TORONTO — The retail landscape sure has changed a lot from the days when a proliferation of mom-and-pop agencies had only ACTA fighting their industry battles, and when ACTA held conferences that were the biggest networking events in town.
But the need for ACTA’s advocacy efforts is still there, and through decades of consolidation, the growing clout of consortiums and host agencies and all the noise around the Internet, ACTA has maintained its role as advocate for the Canadian travel agent, says the Chair of ACTA’s Board of Directors, Mary Jane Hiebert.
“Everything still comes down to our four pillars: advocate, educate, promote, connect. Our role is more focused now,” says Hiebert.
Accompanying incoming ACTA President Wendy Paradis on media visits in Toronto yesterday, Hiebert pointed to the ongoing NCF battle with the cruise lines, and out-of-province insurance sales, as two important issues on ACTA’s docket for 2016.
ACTA is also fighting hard for consumer protection in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, possibly with a shared compensation fund. “We need that quite desperately in those provinces,” said Hiebert. “And a recent agency failure in Saskatchewan left a lot of consumers hanging.” Earlier this year T & T Travel Ltd. in Kindersley, SK suddenly and without warning closed its doors, with much local media coverage, and now the RCMP is investigating the case backed by some 165 complaints.
For her part, Paradis, who starts her new job May 9, says she’s eager to get out and meet travel agency leaders across the country. ACTA’s members also include suppliers, of course, and agents are voicing fewer concerns about that conflict of interest. “We all need to work together,” said Paradis, who comes from a retail background including stints at Eaton’s Travel, Marlin Travel, The Thomas Cook Group and CAA Travel. “Consumers need to see a unified, professional industry.”
ACTA just wrapped up its membership drive and now counts about 1,500 member agencies. Membership for 2016 is trending slightly down but overall the number of agents hasn’t changed much, something ACTA attributes to consolidation. Some of the drop-off in membership also comes from smaller agencies who have to take a hard look at their bottom line, and sometimes an ACTA membership fee doesn’t make the cut for the next year’s expenses.
For anyone asking ‘what’s ACTA done for me lately?’, “maybe they’re not engaged with what we’re doing,” says Hiebert, who has been a vocal proponent for the importance of using a travel agent, with recent consumer media interviews in the National Post, The Globe and Mail and others. More details about what ACTA’s up to can be found at acta.ca.