ACTA Wants $3 Billion From Gov’t For Agencies & Workers
Bruce Parkinson, Open Jaw
ACTA is welcoming some of the moves made by the federal government to support business and employees, but the travel agency association says its members need more.
“While we are pleased with some of the financial supports announced by the Federal Government, ACTA is asking the Federal Government to support Travel Agency Businesses and Workers in the amount of $3 billion in financial aid to weather the storm. ACTA has advised the government that it expects that Canadian Travel Agencies be treated equally in any sector specific aid packages,” said Paradis.
ACTA points out that in the U.S., travel agencies were included in a US$25 Billion Economic Stabilization Loan for Airlines. The assistance takes the form of loans, loan guarantees and other investments to support airlines, travel agencies and other related aviation businesses.
ACTA says it has been extensively lobbying the Federal Government, Provincial governments and globally with stakeholders on behalf of travel agencies, travel agency employees and independent travel agents.
ACTA’s recommendations included:
Access to zero interest/low interest business loans;
Relief for payroll taxes;
Addition of immediate special measures to the Work-Share program;
Emergency support for the self-employed (independent contractors who make up 35% of travel agents).
“We are very pleased the Government has approved the following so far, but we will continue to lobby for more and to ensure that travel agencies and travel agents are recognized as being an important sector that has been severely impacted by COVID-19 measures,” said Wendy Paradis, President, ACTA.
ACTA says it was particularly pleased that any worker no longer receiving an income as a result of the COVID-19 crisis -- including Independent Travel Agents -- is eligible for the $2,000 Emergency Relief Fund per month for 4 months/16 weeks, provided the person has earned at least $5,000 in the last 12 months. It is retroactive from 15MAR. Workers should expect to receive this about 10 days after applying and the Application Portal for applying is scheduled to open 6MAR.
Other moves ACTA sees as positive for industry members include:
The CRA is deferring tax payment until 31AUG, 2020 to help businesses with cash flow;
The Work-Share program has introduced some temporary special measures to support employers such as accepting businesses who have been in business for only 1 year rather than 2; elimination of the burden of having to provide sales/production figures at the same time; and a recovery plan is no longer required at this time.
“What ACTA has been advised so far is that employees can apply for the Emergency Relief Fund and then apply for EI when the ERF expires,” said Paradis.” Independent Travel agents can apply for the Emergency Relief Fund. In our discussions with the government about the unique circumstances of Travel Agencies and Travel Agents, we have been advised that the 16-week period will be re-assessed as the longer term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds.”
Refunds & Future Travel Vouchers
ACTA says it has been very involved in the global discussions surrounding the refund problem.
“We know that the Canadian Transportation Agency has issued a statement which cites: “the CTA believes that, generally speaking, an appropriate approach in the current context could be for airlines to provide affected passengers with vouchers or credits for future travel, as long as these vouchers or credits do not expire in an unreasonably short period of time (24 months would be considered reasonable in most cases),” said Paradis.
“The Travel Industry Council of Ontario also references on its website that further to Section 40, offering a full immediate refund or comparable alternative services does not apply in this current situation as it is deemed a force majeure. Customers are subject to the terms and condition of the booking. “ she added.
Credit Card Chargebacks A Critical Concern
ACTA says that along with other key industry stakeholders it has been in contact with the Federal Government “at the highest levels” to tackle the challenge of credit card chargebacks. The group says it will continue to update members on the issue.
ACTA has already tallied over 2000 letters from industry members that have been sent to the Prime Minister, the COVID-19 Cabinet Committee Members, MPs, MPPs, and MLAs since its request just a few days ago.
The organization is asking agents to continue the campaign as it says the efforts are being noticed.
“We’d also like to thank all of our member travel agents and agencies across Canada who are taking the initiative to show how invaluable travel agents have been throughout this crisis in a variety of creative tools. This has been helpful in our lobbying efforts,” said Paradis.
Bruce Parkinson Editor-in-Chief
An observer and analyst of the Canadian and international travel industries for over 25 years, Bruce uses the pre-dawn hours to prepare a daily news and information package to keep industry members up to date.