Agenda item #1 for the Association of Canadian Travel Agencies: Find a president in the next six weeks.
Even without a president, though, ACTA is forging ahead with many initiatives and activities in 2016, its Winnipeg, Manitoba-based chair Mary Jane Hiebert told Travel Market Report in an interview last week.
David McCaig, ACTA’s previous president, resigned at the end of August 2015 for personal and health reasons. The search for his successor “is going well; we have received a very good number of high-level applicants within the travel industry on many levels, which is very encouraging,” Hiebert said. “We are in the process of beginning the interviews with hope of having an announcement in the next four to six weeks.”
Growing the membership is another key priority for this year. While ACTA expects its membership numbers to remain steady for 2016, it also hopes to expand “in niche and ethnic markets, as well as some groups who are not currently part of ACTA. ACTA currently represents more than 17,000 travel agents in Canada.
Also on the agenda for 2016 is an initiative to shift from the industry ID card to a new ACTA Membership card. Previously non-ACTA members could purchase the ID card, but the new card will only be available to ACTA members.
“We want to give a greater value to the Membership Card for our members and the industry personnel,” Hiebert said. “Our objective is that the ACTA Membership Card will be the card of choice in the Canadian market.”
Accomplishments in 2015
Last year saw the launch of ACTA Campus, which offers members training programs such as CTC/CTM preparation courses, industry webinars, travel trade specialist programs, and the Air Canada Global Sales university.
Plans are underway to launch a British Columbia and Saskatchewan travel health insurance licensing exam, a new education loyalty points and rewards system, and new Air Canada modules by the end of March. Future programs are planned on traveling with a disability, LGBT travel, and selling the right insurance plan to clients.
Hiebert says meeting with Canada’s new Small Business and Tourism Minister Bardish Chagger will be a priority for the new ACTA president. “We have been fairly successful being heard from the former (Conservative) government and we are hopeful that the new government will be as eager to work with us as we are with them.”
Since many agencies and members operate as small businesses ACTA is working with the Small Business Matters Coalition. ACTA will be sending out a survey in the coming weeks to ask members on questions regarding the credit card fees charged to merchants. The survey will help support the case to government on the current exorbitant merchant fees being charged.
Consumer protection is a major focus for many of the regional ACTA chapters lobbying efforts and ACTA nationally will be assisting and supporting their efforts in proposing changes to provincial governments and other regulatory bodies. Only Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec have consumer protection laws in place in the event of a failure by a travel supplier.
ACTA will be heavily involved again in the upcoming Travel Marketplace being held May 2-3, 2016. “ACTA is a partner in the Travel Marketplace conference in May and we will participate in many areas,” says Hiebert. She added, “We also plan to hold our AGM in conjunction with the conference.”
Hiebert believes ACTA and ASTA will forge closer ties in 2016 and beyond. “I think we have a great opportunity to strengthen our relationship with ASTA in 2016. We have a very good relationship now but I believe there are areas that we could build on that would bring greater synergies and collaboration in the future for both organizations.”
2016 will be a challenging year for agents according to Hiebert. “The challenges for the agencies and the agents are quite different. NDC’s, consumer protection, insurance sales ability across the country remain issues that ACTA will continue to work on for the agencies to find positive resolution.”
For the agents Hiebert says, “The challenge will be to continue to keep ahead in terms of education and product knowledge. Professionalism in the industry is key to the continued success of the travel agent and we hope they look to ACTA for continuing education in these matters for some of their training.”