MISSISSAUGA — ACTA says it is actively lobbying the federal government to include travel agent commissions as part of any aid package given to the travel industry – either by stipulating that the aid must cover all commissions and that they must not be recalled – or by direct compensation to travel agents and travel agencies.
Yesterday Transport Minister Marc Garneau announced that the federal government is moving forward with financial assistance discussions with Canada’s airlines.
The wording of Garneau’s announcement suggests the bailout won’t happen unless airlines come through with refunds for passengers whose trips were cancelled due to the pandemic.
“Before we spend one penny of taxpayer money on airlines, we will ensure Canadians get their refunds,” said Garneau yesterday.
Refund announcements from WestJet and WestJet Vacations late last month had agents concerned that more airlines and major tour operators may follow.
The issue of refunds and commission recalls has galvanized the retail travel sector after months of extreme challenges and hardship and agents have been vocal in their frustration. Many agencies are already teetering on the edge as it is in the wake of the pandemic.
Garneau also alluded to route cancellations and station closures by several of Canada’s airlines in the wake of the pandemic. “Regional connectivity is important to Canadians travelling now and in the future. We will ensure Canadians and regional communities retain air connections to the rest of Canada, and that Canadian air carriers maintain their status as key customers of Canada’s aerospace industry,” he said.
Garneau added: “Any assistance the Government of Canada provides will come with strict conditions to protect Canadians and the public interest.”
“OPPOSED TO ANY POLICY … TO RECALL COMMISSIONS”
ACTA President Wendy Paradis says ACTA understands the need to provide refunds on COVID-19 affected bookings.
“We know this is what the majority of Canadian consumers have asked for, and understand from yesterday’s announcement by Minister Garneau that consumer refunds will be a condition of any government aid,” said Paradis.
“However, on behalf of Canadian travel agencies and travel agents, ACTA remains opposed to any policy by airlines and other suppliers to recall commissions.”
Paradis notes that travel agencies and travel agents “have worked tirelessly on behalf of our mutual customers since last March, when all travel was abruptly halted and thousands of travellers had to find their way home and pursue refunds and compensation.”
She added that many travel agents have worked throughout the spring and summer trying to mediate these disputes between clients and suppliers, and that travel agencies and travel agents have seen revenue drops of over 90% since March 2020.
“Travel is one of the hardest hit industries and having experienced close to zero income over the past eight months, travel agents and agencies no longer have the funds to support a recall of commissions by any travel supplier, as they have already used or earmarked these funds to pay wages, rent and other fixed expenses,” said Paradis.
“We have been asking the government repeatedly to include travel agencies and travel agents in any aid package for the travel industry,” she added. “We need to make sure the government understands that travel agencies and travel agents are an integral part of the distribution channel for all travel industry suppliers and that decisions to give refunds have a direct impact on these small businesses and independent contractors across Canada.”