Steve Gillick, President of the Canadian Institute of Travel Counsellors (CITC) has sent the following open letter to:
Honourable Leona Aglukkaq
House of Commons,
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
The Canadian Institute of Travel Counsellors (CITC) represents the individual front line workers of the travel industry. As the President of this organization, I read with some concern, your advice to ‘travel companies’ with regard to handling confirmed and suspected cases of H1N1. The exact phrasing in the cbc.ca article was ‘Agglukkaq encouraged travel companies to easily allow Canadians to rebook if they are ill‘.
While this is a noble statement, in practice it is not really possible, as there are so many aspects to the travel booking process that need to be considered at the time of cancellation or change.
More than anything, the critical point here is that consumers need to be aware of their choices and options when it comes to making travel plans. It is imperative that they receive expert travel advice and counselling on these choices and there are trained travel professionals ‘out there’ whose expertise lies these very matters.
If a consumer books their travel with a trained travel professional, they will receive the information they need in order to make an informed choice, and therefore not run into surprises by finding out that their travel purchases are non-refundable or not changeable. Many consumers, as an example, view the purchase of travel insurance as a ‘frill‘ versus a necessity, until they find themselves in a situation where they need to change or cancel their reservations (or, of course, a situation where they are befallen by a medical emergency). The concern with the proliferation of on-line bookings is that no one is there to explain and encourage the purchase of insurance. Many online booking sites provide the allusion of ‘cheap and easy‘ travel, but don’t provide the personal ‘travel advice’ which is critical, especially in troublesome times,such as the current concern over H1N1.
Trained travel professionals are best represented by the designation of CTC – Certified Travel Counsellor, which informs the consumer that the person they are dealing with has passed a series of industry performance evaluations and been found proficient in the occupation. A consumer can then rest assured that their travel plans are in the hands of someone looking out for their best interests – before, during and following travel. After all, a travel counsellor’s livelihood depends on repeat and referral business – so it is incumbent on the travel counsellor to ensure that the traveller is aware of specific features and benefits of travel products and services. One example is that if the consumer books a higher class of fare, they will have more options available to them about changes and cancellations. The price difference may be minimal, but the peace of mind provided by the option to postpone travel may be invaluable.
What we are speaking about here is really travel value – making a travel booking is really not just about the price of the travel service – it’s about the need to get away for business or pleasure and have a safe and stress-free experience along the way. This is something that a certified travel professional can provide.
CITC publishes the directory of certified travel professionals ( www.citc.ca/en/directory) located across Canada, in which consumers may locate a qualified counsellor close to their home or business.
Minister, I hope that in your next press conference you will make reference about the need for consumers to make safe and savvy travel decisions by dealing with trained travel professionals who, for all intents and purposes, act as the consumer’s personal lobbyist. They ensure that the consumer’s best interests are top-of-mind, whether it involves advice on global health matters and how best to proceed with travel plans, or should anything ‘go wrong’ while in destination.
Certified Travel Counsellors, are the best tool that a consumer can use to ensure they have a worry-free travel experience. And this includes the choices open to the consumer , should they wish to cancel, change or postpone their travel plans.
Steve Gillick CTM
President & Chief Operating Officer