As 2017 nears its end, the Association of Canadian Travel Agencies (ACTA) plans to continue to focus on its core four pillars that help promote and protect both consumers and agents.
“Over the last 40 years we have been through so much as an industry and ACTA will continue to bring the passion of our members to the forefront when talking legislation with government, compliance with IATA, and issues with suppliers,” said ACTA president Wendy Paradis.
Paradis noted how 2017 marks the end of ACTA’s most recent three-year strategic plan, and that this year’s efforts stayed true to the organization’s platform to “Advocate, Educate, Connect, and Promote.”
“These areas of focus have really resonated with our membership and we will continue to work extremely hard to make progress within our pillars,” she said. “2018 is an exciting year as it represents the birth of a brand new three-year strategic initiative.” ACTA will be sitting down soon with their members to draft the framework of ACTA’s new strategic priorities.
Restructuring boosts advocacy and promotion efforts
In February, ACTA announced a restructuring that provided for dedicated resources for advocacy and promotion. Leading the effort is Vice President Heather Craig-Peddie. Director Christine Chilton leads education and certification.
Marco Pozzobon heads up marketing, communications and partnerships.
“A more focused effort in communications has allowed ACTA to re-establish brand standards in the marketplace and increase the ways we communicate the association’s activity to both existing and potential members,” Paradis said.
ACTA also created a director of membership function in February, later filled by Doreen Lynch.
“By recruiting a director of membership to the senior management team, we now have a dedicated individual in the management of ACTA's larger national and group accounts enabling our membership managers to focus on supporting the members in their territory through advocacy, education, promoting the value of members, and connecting them valuable business resources,” said Paradis.
The new territories are Western Canada, Quebec and Eastern Canada, which are staffed by full-time dedicated employees.
ACTA allocates more resources for advocacy
Through the new structure, ACTA was able to allocate more resources to the association’s advocacy efforts. In September, Paradis led a small delegation that included two ACTA board members for a private meeting with the Federal Minister of Transportation, Marc Garneau, to share the travel agency perspective on key issues.
“This industry experiences rapid and constant change and we need to be sure that we are focusing on lobbying on the key issues that are going to make a difference for our members provincially, nationally and globally,” she said.
For example, Canada’s first ever passenger bill of rights (Transport Canada initiative, Bill C-49) is currently under review.
“Our message has been consistent, in that we believe that travelers should be able to expect an excellent service experience when they are using the services of Canadian travel agencies and our travel partners across the country. We need to ensure that whatever rules or legislation come into place, they help build a strong and sustainable travel industry so that we can serve travelers well and minimize red tape and unnecessary expense.”
A year of making connections
Paradis feels ACTA had a successful event season, including more than 400 agents and suppliers attending Travel Market Place, in Toronto, an event it co-hosted with Travel Market Report.
“The feedback was so tremendous we’ve decided to organize both an Eastern Canada (Toronto) and Western Canada (Vancouver) conference in 2018,” Paradis said.
Other events included a series of golf and networking events co-hosted with ACTA Platinum Partner, Air Canada, in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario. In May, ACTA held a Travel Agency Advisory Council Conference on Prince Edward Island, and a Montreal Harbour Cruise, dinner and tradeshow in September.
“It has been a wonderful opportunity to spend time with our travel industry members and partners across the country to hear first-hand all of the successes and challenges currently facing the Canadian travel industry,” said Paradis.
Education initiatives abound
In 2017, ACTA offered members webinars, including product and destination training, along with important topics such as Independent Contractors 101, Travel Agency Fraud Protection Tips and Tools, and PCI Compliance. The webinars are available on demand on the ACTA website.
Industry partner Manulife, a travel insurance company, will be offering the second webinar of a two-part series in October, and will also provide a webinar to help members become certified serving disabled travelers.
Additionally, ACTA will attend consumer travel shows this October in Vancouver and Quebec to promote the value of travel agencies. More than 800 consumers are expected to attend the shows, Paradis said.