The Association of Canadian Travel Agencies (ACTA) says the quick passage of Bill C-2 is “essential” or thousands of travel and tourism jobs will be lost.
Also, while the Bill will help some in the travel industry: "There is no indication that independent travel agents will benefit," ACTA said in a release on Wednesday (Dec. 1).
Last week, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland tabled Bill C-2 to provide further support in response to COVID-19 in the House of Commons.
The Liberals’ new legislation was first announced in October.
If passed, this bill will provide up to 75 per cent wage and rent subsidies to travel agencies who suffered a revenue decline of 40 per cent or greater.
“But there are some conditions,” ACTA pointed out.
The first being that independent travel agents will not benefit from the program, ACTA said.
“ACTA continues to meet with politicians and key government officials, urging them to amend the bill to include independent travel agents, or to introduce new financial supports for these sole proprietors,” the association said in a statement.
A sector within a sector
While the Liberal government has committed to providing ongoing wage and rent subsidies until May of 2022, it "only benefits storefront agencies," travel advisor Nancy Wilson of TravelOnly told PAX last week.
Wilson, a co-founder of the Association of Canadian Independent Travel Advisors (ACITA), said ACITA’s advocacy is focused on asking government to “provide us with a vehicle to deliver aid to our 'sector within a sector,' or sub sector.”
"We keep being told they are hearing us, that they know we are in desperate need of assistance," Wilson told PAX. "So we remain hopeful that we are making headway."
Omicron threatens industry
At the same time, with the emergence of the COVID-19 Omicron variant, some governments are quickly shutting borders, just weeks before the busiest travel season of the year.
“ACTA is closely analyzing the situation and is deeply concerned about the impact on travel agencies and independent travel agents, who are currently without financial support,” said Wendy Paradis, president of ACTA.
There is an “urgent need” for all Members of Parliament and Senators to urgently pass Bill C-2 into law and to introduce support for independent travel agents, ACTA said, and without financial support, travel and tourism businesses and jobs are “immediately under threat.”
Tourism and Hospitality Recovery Program
As proposed, the Bill will provide backdated wage and rent support from October 24, 2021, ending May 7, 2022.
Wage and rent supports drop in half starting March 13, 2022; as an example, a business eligible for 75% subsidy would get that between October 24, 2021 – March 12, 2022, and then up to 37.5% subsidy between March 13, 2022, and May 7, 2022.
To be eligible, businesses must have had a 40 per cent or greater revenue decline for each month between March 15, 2020, and March 13, 2021.
Further, eligibility is determined monthly starting October 24, 2021, where a minimum revenue 40 per cent drop or greater is required.
The program works similarly to the previous wage and rent subsidies and will be administered by the CRA.
Further, the Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit was proposed, which provides financial support to workers impacted by a lockdown issued by any level of government, including federal, provincial, and municipal.
“Current indications are that border restrictions and advisories do not constitute a lockdown under this program,” ACTA said.
Calls to action
ACTA says it is meeting with politicians and government decision makers, urging them to provide financial support to independent travel agents and to implement the proposed bill quickly.
“Once again, it is essential that travel agencies and independent travel agents write to their Members of Parliament to share their stories and need for immediate financial support,” ACTA said.
In response to the Omicron variant, ACTA is calling on all governments to follow the science to ensure the best possible health and economic outcomes.
“Where appropriate, governments should coordinate their response globally,” ACTA said.