In replacement of our regularly scheduled newsletter on September 20, ACTA published a review for our valued members featuring the "year to date". We shared with you ACTA’s wins and battles, we addressed frequently asked questions, and explained the role our partners play in ACTA’s overall sustainability. We are pleased to share this summary and hope you will find the content of interest.
First, a reminder or who we are and why we are here:
- ACTA is the travel agencies voice to the government.
- ACTA is the travel agencies voice to the supplier.
- ACTA speaks on behalf of small, medium, and large travel agencies across Canada
- ACTA has been YOUR association for 35 years and our mission in 1977 remains the same today:
“To serve as the focal point for the retail travel services industry, where ideas and resources are pooled into initiatives designed to create and maintain a healthy business and legislative environment in which the retail travel industry will thrive”
Some of the issues that ACTA has been working on in the last 6 months:
- Charter group cancellations - ACTA recently help mediate the resolution to a serious customer service issue. One of our members planned a wedding group for travel this coming October. She sold 43 seats and called to add 4 more pax. While discussing with the supplier the addition of 4 more pax she was told that the departure was cancelled!
- Consumer protection - ACTA has been working with the CTA (Canadian Transportation Agency) to draft regulations regarding air fare advertising with the view that it is critical for the airline industry to provide consumers with full transparency of all mandatory and optional charges no matter what distribution channel the airfare is purchased.
The CTA is also considering regulations that will legislate the rights and remedies for passengers on Air Canada, WestJet and Air Transat for flights delayed, overbooked or cancelled. ACTA has been pushing for a broader regulation to include both scheduled and charter air carriers to force them to be more responsible for their actions.
- IATA - With the advancements in globalization and technology an increasing number of our members are serving corporate clients with offices in the United States. To avoid exchange fees, these clients wish to be charged in USD and pay for travel with American credit cards. The problem is that BSP/IATA does not allow Canadian agencies to transact with them in USD and will only accept CAD funds. ACTA feels this is an outdated and limiting process. With airlines and GDS already setup to transact in multiple currencies its time for IATA to follow suit.
ACTA is also actively representing your interests as IATA announces their “new messaging standard” which we know is their intention to create a new distribution system geared to by-pass the GDS and ultimately restrict your ability to provide your clients with complete content choice. We are working with our global counterparts through the WTAAA and also with Open Allies. We will continue to update you on this important matter.
- Review Engagements – A complex motion was presented at the TICO AGM that included the relevance of review engagements. The ACTA Ontario council (your elected representatives) took a survey to members for feedback. Based on this feedback and dedicated discussions on this topic, the ON council took their position:
“ACTA Ontario acknowledges that although the system TICO currently has in place is not a perfect system and that the consistent fee increases for review engagements is becoming a growing burden and having a greater impact on an agencies bottom line, they are a critical step towards maintaining regulation and offering the consumer true protection on their travel bookings.”
Leading into the TICO AGM, member owner/managers in Ontario were informed of the motion and the position ACTA was taking. Members were encouraged to come out and vote in which they did. In the end this motion was defeated, 133 – 69. Although a costly independent review of TICO’s operating expenses will not be conducted, the message to TICO from those in attendance including large ACTA member agencies, is that TICO needs to be sensitive to the economic landscape and reign in expenses where possible.
- Travel Insurance – ACTA recently conducted Radio and TV interviews with the CBC highlighting the importance of purchasing health insurance, how to get it and the risks of travelling without coverage.
ACTA also spoke in front of 150 insurance professionals at the AGM of THIA (Travel Health Insurance Association) on the different levels, regulations and variations of travel health insurance requirements across the country and the problems and confusion it creates.
THIA and ACTA have agreed to strike up a committee with a specific mandate and time-line, to put together overall guidelines for selling travel health insurance across the country, including wording that will be acceptable to travel health insurance definitions and terms in each province and territory, as well as guidelines for:
1) Allowing travel agents in each province to sell Travel Health Insurance to consumers from any other province in the country
2) Standardizing training of travel agents regarding travel health insurance products
3) Standardizing testing to ensure that travel agents understand how to sell Travel Health Insurance and associated products
4) Some form of compliance standards set in place
How else has ACTA been providing value to their members?
FAQ - In light of some questions brought up in the media recently, we will take a moment to address our members:
Q – What constitutes an ACTA partnership:
A – ACTA partnerships are separate from Allied membership. Membership in ACTA is open to eligible retail and Allied (supplier) companies. Partnerships offer ACTA and our members with a different set of benefits. It is important to note that ACTA does not take partnerships lightly and are fully transparent to the Board of Directors. Partners are carefully selected and typically offer ACTA members greater value in the form of higher commission, new revenue streams, or customized programs. ACTA provides extra support towards education and awareness for our partners. ACTA leverages trade shows, member kits, open forums, golf tournaments, webinars and custom digital solutions to fulfill our obligation to our partners. These partnerships are critical in the sustainability of our lobby and advocacy efforts while ensuring the costs to our members remain reasonable. Partnership revenues are clearly identified in the annual reports available to members from the ACTA website. ACTA believes the supplier should always play a role in supporting the travel agent community. Our partnerships highlight the dedication that our partners have made to the retail travel agency community but most importantly, our members.
Q – Why choose one destination, hotel chain, or cruise line - as excellent as these may be - over the others? ACTA should be inclusive - not exclusive.
A – ACTA remains inclusive and carries no bias as it relates to dealing with the issues that effect the travel agent community. This is re-enforced in our partnership contracts which cover dealing with “conflict of interest”. There have been instances where partnerships were dissolved due to irreconcilable differences. ACTA is not adverse to this
In closing, ACTA must remain agile in a forever changing landscape. We fully recognize that times have changed and we have and continue to change with the times. A decade earlier ACTA did not have the same relationships we have with our supplier members and partners. The requirements of retailers and suppliers do not always correspond, and we get that. However, it is critical to remain transparent with both sides if we are expected to work together and be well equipped to thrive during major economic cycles and to face the challenges of an evolving travel industry. Both sides play enormous roles in the professionalism, service, and protection for the travelling public.
With warm regards,
President and COO
P.S. Please consider sharing your input. We like to make it a habit to listen