The Canadian Association of Tour Operators (CATO) held its Annual General Meeting last Thursday (Nov. 25), sharing important announcements with members about the immediate effects of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as updates to CATO’s branding, website and fee structure.
Brett Walker, Chair of CATO, said the “jewel in the crown” this year was the work CATO did that resulted in the publishing of two reports.
“These published reports, with participation from 100 per cent of CATO members, were used to advance the needs of not just CATO members but also the industry as a whole,” Walker said.
The reports, “perhaps more than others,” also demonstrated “the foundations on which our industry is built and the immediate effects of the pandemic on financial and human resources as well as the long-term structural damage,” he said.
Focusing on the future, CATO is also planning greater collaboration with natural partners USTOA, ETOA, Council of Australia Tour Operators and others “on issues involving public safety, risk management, sustainability and more,” Walker said.
In addition to its own advocacy efforts, CATO served on the Hardest Hit Coalition as well as the steering committee of the Canadian Travel and Tourism Roundtable.
The culmination of all these efforts was the tabling last week of Bill C-2, which is aimed at helping travel and tourism industries through the Tourism and Hospitality Recovery Program (THRP).
“While the Bill isn’t perfect, CATO is pleased the Liberal government has followed through on its commitments,” Walker said.
“However, as there is some opposition to the Bill, CATO continues to pressure all parties and all sides of the debate to insure it receives Royal Ascent without delay.”
CATO has changed over past few years "and continues to change," Walker said.
“Driving much of this change in CATO’s rebranding are six pillars or principles – inclusion, access and equity as well as being progressive, representative and cooperative,” he said. “Together, they are the basis for CATO’s mission and vision going forward.”
With this year’s appointments of Stéphanie Bishop as Vice Chair and Joanne Dhue as CATO’s appointed TICO Director, the executive better represents the 73 per cent of females that make up tour operators’ workforce, said Walker.
Rounding out the CATO executive team with Walker is Richard Edwards, treasurer and Nicole Bursey, CATO-appointed TICO director.
Walker said CATO is in the midst of developing “an entirely new website and community hub” for members.
“This community hub will support CATO’s advocacy and research while also hosting educational opportunities and facilitating member forums,” Walker said.
CATO’s new logo was also revealed.
The expected launch date of CATO’s new website and community hub for members is mid-February 2022, Walker said.
Reduction of fees & deferred payment
In its effort to become more inclusive, more accessible and more representative, CATO is simplifying and reducing its fee structure.
The membership fee for tour operators under $10 million in gross Canada sales is now $800; the fee for tour operators with $10 million in gross Canada sales or higher will be $2,000.
“It’s hoped this new fee structure will encourage even more tour operators to join,” Walker said.
To further accommodate existing and prospective members during this difficult time, CATO is also deferring any payment of fees for the 2022 membership year until July 1, 2021.