With just days to go until the deadline to apply for the Ontario Tourism and Travel Small Business Support Grant, ACTA has learned that Ontario's independent travel advisors were never intended to benefit from the program.
So many of Ontario’s independent travel advisors were finding themselves ineligible for the business-saving program, that ACTA took their cause to decision-makers in the provincial government.
The organization has had “ongoing discussions” with provincial decision makers and issued an “urgent message” late Tuesday afternoon, with Friday’s deadline looming.
“ACTA’s lobbying efforts with political and bureaucratic officials are ongoing and all angles are being pursued before the June 25 deadline,” said Wendy Paradis, ACTA’s president.
“ACTA continues to call on the Ontario government to amend the grant rules to include independent travel agents. The grant is intended to support the hardest-hit businesses in travel and tourism and the exclusion of independent travel agents doesn’t make sense.”
The organization reports that, despite what it calls “positive discussions,” “government officials continually repeat their position that only TICO-registered agencies are eligible for the grant, which does not cover individual independent travel agents as they are only registered through their host agencies.”
And she explained the consequences of the program rule oversight. “This leaves thousands of Ontario’s independent travel agents excluded from the program due to a technicality, which is unacceptable,” said Paradis. “Independent travel agents are largely only eligible for federal support under the Canada Recovery Benefit. The grant program is one of the few lifelines potentially available to these entrepreneurs.”
She explained how the system is not working: “The government’s mandate to reduce red-tape and support small business is not inline with the grant program eligibility rules.“
ON Gov’t: Program “Not Intended” for Independent Travel Agents
But Possible New Programs On the Way
ACTA did reveal that, in their urgent calls with government officials this week, they learned that Ontario never envisioned helping independent advisors with the Ontario Tourism and Travel Small Business Support Grant - but that new, sector-specific programs are being developed which may bring relief for desperate advisors.
“Despite the current program challenges, we had a productive discussion with the Ontario Ministry of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries. While they reiterated that the current grant program is not intended for independent travel agents, ongoing policy work is being done to support future sector-specific programs,” said Paradis.
ACTA continues its advocacy efforts in full-gear with the goal that independent travel agents be eligible for all government programs. “We are working closely with government to ensure we continue to be part of the policy making process for future programs,” she said.