The 2023 Eastern Summit series organized by the Association of Canadian Travel Advisors (ACTA) gathered in Toronto on Sept. 14 with an opening address by Wendy Paradis, president of ACTA. In a conference room filled with 500 travel industry and destination suppliers, she announced that ACTA has officially changed its name to the Association of Canadian Travel Agencies & Travel Advisors.
What's in a name? A lot, according to Paradis, who said ACTA's name has been changed to be more reflective of the Association's active members. The travel industry has evolved significantly and now encompasses all aspects, from independent advisors and small proprietors to larger agencies. She added that discussions to change ACTA's name began in 2018.
Paradis also mentioned that ACTA would now formally use the word "travel advisor" in all of its training and media interviews, starting from this day onwards.
ACTA's advocacy initiatives: strengthening the travel industry
Paradis emphasized that ACTA's top priority is advocacy, focusing on guaranteeing that the Canadian government gives precedence to and allocates investments for the country's travel and tourism sector. Post-pandemic, the industry is still trying to get financially on a more sound footing.
The travel industry is deeply concerned about loans received during the pandemic that are coming due on Dec. 31. Travel agencies and independent travel advisors are worried about how they will repay these loans, as cash flow continues to be a serious issue.
A survey conducted by ACTA in July found that 67% of its members need more confidence in their capacity to repay government loans. Additionally, 36% of respondents believe that they may have to shut down their operations within the next three years.
Prime minister's office extends loan repayments
During the conference, ACTA received word from the Prime Minister's office that the federal government has extended the deadline for repaying Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) loans to qualify for partial loan forgiveness, shifting it from Dec. 31 to January 18, 2024.
After January 19, 2024, any remaining loans will become three-year term loans with a 5% interest rate. The repayment date for these term loans will also be extended by one more year, ending on Dec. 31, 2026.
ACTA will continue advocating with the Federal Government for loan forgiveness. Paradis encouraged travel advisors to send letters to their Member of Parliament and Minister Freeland. A user-friendly platform has been established to help. Automatically, it creates a pre-written document highlighting the critical concerns and identifies the recipient's designated Member of Parliament.
Paradis said independent advisors having issues with Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) loan recalls should reach out to Steve Olmstead at ACTA for assistance.
TICO review of funding and fee structures
This year, The Travel Industry Council of Ontario (TICO) initiated its most extensive assessment of the funding framework and fee structure since its inception.
During the summit, Paradis emphasized the importance of ACTA and The Canadian Association of Tour Operators (CATO) being actively involved in the review process before the final report is delivered to the Minister.
The TICO Annual General Meeting (AGM) is scheduled virtually on Sept. 26 at 5 p.m. All ACTA members are encouraged to register and participate to ensure their concerns are considered in the final outcome.
Growing professional development through experiential travel
ACTA members have access to online diversity and inclusion training, a range of educational initiatives, and a toolkit designed to assist in attracting and retaining team members. Additionally, ACTA is encouraging advisors to travel more.
"Travel advisors that have experienced travel can better sell it," said Paradis, "and so this year, we offered a Dominican Republic experiential event."
ACTA's first international summit, this October 2023, will occur on an Avalon river cruise out of Amsterdam. It's completely sold out, with 430 travel advisors participating.
Not only will travel advisors engage in destination experiences, but there will also be workshops that help advisors build their businesses. The second experiential trip will be in November with Visit Portugal, exploring the Alentejo area.
ACTA award winners
The day concluded with Paradis presenting six ACTA national awards, one of which is a newly introduced award recognizing lifetime achievement by a CTC/CTM.
The 2023 award winners are:
ACTA Advocacy Award: Jamie Milton, CTM, Uniglobe Carefree Travel Group, Saskatoon, SK
Leisure Travel Advisor Award: Camille Jocsak, CTC, Planned 2 Perfection, Mississauga, ON
Corporate Travel Advisor Award: Konstadina Mitropolous, AMEX Express Global Business, Toronto, ON
CTC/CTM Lifetime Achievement Award: Annette Frey, Uniglobe Carefree Travel Group, Saskatoon, SK
ACTA Education Award: Angela Costa, CTC, Mondessa Travel Group, Montreal, QC
Tomorrow's Leader Award: McKenzie McMillan, Travel Group, Vancouver, BC