TORONTO — ACTA is launching Operation Survival and asking everyone to get involved.
More than 800 storefront agencies across Canada are now closed permanently, and most of the industry’s travel agencies and travel agents still seeing a revenue decline of 95%, says ACTA President Wendy Paradis.
More than 90% of travel agents are still on CRB or EI, she adds.
In its 2021 budget, released in April, the federal government indicated that starting July 17 CRB will pay out $300 per week, down from $500, for the final eight weeks before stopping completely.
Says Paradis: “Government subsidies start to taper off this summer and will end by September if the industry’s cry for sector specific aid is not heard. This will have tragic consequences for our industry and we must all bring this to the attention of the government now.”
“The cutbacks in federal aid programs scheduled to begin in July, while there are still no government issued measures, metrics and plan for the restart of travel, will reduce CRB for independent travel agents and force employers to lay-off more employees at a time when travel agents are needed to process government-mandated consumer refunds,” she added.
A video created by ACTA Vice President Heather Craig-Peddie calls on the industry to get on board with this campaign. The video can be seen here: https://vimeo.com/553021357
ACTA has created three letter templates for travel agency owners, travel agent employees and independent travel agents to customize with their own stories and send to their MPs urgently.
ACTA is also asking everyone to then follow up by phoning their MP, discuss their situation and urge the MP to speak up in the House of Commons and ask that financial support programs be extended until the end of 2021.
“TRAVEL AGENTS SIMPLY NO LONGER HAVE THIS MONEY”
Two airlines so far – Air Canada on April 12, and Transat on April 29 – have announced financial assistance packages from the federal government that included refunds for travellers out-of-pocket due to COVID-19 travel restrictions and cancellations, and protection for travel agent commission.
While Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland and Transport Minister Omar Alghabra made it clear that among other conditions of aid to airlines that “travel agent commission would not be recalled for COVID-19 related cancellations”, Paradis says the industry has identified five areas where commissions are not protected.
“These are monies that were earned in 2019 and early 2020, and used to pay fixed expenses. Travel agencies and travel agents simply no longer have this money to refund consumers,” said Paradis.
ACTA is asking for the following sector specific aid:
- CEWS/CERS/EI/CRB/CRHP – Extend and expand at maximum support to the end of 2021, and 90 days after travel restrictions are eased, including the new Canada Recovery Hiring Program (CRHP).
- Ensure all commissions are protected – Work with ACTA and the industry on the gaps and fully protect travel agent commissions for mandated refunds through grant programs.
- Liquidity Programs (CEBA, RRRF, HASCAP) – Enhance the CEBA loan, extend the repayment terms of CEBA so that the forgivable portion can be made possible and expand the forgivable portion, extend all loan application deadlines to the end of 2021, and expand the accessibility to sole proprietors.
- Roadmap to Recovery – Work with the travel and tourism industry to develop a data-driven plan to restart travel.
Paradis says that in ACTA’s meetings with government since the 2021 budget was announced.,ACTA’s key message has been “you have invested in travel agents and travel agencies for the past 15 months, don’t give up on us now, when recovery is within sight.”
Paradis adds: “With vaccine rollout, bookings have already started for late 2021 and 2022, and momentum is expected to build as Canadians receive their second vaccine dose.”
To participate in Operation Survival go to ACTA’s website: https://www.acta.ca/acta-advocacy-campaign