TORONTO — ACTA says its discussions with the federal government are now focused on how, not if, commissions will be protected in the financial assistance package for Canada’s airlines.
Earlier this week the Globe and Mail reported that bailout talks between the airlines and the federal government are in the home stretch.
News of a bailout package was first announced Nov. 8, 2020 but since then there have been little to no further details. The government has always maintained that any financial assistance package would be contingent on refunds, which could trigger up to $200 million in commission recalls for travel agents.
Wendy Paradis, President of ACTA, says: “Our talks have moved on from asking that travel agents and travel agencies be protected from commission recalls, to HOW to achieve that in whatever aid package is arrived at.”
She notes that ACTA has been in several meetings with the Ministry of Finance, which has taken over the discussions from the Ministry of Transport to determine a framework for consumers, travel agents and airlines in establishing aid for the airline sector.
Paradis added: “We are very encouraged by this and it is becoming clear that negotiations are at a critical stage and that decisions are expected very soon.”
Paradis notes that since the start of 2021 ACTA’s advocacy efforts have intensified and that the government is “acutely aware” of ACTA’s concerns about the $200 million in commission recalls should the government move forward with its plans to mandate consumer refunds.
“We are providing additional information that they are now asking for,” said Paradis.
HASCAP LOAN INPUT NEEDED
ACTA is also providing feedback and recommendations to the Ministry of Finance to ensure that the HASCAP program, which opened on Feb. 1, is working for travel agencies and that there is ease of access.
Paradis says ACTA is strongly lobbying the government to allow a portion of the HASCAP loan to be forgiven, similar to what was offered with the CEBA program.
ACTA is asking travel agencies to advise ACTA of their experience with applying for the HASCAP loan so that ACTA can follow up directly with the government if there are any roadblocks or issues.
CRB & EI EXTENSIONS
Paradis says ACTA is also preparing to submit its recommendations to Pre-Budget Consultations with the federal government and is asking for extensions of support for the sector.
“Travel agencies, travel agents and independent travel agents are unique with sector specific challenges including the recall of commission tied to consumer refunds, and the need to extend the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) beyond the current 26 weeks. CRB should be at minimum 52 weeks, or until 90 days after travel and border restrictions are eased, and the extension should also include those collecting EI Benefits,” said Paradis.
ACTA is aligned, where possible, with other organizations, including those Members of the Coalition of Hardest Hit Businesses, specifically the Tourism Industry Association of Canada and the Hotel Association of Canada, as well as the Canadian Travel and Tourism Roundtable. “There is strength in numbers and collectively our voice is recommending changes to several federal support programs,” said Paradis.
ACTA is also advising agents that it will host a webinar on March 2, 2021 (English) and March 4, 2021 (French), which will cover the latest updates on advocacy aid, provincial programs and travel industry restart plans. To register see: https://register.gotowebinar.