Canadian Travel Press
Issue Date: Apr 06, 2020

Agencies deserve federal assistance, former ACTA chief says


Former ACTA president Ron Pradinuk is giving this country’s travel agencies a good shot at riding out the coronavirus crisis, provided the federal government doesn’t turn its back on them when it comes to providing promised financial assistance to small businesses seeing their revenues plummet in these days of self-isolation.

Different sectors of a travel industry that has already seen massive layoffs in this country and abroad are expressing alarm over their future if some form of relief isn’t provided.

Pradinuk, who long owned a Winnipeg travel agency, says Ottawa should favourably consider requests for help from the travel agency community.

“With each major event in the past, we have seen a decrease in travel agency numbers,” notes Pradinuk, who had to contend with the likes of swine flu, Ebola outbreaks and SARS during his days as an agent. “While I think it could happen again, depending on the length of this health crisis, I think the remaining agencies are stronger than in the past and may be able to weather the storm if the government stands by the industry as they seem to be doing for other industries.

“The people who are suffering financially in our industry are no less deserving than others.”

Pradinuk also worries that the current situation could lead to more people buying online – bypassing traditional agencies – once things recover, pointing to the “ever-increasing volumes” going to the likes of Amazon.

Pradinuk says being a travel agent during crises that curtail travel in a major way “takes a toll” and it is “easy to say I am glad I am not going through it again.”

He predicts the cruise industry — which has been having to contend with grim stories of ships being quarantined and denied port access after coronavirus was detected on board– “will be under stress” longer than other travel industry segments.

Nevertheless, Pradinuk, who was a travel agent for close to 35 years, says the travel industry could see a quick rebound after the coronavirus crisis ends. He notes Taiwan’s travel industry was hard-hit by the SARS outbreak but bounced back quite quickly after it ended, with visitations from some prime source markets being largely back to normaI within a few months of the outbreak being declared over. Taiwanese tourism authorities launched aggressive advertising campaigns after the country was deemed safe.

Pradinuk says Taiwan’s rapid recovery is a hopeful reminder for those in this country’s travel trade.

“It (the current situation) for the travel agency community will turn (improve) if you can hang on for the vaccination,” he counsels travel agents. “Note how fast Taiwan regained its tourism numbers after the World Health Organization declared the SARS crisis over.”