ACITA co-founder Judith Coates announces she's stepping down
ACITA co-founder Judith Coates

ACITA’s Coates honoured with Gerald Heifetz Trailblazer Advocacy Award

TORONTO — Judith Coates, co-founder of the Association of Canadian Independent Travel Advisors, was honoured with the Gerald Heifetz Trailblazer Advocacy Award at the ACTA 2021 Canadian Travel Industry Summit.

The award, named for Gerald Heifetz who was instrumental in the foundation of ACTA and CITC, recognizes travel agents and travel agency leaders who have made “a significant and positive impact through advocacy on behalf of Canadian travel agents and travel agencies.”

Together with ACITA’s co-founders, Nancy Wilson and Brenda Slater, Coates has worked tirelessly over the past 15 months to bring the plight of independent travel advisors, and the retail travel sector overall, to the attention of federal MPs.

As reported by Travelweek on ACITA’s one-year anniversary in June 2021, a chance encounter got the ball rolling. In March 2020 TTAND founder Flemming Friisdahl encouraged Coates to request a meeting with her MP since at that time, independent travel advisors were not being considered for any government funding. After three months of waiting to see whether the federal government would clue in, Coates finally reached out to MP Bruce Stanton in June 2020 and secured a meeting, then invited other independent travel advisors via Facebook to join in.

It was during that initial Zoom call where Coates first met Wilson and Slater, and after a post-meeting chat, the three formed an easy alliance and agreed to join forces in their advocacy efforts.

Within six months, ACITA’s membership had skyrocketed. With a growing team ACITA was able to reach out to MPs across the country more quickly and more efficiently to advocate for financial aid and commission protections.

“It has been a team effort,” says Coates. “Nancy Wilson and Brenda Slater have partnered with me since day 1 to organize and motivate our Association members. We have an executive team that does a lot of the behind the scenes work, and we really appreciate all of the independent agents who worked hard to secure a meeting with their MP. Some of them had to write 4 or 5 times in order to be heard, and their persistence paid off!”

Now almost 19 months into the pandemic, and just weeks after the election, ACITA’s work continues. “Now we are beginning again, and trying to focus more on Liberal MPs so that we can point out some of the campaign promises that were made, and hold them accountable. Our first ask is for sector specific aid, since we’ve been left out of everything. Also we will be putting more of a focus on the lessening of travel advisories so that consumers will have more confidence to book future travel.”

Yesterday ACITA reps did a Zoom call with Vance Badawey, a Liberal MP (Niagara Centre) and also chair of the Transport Committee.

In addition to her work with ACITA, Coates also has a new role on the TICO Consumer-Industry Advisory Committee.