While some noteworthy progress has been made in the fight for fairness in travel trade circles amid the pandemic, the Association of Canadian Independent Travel Advisors (ACITA) is reminding the industry that “we are not done yet.”
“We are finding that people are a bit complacent recently,” ACITA’s Brenda Slater of Beyond the Beach, told PAX on Thursday (April 29), following Transat’s announcement that it will offer refunds to customers for cancelled travel during the pandemic and protect travel agent commissions at the same time.
The decision unfolded following Transat securing $700M in funding through the Large Employer Emergency Financing Facility (LEEFF), which provides bridge financing loans to large employers.
Air Canada, too, has committed to protecting commissions following its own $5.9-billion relief deal with the Canadian government.
For ACITA, which has been fighting for commission protections, among other things, since June 2020 by encouraging travel advisors to schedule Zoom meetings with their local MP so they can explain why they need help during the pandemic, Transat and Air Canada’s decisions are, all things considered, significant wins.
But it doesn’t mean that it is time to "sit back and think that our job is winding down,” ACITA’s Judith Coates of The Travel Agent Next Door, told PAX on Thursday, following Transat’s news.
"We are not done yet," said Coates, stressing that ACITA will continue pushing for sector-specific funding, access to federal and provincial grant programs, and the safe re-opening of travel through tools like rapid PCR testing and improved contact tracing.
Time to “rally the troops”
“We are not done yet” is the tagline of a new social media campaign that ACITA has launched to “rally the troops and get them engaged” now that there is so much forward momentum, Slater said.
ACITA is encouraging advisors to “get their picture on” by posting an image of themselves, holding a sign that reads “#WeAreNotDoneYet,” alongside the group’s Facebook handle, “@ACITACanada.”
Participants are being instructed to post their picture online and tag ACITA at @acitacanada and use the hashtag #WeAreNotDoneYet.
Here’s an image of the sign that you can print to get started.
Speak up, speak out
Since last year, ACITA has held more 220 meetings with ministers, members of parliament and policy advisors to inform and educate them about the unique circumstances that independent travel advisors face amid the coronavirus crisis.
ACITA has a “core group” of some 250 travel advisor members, Slater said, with some 20 to 30 participating in Zoom calls on a regular basis.
“We are trying to engage with people who are silently watching our advocacy,” Slater said, outlining the purpose of ACITA’s latest push on social media. “Now is not the time to take our foot off of the gas.”
Slater noted the fact that WestJet and Sunwing have still not made announcements about refunding passengers or commission protections.
The Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB), “which is our lifeline,” is also under siege as it will be reduced to $300/week in July, Slater said.
“We are still chasing sector-specific aid for independent advisors as we have not been able to access the majority of the federal programs,” Slater said.
In addition to meeting with more than 200 MPs over Zoom, ACITA (which is run by volunteers) has amassed a membership of more than 1,700 independent travel advisors on a private Facebook group.
Their latest political effort is to “flood the House of Commons” with paper petitions that call for commission protection from airlines/tour companies that are still in negotiations with Ottawa, an extension of the CRB and for sector-specific funding.
Click here for details on how to get involved (all travel advisors, by the way, are welcome to participate).
You can also follow ACITA’s progress on Twitter here.
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