Advisors and suppliers came out on Wednesday for day two of Travel Market Place East’s 2021 return to Toronto, one of the first in-person conferences in Canada since March of 2020.
While there was a strong focus on business skills and relationship building, there was also a heavy emphasis on how the travel industry can get through the next period of uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, a period that got even more volatile this week with the emergence of the Omicron variant.
“When the going gets tough, the tough get going and I would say that is our travel industry in Canada and around the world over the last 18 months,” ACTA’s Wendy Paradis said in a morning session.
According to Paradis, there is a sense that the federal government is facing strong pressure to install more travel restrictions because of the emergence of the new variant, and while that is certainly grabbing the industry’s attention, ACTA continues to focus on what it can control. And that starts with advocacy and communication with the federal, provincial, and local governments.
“Our message to our federal government is that we need to survive before we recover - we need continued financial support for our industry because we are unique in how we get paid,” she said on Wednesday.
Part of ACTA’s mission right now is securing that financial support, including an extension to the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) program, which provided a lifeline for so many agency owners and agents over the past 18 months.
“We of course strongly object to that and have been advocating every single day about how our industry is different,” Paradis said.
The reason that the program has come to an end for independent workers is that the federal government believes the labor shortage, which is “acute” in travel and tourism, needs to also be solved. But ACTA still continues its work.
“There needs to be a change in policies between travel agencies and suppliers,” she added, explaining that ACTA wants its agents to be paid commissions when money goes from their client to a supplier and not after a designated period after travel.
That would help so many agencies now who are seeing demand from their clients, booking travel, but not seeing compensation. Travel agencies and agents are an incredibly important part of the industry’s ecosystem in Canada and ACTA continues to reinforce that to the federal government.
The survival of the Canadian travel agent industry is not only the survival of agency locations and jobs, but it also means the survival of travel.
“I just want to send a strong message that we need to stick together to build win-win-win relationships with suppliers and with our clients,” Paradis added.