The Association of Canadian Independent Travel Advisors (ACITA) met with senior staff of Transport Minister Omar Alghabra last week to provide an update on the landscape of the segment of the travel industry that has been overlooked by the government during the past two years — namely, Independent Travel Advisors.
ACITA notes that “We are seeing an increase in bookings for our clients, but due to the nature of our revenue model, travel advisors do not receive any revenue until after our clients depart. So, although many people are booking getaways, cruises and bucket list trips for late 2022 & 2023, we will not be in a position of recovery until that travel takes place.”
The association also pointed out that: “With all government assistance having been removed, this puts us in a precarious situation. As a result, we have seen many travel advisors leave the industry that they love, and others hanging on by a thread as they’ve had to re-finance home, go into heavy debt, and use up retirement savings. Many Independent Travel Advisors are reporting that they are still struggling with mental health issues.”
ACITA also said that travel advisors receive a wealth of feedback first-hand from clients and colleagues who have navigated the crowds at various Canadian gateways.
During the meeting, ACITA called on the Transport Minister to:
- Improve signage at entranceways and hallways leading to CATSA areas in all International Gateways, so that travellers are better informed of which items need to be removed from carry-on luggage and from their person.
- Invest in up to date technology for screening in security areas, following the lead of airports in the EU, such as Shannon Airport, which informs passengers on their website that they can now bring whatever liquids they require as long as they are stored within cabin baggage without restriction on bottle size allowing them to pass through security in a much quicker time. Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport has been utilizing this CT technology at all major checkpoints since 2020.
- Extend an invitation to ACITA to occupy a seat at the table of the Transport Ministry’s Air Advisory Committee. As stakeholders in the industry (24,000 Travel Advisors in Canada, and 85% female) we play a major role in communicating ever changing requirements and protocols with passengers prior to departure. The Transport Ministry must recognize the value that Travel Advisors bring to the table, as we are the eyes and ears on the ground, and have a direct line to consumers.
- Keep the public informed by way of video announcements on Social Media, to let consumers know that steps are being taken to alleviate backlogs, not just in CATSA areas but also in Customs Halls for arriving passengers. Media accounts of planeloads of passengers waiting on the tarmac for hours before they can disembark are common, and instill fear and uncertainty in travellers. In these announcements, the Minister should be stressing the importance of booking with a professional Travel Advisor.
- Provide better training for new CATSA agents. We have received messages from passengers who had to remove liquids from their 1 litre ziplock bag and transfer them to a CATSA 1 litre ziplock bag. MP Michelle Rempel relayed her experience on May 14 via Facebook video, however, sadly, her experience is not uncommon and is a result of poor training of new CATSA employees. The CATSA website clearly states that liquids are to be packed in any 1 litre closed and resealable plastic bag — there is no mention of it having to be an “official” bag.
ACITA said that it looked forward to continuing to meet with high level Transport and Tourism Ministry staff, “so that we can keep them better informed of the realities of air travel in our current landscape.”