“We need a voice!” One on one with ACITA co-founders
Nancy Wilson and Brenda Slater

“We need a voice!” One on one with ACITA’s co-founders

TORONTO — Persistence is key when it comes to advocating for what’s right, something ACITA knows all too well.

Born from the pandemic in June 2020 by co-founders Nancy Wilson, Brenda Slater and Judith Coates (who stepped down from her leadership role in July 2022), ACITA (Association of Canadian Independent Travel Advisors) isn’t letting up one bit in its efforts to support Independent Travel Advisors (ITAs). Although travel has reopened and rebounded around the world, challenges remain for those on the front lines – namely, the 12,000+ ITAs across Canada.

“We need a voice! We cannot rely on anyone else to advocate on our behalf,” says Wilson, an Independent Travel Advisor with Leisure Life Holiday. “The number of Independent Travel Advisors (ITAs) has grown significantly across the country, with massive buying power. Our business model has evolved and it is time supplier policies in this industry follow suit.”

Earlier this month, Wilson, along with co-founder Slater who also serves as an Independent Travel Advisor for Beyond the Beach, participated in a virtual meeting with Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra. Over the course of the pandemic, ACITA members have participated in hundreds of virtual meetings with various MPs to advocate for financial aid and commission protections. But this recent meeting marked just the second time the organization has sat down with the Minister for what was considered a pivotal discussion about the latest issues for travel advisors, post-pandemic. These include the widespread weather-related flight cancellations over the winter holidays, which led to a federal government investigation into how airlines handled the situation. Just yesterday, ACITA released results from a new survey of its members (2,000 on its private page and a further 960 on its public Facebook page), which found that 20% of respondents had up to $30,000 in commissions recalled as a result of winter cancellations by airlines and tour operators. 

Also discussed during the meeting with Minister Alghabra was last year’s changes to the Airlines Passenger Protection Regulations (APPR), which require airlines to provide passengers with either a refund or rebooking in the event of a flight cancellation of lengthy delay, due to situations outside the airline’s control. Of course, with the possibility of airlines issuing more refunds come the risk of more commission recalls for travel advisors. 

We asked both Wilson and Slater to provide more details about their meeting with the Minister, and how recovery has been for ACITA members and Canada’s ITAs in general. Here’s what they said:


How deeply were ITAs impacted by the holiday flight cancellations? And what are you hoping the federal government will do to help agents in the aftermath?

“All of our income comes from the commissions we earn on bookings. So when trips are cancelled and clients receive refunds, we have commissions recalled. All agents from Saskatchewan as well as Manitoba, Northern Ontario and Eastern Canada lost months of work because of the cancellations. 

“In addition, not only was a lot of our commissions recalled, we were expected to work through the holiday assisting our clients where possible, with no additional compensation. We continue to explore how we can stop this practice and have our commission protected.”

You also discussed possible changes to APPR. What changes are you hoping to see?

“Our question for the Minister in terms of APPR was surrounding cancelled programs, and how we can ensure we are protected in the future. There should be more clarity in the APPR program with regards to the reasons for cancellation and associated penalties. We need protection in the future for our role as Independent Travel Advisors to remain sustainable.”

Do these two issues affect ITAs and brick-and-mortar travel agents differently?

“They affect everyone and we feel it’s important to get commission protection for everyone across the country, not just ITAs. All travel advisors work extremely hard and should never have to pay back their commissions for work already completed.”

What do you think is the greatest challenge for ITAs right now? And how can the federal government and/or suppliers help?

“The greatest challenge for all advisors is working within an industry that is severely understaffed. We need the government to encourage growth and stability in our sector. The suppliers could help by putting policies in place that would protect our commission when they cancel programs. This would go a long way in attracting new advisors and incentivize those who left our industry to return.”

Would you say things are improving for ITAs compared to a year ago?

“Yes! This has created the opposite program, where high demand is exceeding our capabilities across the industry. Many advisors have had to turn away business as they just don’t have the time to assist. Many advisors in this industry are getting close to an age of retirement and are looking to scale back their businesses for a higher quality work/life balance. This is where encouraging growth in our sector will alleviate those concerns and push the industry beyond its current expectations.”

For more information about ACTIA go to www.acita.ca or join its Facebook group here.

If you have a story idea, reach out to Deputy Editor Cindy Sosroutomo at cindys@travelweek.ca

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