TORONTO — ACTA has issued an urgent call to the Ontario government to give independent travel agents access to the Ontario Tourism and Travel Small Business Support Grant ahead of the June 25 deadline.
As reported by Travelweek last week, the grant requires applicants to submit a TICO registration number. However, independent travel agents don’t have their own TICO number as they use the one that belongs to their host agency to conduct business.
ACTA is making this matter clear in its discussions with the government, saying that the situation is becoming “critical” with the June 25 deadline rapidly approaching.
“ACTA continues to call on the Ontario government to amend the grant rules to include independent travel agents,” said Wendy Paradis, President, ACTA. “The grant is intended to support the hardest-hit businesses in travel and tourism and the exclusion of independent travel agents doesn’t make sense.”
Paradis added that “all angles are being pursued” with political and bureaucratic officials ahead of the deadline date.
However, despite positive discussions, Paradis said that officials are simply repeating their position that only TICO-registered agencies are eligible for the grant.
“This leaves thousands of Ontario’s independent travel agents excluded from the program due to a technicality, which is unacceptable,” said Paradis. “Independent travel agents are largely only eligible for federal support under the Canada Recovery Benefit. The grant program is one of the few lifelines potentially available to these entrepreneurs.”
She added: “The government’s mandate to reduce red tape and support small business is not in line with the grant program eligibility rules.”
Possible new opportunities on the way
In ACTA’s call with the Ontario government last week, Paradis was assured that more opportunities are coming, with policy development for new programs already underway.
“Despite the current program challenges, we had a productive discussion with the Ontario Ministry of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries. While they reiterated that the current grant program is not intended for independent travel agents, ongoing policy work is being done to support future sector-specific programs,” said Paradis.
ACTA continues its advocacy efforts with the goal that independent travel agents be eligible for all government programs.
“We are working closely with government to ensure we continue to be part of the policy making process for future programs,” added Paradis.