MISSISSAUGA — A new ACTA campaign is underscoring the urgent need for extended aid and commission protection for Canada’s travel agents, amid bailout talks between the airlines and the federal government.
ACTA’s latest critical advocacy initiative emphasizes to the federal government that as 2021 approaches, the travel industry will continue to be in a dire financial situation.
Without further government support, the industry will face devastation and widespread bankruptcies, says ACTA.
A 6-point plan has been presented by ACTA to the federal government, to support travel agencies. The plan includes:
- Increase to CEWS to the 85% level
- Amendments to CERS to 90%
- An extension to CRB to June 30, 2021
- Inclusion in any airline aid package
- A proposed travel industry subsidy to assist with fixed expenses, and amendments to BCAP so Travel Agencies would be eligible.
- A plan for the government to work with the industry to develop clear criteria for re-opening borders and future travel advisories when it is safe to do so, including a travel incentive program.
‘COMMISSION RECALL LINKED TO AIRLINE AID CATASTROPHIC’
ACTA says it is also alerting the government that the recent announcement by Minister of Transport Marc Garneau – that any airline aid package is contingent on passenger refunds, – has put travel agencies, travel agents and independent contractors in a precarious situation due to airlines and other travel suppliers recalling commissions paid long ago.
Garneau announced on Nov. 8 that the federal government was taking the first steps towards a “package of assistance” for Canada’s airlines, airports and aerospace sector. The wording of his announcements suggested that any financial support would be contingent on refunds for passengers out-of-pocket due to trip cancellations in the wake of COVID-19. “Before we spend one penny of taxpayer money on airlines, we will ensure Canadians get their refunds,” said Garneau.
Concerns over commission recalls have become a lightning rod issue for travel agents.
As ACTA President Wendy Paradis points out, these commissions have already been used to pay expenses including wages, rent and other fixed expenses – and in the case of independent contractors, to pay for groceries, mortgages and rent.
“We appreciate that all stakeholders in the travel eco-system have been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic and a sector-wide approach to support is needed – especially as the recent announcement by the Minister of Transport that the government is working on an airline aid package that is contingent on passenger refunds,” said Paradis.
The estimate for a commission re-call of all Canadian travel agencies and independent contractors totals $200 million and would result in the bankruptcies of most travel agencies, she added.
DIRECT ACCESS TO BANK ACCOUNTS
ACTA also points out that airlines have direct access to remove funds from a travel agency’s bank account and that if agencies dispute this, they can be blocked from making bookings on any airline worldwide.
ACTA is asking the government to step in, and provide travel agencies with a grant to cover recall of commission – or, include additional funding and a condition that travel agency commissions on airline and tour packages cannot be recalled.
WHAT AGENTS CAN DO
The need has never been more urgent to support ACTA’s latest advocacy campaign as budgets are now being developed for 2021.
“We must ensure that the government understands the critical position that travel agents and travel agencies are in,” said Paradis.
ACTA is calling on agencies and agents to help reinforce the need for continued financial relief and the impact to their business of commission recalls. Agents can do this by contacting their local MP either by email or phone. ACTA has a letter template and telephone script available on its website.
ACTA is also encouraging the industry to participate in its social media campaign, sharing ACTA posts on LinkedIn and retweeting ACTA messages on Twitter.