TORONTO — Echoing the frustration expressed by many in retail travel, ACITA co-founder Judith Coates says the federal government’s 2021 budget “was disappointing to say the least.”
As announced April 19 by Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland in the 2021 budget, the federal government is extending CEWS, CERS and Lockdown Support until Sept. 25, 2021.
The Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) is also being extended, by 12 extra weeks, for a total of 50 weeks.
However starting July 17 CRB will pay out $300 per week, down from $500, for the final eight weeks before stopping completely.
“Freeland’s comment that ‘As our economy fully reopens over the summer, the benefit amount will go to $300 a week after July 17th….’ was a blow to Independent Travel Advisors, who have had to rely on the CRB for their livelihood for over a year now,” Coates told Travelweek.
“We know that the travel economy will take a long time to recover – it won’t happen at the flip of a switch.”
Coates adds: “As self-employed small business owners, the majority of us have not been able to apply for the CEBA loan. Travel advisors in urban centres are being told they need to be Incorporated in order to receive the RRRF (Regional Recovery Relief Fund), and since we don’t pay storefront rent or salaries, the CERS and CEWS don’t apply to us.”
Coates notes that while the Ministry of Small Business has promoted the HASCAP loan as a viable option for ITAs, “quite frankly, after over a year without revenue because of government imposed travel restrictions, we are hesitant to take on debt at 4%, when we don’t know how we would make the payments, or when our businesses will recover.”
And while the budget is prioritizing Canada’s tourism sector through $1 billion to help tourism businesses recover, and to support festivals and cultural events, that’s not relevant for the retail travel sector, which is invested in selling outbound travel.
“The section of the budget covering tourism, hospitality, arts & culture is void of any reference to the recovery of the travel industry, and there are no provisions so far to protect travel agencies and Independent Travel Advisors,” says Coates.
“This makes it extremely clear to us that our work is not done, and we will continue to advocate for Independent Travel Advisors and for the industry that we love.”