With their members struggling, the Canadian Association of Tour Operators (CATO) and Association des Tours Opérateurs du Québec (ATOQ) are seeking urgent action and financial support; pointing out, as well, that it is mission critical that they receive clear federal guidelines and timelines ahead of international travel resuming.
To that end, the two associations are requesting to receive full government support with the extension of the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) at the current level until at least Dec. 31, 2021.
And to underline the significant contribution those members make to the Canadian economy and devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic has had on them, CATO and ATOQ have released an Economic Impact Assessment Report.
Brett Walker, CATO Chair, said that: “CATO and ATOQ tour operator members truly appreciate the federal government’s Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) which enabled us to retain employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, we were nonetheless forced to lay-off almost 30% of our collective workforce, so we are fighting for our survival.”
But, Walker continued: “With average advanced bookings made six months prior to departure and borders still closed, there will be little, if any, return to international travel before 2022. With CEWS running out, the only means to bridge the gap and save thousands of jobs is for the government to extend CEWS at the current level for our members and those hardest hit until the end of 2021.”
With the pandemic resulting in travellers being advised to avoid non-essential travel, CATO and ATOQ members have been forced to temporarily and permanently lay-off employees when travel came to a grinding halt beginning in March 2020.
The association’s note that women make up more than 73% of their workforce and they are one of the most diverse and inclusive industries in Canada.
With the industry at a standstill for 15 months now and no clear roadmap from the government for the reopening of borders, CATO and ATOQ indicate that revenue will continue to be 82% below 2019 levels.
This will be the case for many months to come as CATO’s and ATOQ’s new Economic Impact Assessment Report indicates the average advanced booking is made six months ahead of departure.
In Ontario and Quebec, all revenue generated from bookings is held in trust until trips depart, which means companies cannot use these funds to pay wages or travel agent commissions, which typically return millions of dollars to the government through payroll taxes (income tax, CPP, EI and EHT).
Without an extension of CEWS to CATO and ATOQ members, their segment of the industry will have no choice but to lay-off more individuals or permanently let go of employees.
Canadian tour operators need at least six months to prepare and bridge the gap between the opening of international borders and earning any revenue. Along with securing guests’ accommodations, flights, tour guides, sightseeing excursions, etc., they also need to co-ordinate health and well-being protocols in this new world of travel.
CATO and ATOQ make it clear that in order to avoid prolonged duress for the industry, the government must make known any updated criteria or clear guidelines for easing of travel restrictions and reopening of borders.
Millions of Canadians work in tourism-related industries, yet tour operator members have not been provided the fundamentals their industry sector needs to survive.
Go to www.cato.ca or https://www.atoq.ca/ for more.