates, who formed ACITA in June of 2020 alongside travel advisors Brenda Slater of Beyond the Beach and Nancy Wilson of TravelOnly, shared the update in a press release on Monday (July 4).
The news comes less than a week after ACITA celebrated its two-year anniversary with members and suppliers at a virtual gathering on June 28.
“On June 28th we celebrated our two-year anniversary, and reflected on all that has been accomplished,” noted Coates in her release. “We have a lot to be proud of, and have come really far as a grassroots organization.”
Coates described the past two years as “intense” as ACITA mobilized Independent travel advisors to secure meetings with their elected officials, facilitated more than 350 meetings over Zoom, and continued to put pressure on federal cabinet ministers to provide commission protection and financial aid to independent travel advisors.
These ITAs are small business owners but had fallen into a policy gap because, for the most part, they are sole proprietors and didn’t qualify for funding that was given to Incorporated small businesses, Coates explained.
“We have seen significant wins over the past two years, and we owe a huge debt of gratitude to the many independent travel advisors who supported us by attending zoom meetings, helping out with email campaigns and working tirelessly to keep the flame going,” Coates said.
Giving ITAs a voice
That flame was started by a little spark in June 2020 when Coates secured a meeting with her MP, Bruce Stanton, at the prompting of her host agency founder, Flemming Friisdahl.
When she extended an invitation to have other ITAs join her, the response was “overwhelming” and “it became apparent that there was interest amongst ITAs in working together to advocate for support,” Coates said.
Brenda Slater and Nancy Wilson were among those at that initial meeting, and soon afterwards, Coates, Slater and Wilson put their heads together and formed a private Facebook group just for independent travel advisors.
“ACITA” soon became a buzz-word and the group quickly grew to 2,000 members.
ITAs were wondering how they would survive the travel shut-downs and were looking for some direction on what they could do protect themselves from lost revenues and commission claw-backs, Coates said.
ACITA quickly became the vehicle to rally this growing group of ITAs, providing the platform of Zoom meetings to inform and educate members of parliament on the revenue model of this sector of the travel Industry.
What’s next for Coates?
“Well, travel is my passion, and I will continue to be active in the industry that I love,” said Coates, who will now dedicate her time to serving her clients and growing her business, still with TTAND but newly-branded as Wired for Travel.
Coates said she will also remain a “passionate advocate” for independent travel advisors.
“I have met so many amazing independent travel advisors in the past two years and we have proven that, together, we are stronger and that ‘community over competition’ wins the race,’” she said
“As the ACITA motto says, ‘We Are Not Done Yet,’ and I wish the entire hard-working ACITA team and my colleagues, Brenda and Nancy, all the best in their future endeavours.”
Shortly after Coates made her announcement, ACITA posted the following statement to its Facebook page:
"The executive team along with Co-Founders Nancy & Brenda wish Judith great success with her business and are grateful for all of the hard work, blood, sweat and tears she has put into ACITA over the past two years. We will continue to fight on behalf of all Independent advisors from coast to coast."