A group of independent travel advisor activists is celebrating a win in the House of Commons this week.
Members of Parliament passed a motion Wednesday urging the government to introduce sector-specific support in its upcoming budget for hospitality and tourism workers, repayable loans for airlines and improved support programs for small and medium businesses, including travel agents.
While the motion lumps everyone together under the tourism umbrella, it addresses one of biggest issues for independent travel advisors at the moment, which is their inability to qualify for any of Ottawa’s small business loan and grant programs, ACITA co-founder and independent travel advisor Brenda Slater told Open Jaw.
The motion comes following persistent efforts by the Association of Canadian Independent Travel Advisors (ACITA), which has been strongly advocating for the industry since it was formed in JUN 2020.
A total of nine MPs spoke about the plight of Canada’s independent travel advisors in their comments during Tuesday’s debate in the House.
“Our voices are being heard and we couldn’t be prouder of our team,” Slater said in a news release. Slater founded ACITA along with independent advisors Judith Coates and Nancy Wilson.
“After almost eight months of meetings, bringing our fight to all sides of the House of Commons, we could not be happier that MPs across the country have taken notice of our fight. They have joined us in seeking sector specific aid, to ensure we qualify for federal grant/loan programs moving forward, and to help ensure that our commissions earned will be protected,” Slater added.
The final vote was 183 for and 159 against, Slater said. But she also added it was “interesting to note that the Bloc, NDP and PC parties all voted in favour. Only the Liberals voted ‘Nay’.”
- Sector-specific support for workers in the “highly impacted hospitality, tourism and charitable sectors”
- Repayable loans to airlines, in exchange for consumer refunds, job guarantees, restrictions on executive compensation and restoration of regional routes
- Improved support programs, including lending supports, for small and medium businesses to be accessible within 30 days of the passage of the motion to prevent a wave of bankruptcies and layoffs
Although the motion urges support for the hospitality and tourism sectors, which normally refer to domestic operators and arrivals to Canada, Slater says the move is still a big win for travel advisors.
“We often talk about what tourism means in our meetings (with MPs), as we are more than aware that when the government talks about tourism, they normally are referring to incoming, not outgoing. But they do include independent travel advisors by name in the debate proceedings,” she told Open Jaw.
“We view this as a huge win, as we are being heard, the government on all sides are talking about us and our need for aid. We currently sit at 185 meetings with MPs, policy advisors and senators. We have come so far.”
Fast introduced the motion Tuesday by saying: “By way of context, the motion we are debating calls for the Liberal government to table a federal budget that includes specific support for the hardest hit sectors of our economy, namely tourism, hospitality, airlines, the charitable sector and, more broadly speaking, small businesses across our country.
“Let us be clear what we are talking about. It is not just cruise ships. We are talking about hotels, motels, restaurants, bus lines, tourist-related retail, travel agents, the recreational fishing industry, outfitters and ski resorts. It goes on and on.”
Fast criticized the government’s HASCAP business credit availability program as being “poorly designed,” with companies unable to access the program or avoiding it altogether because it did not meet their needs.
Fast also spoke in support of aid to the country’s airlines and “robust” rapid testing at airports in order to phase out the current 14-day-quarantine period.
“The Liberal government has been promising support for Canada’s airline industry for over a year and still there is nothing. To date, Canada is the only G7 country that has not supported its airlines,” he said.
The ACITA team has posted an edited video of the clips referring to independent advisors and the association.
MPs in the video include Fast, John Brassard (Barrie-Innisfil), Xavier Barsalou Duval (Pierre-Boucher—Les Patriotes—Verchères), Gord Johns MP for Courtenay-Alberni (Courtenay-Alberni), Dr. Robert Kitchen, MP (Souris-Moose Mountain), Scott Duvall (Hamilton Mountain), Tamara Jansen MP (Cloverdale-Langley City), Julie Dzerowicz (Davenport) and Colin Carrie (Oshawa).
A clip of MP Barsalou-Duval is omitted due to technical translation issues during the debate.