Travel Professional NEWS® speaks with ACTA.
What was the original purpose for the formation of this association?
The original purpose of the formation of the association was to become autonomous from the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA). To that point Canadian Travel Agency retail interests were represented by ASTA and known as ASTA Canada. Recognizing that it was becoming a challenge to represent our own Canadian interests, in 1977 the decision was made to form our own association, initially named the Alliance of Canadian Travel Associations. Our purpose was to serve as the focal point for the retail travel services industry. To provide effective leadership in a number of key strategic areas on behalf of the retail travel industry members, where ideas and resources are pooled into initiatives designed to create and maintain a healthy business and legislative environment in where the retail travel agent industry will thrive and consumers receive professional and meaningful travel counseling.
Does that purpose still have a role, x years later?
YES. ACTA is extremely active with purpose. Proudly representing and defending the interests of the retail travel agency services industry to keep it well equipped to face the challenges of a constantly evolving travel industry.
Despite our “purpose” remaining the same, our strategy and work plans have not. We have an active Board of Directors that oversee carefully considered strategies and the plans to achieve our goals and objectives. The ACTA board of directors approves the strategic direction that aligns its resources around the following four pillars to ensure membership dollars are effectively utilized.
- ADVOCATE – In the interests of the retail travel industry to government, suppliers and organizations through one strong voice
- EDUCATE AND ELEVATE – Industry standards and professionalism through certification and other learning opportunities.
- PROMOTE – The value of retail travel to the consumer and actively position the travel agent as the authority in travel.
- CONNECT – Our members with the information, contacts and programs they need to be more effective.
Specific projects and initiatives under these pillars have been developed and you are invited to contact your ACTA regional office to find out more!
How has your organization changed over the last 10 years to meet the changing demands of travel agents?
ACTA has remained 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 today with sister associations, suppliers, and retailers. ACTA’s involvement globally and locally, both in leisure and corporate gives ACTA a clear view and long reach into issues that affect travel retailers and the Managed Corporate Travel Industry markets.
ACTA understands that the requirements of Travel Agencies and suppliers do not always correspond. 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.
All sides play enormous roles in the professionalism, service, and protection for the travelling public and are critical in the sustainability of our lobby and advocacy efforts while ensuring the costs to our members remain reasonable. ACTA believes that the supplier should always play a role in supporting the travel agent community.
And, of course, what travel agents want to know: what have you done for them lately?
Travel Health Insurance:
- Working with the Travel Health Insurance Association (THiA) toward an objective of one standard for selling travel insurance across Canada. Contributing to the Canadian Council of Insurance Regulators (CCIR) recent review of any existing misalignment between consumer’s expectations and industry practices. Engaging the Alberta Insurance Council in fruitful dialogue on the importance of our involvement in decisions surrounding the sale of Travel Health Insurance.
Government and Regulation:
- ACTA was nominated and accepted for a seat at Québec’s OPC stakeholder meetings.
- The Ontario government has opened the Travel Industry Act for a full review and ACTA is closely involved in this process on behalf of our members. The Ontario government is also reviewing the Employment Standards Act which ACTA responded to and will continue to monitor next steps in this process.
International Air Transport Authority (IATA):
- ACTA sits on an IATA joint committee with equal representation between retailers and airlines. Of upcoming importance is the review of the Local Financial Criteria which can impact your financial requirements if you hold an IATA appointment. ACTA is evaluating concerns related to credit capping under IATA’s new generation of their settlement systems which facilitates the distribution and settlement of funds in between travel agents and airlines. IATA formed a Working Group to look into Agency Debit Memos. ACTA will continue to advise members of their progress.
ACTA Learning Campus:
- Certified Travel Counsellor and Certified Travel Manager prep courses are now available online.
- All Air Canada Global Sales University modules are now available.
- Supplier specialist programs are now available for your continuing education requirements.
- ACTA contributes as an expert resource for consumer facing media on topics allowing us to promote the value of a Travel Agent to consumers. ACTA promotes our members at consumer shows (in cities including Halifax, Montreal, Kingston, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Calgary and Edmonton) and through our websites and directories.
- ACTA provides successful opportunities for members to learn, network and share ideas including: conferences (Travel MarketPlace, Educator’s and Student), golf tournaments and seminars (fraud).
- ACTA offers a Member Discount Program to reduce operating expenses including: Insurance, savings on Canada Post pre-paid envelopes, and savings on credit card merchant services to name a few.
ACTA’s strategic focus for 2016 – 2018…
Over the next three years, ACTA Board members agreed that there will be additional emphasis put on the following areas:
- Enhancing the ACTA Value Proposition – Build awareness and understanding of ACTA’s value proposition to the Travel Agency community as well as consumer understanding of the value of purchasing travel services from travel professionals.
- Enhancing Industry Education and Professionalism – By designing, creating, and executing a strategy for certification and education to increase professionalism and ultimately support the brand promise.
- Enhancing Member Benefits – Making the ACTA Membership Card as the “card of choice” within the Canadian Travel Industry – Requested by Agents and Acknowledged by Suppliers.