A co-founder of the Association of Canadian Independent Travel Advisors (ACITA), a grassroots organization that has been fighting for fairness on behalf of independent travel advisors during the COVID-19 pandemic, has been honoured with an award.
Judith Coates, an advisor with The Travel Agent Next Door, received the Gerald Heifetz Trailblazer Advocacy Award during the Association of Canadian Travel Agencies’ (ACTA) 2021 industry summit on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1.
The award is a nod to Gerald Heifetz, who was instrumental in the foundation of ACTA and CITC.
"He established many of the laws that currently govern the Canadian travel and airline industry," says ACTA.
The recipients are those who, in the most recent year, have had a "significant and positive impact through advocacy on behalf of Canadian travel agents and travel agencies."
Coates launched ACITA in June of 2020 alongside Brenda Slater of Beyond the Beach and Nancy Wilson of TravelOnly.
Since then, the volunteer association has rallied their 1,800-plus membership base on a private Facebook group, urging agents to contact their local MPs, and arrange Zoom meetings, so they can personally explain why they’ve needed help during the pandemic.
And to educate politicians about how the travel industry actually works.
ACITA’s efforts have led to impactful campaigns that resulted in the words “independent travel advisor” being spoken in the House of Commons for the very first time.
In fact, Coates, Slater and Wilson met in person, for the very first time, just recently.
They first connected online, which limited their correspondence during the pandemic to phone, email and social media.
"A team effort"
“This was a team effort,” Coates told PAX on winning the award. “Nancy and Brenda have worked shoulder to shoulder with me. Our executive team (nine people) has done a lot of work behind the scenes, and each of our members have done an amazing job in reaching out to their federal and provincial representatives to ask for accountability, get meetings and do the work of following up.”
Coates said ACITA’s job has been to “keep everyone motivated, and give them the tools they need to get our message heard by the government.”
“MPs and government officials know the name ACITA, but we need to continue to let them know that we need sector-specific aid and that we aren’t going away,” Coates said.
You can also follow ACITA’s progress on Twitter here.