We began our story in June 2020 after meeting with Simcoe North MP Bruce Stanton to discuss issues we were facing as an industry. COVID had shut down travel Mid March 2020 and we were left without representation for 12,000 independent travel advisors across the country. Our host agencies, tour operators and airlines had their own associations to advocate for their specific interests, but 12,000 entrepreneurs were left without our own collective voice. Three travel full time independent travel advisors, with no political experience were inspired to do the impossible, to enact change.
ACITA is Canada’s only association specifically for independent travel advisors. Our members include over 2000 independent travel advisors from ALL host agencies across Canada.
As the issues we faced evolved, so did ACITA. First fighting to be included in the CRB and CERB and subsequent extensions. We then focused on a halt for commission recalls being passed to us from suppliers, we sold their products in good faith, continued to manage our mutual client files and expected to be paid. We then ensured we were recognized as a group of sole proprietors, who had fallen through massive gaps in our government support, so this could not happen again.
With over 370 zoom meetings with Members of Parliament, Ministers, Senators and government officials, we were an incredibly vocal, and very effective voice on the floor of the House of Commons. They spoke repeatedly about “Independent Travel Advisors” , a term coined by ACITA, for our members.
The happy by product of our advocacy was the coming together of independent advisors from across all provinces, and all host agencies with no barriers or biases. For the first time ever, we formed our own community to support each other.
Heather joined the Travel Industry in Jan 2015 as an Independent Travel Advisor, Full Time, specializing in weddings.
Heather is a Barrie, Ontario person and when she’s not at her desk making Wedding Dreams come true, she’s coaching at CrossFit Resurrection to keep people moving and active. She was the second strongest woman in Ontario (competing as a Middleweight in Strongman) for a hot minute in 2017, but has retired from competition and infuses the enthusiasm of training into other athletes now. Heather enjoys training for fun with the members at her gym at this stage of her life.
Heather’s passions (outside of CrossFit), include photography and musical theatre. Heather can break into song at the drop of a hat and has a penchant for re-writing words to popular songs for subject-specific enjoyment. She can’t dance – don’t ask her 😀
While Heather’s time in the Travel Industry is still relatively fresh, she’s been recognized within her Host Agency and the Travel Community for her sales and achievements, including Destination Weddings Travel Group’s Rising Star award in 2016, the Andrea Marcus O’Grady Award in 2019, as well as Karisma’s Diamond Producer for 2019 and a Jamaica Tourist Board Top Booking Agent for 2021.
Heather has been with ACITA almost since its inception and is currently the resident typist of the group 😀
Arlene lives in Mount Pearl NL and has been in the travel industry for over 33 years. She started her career as a reservation agent at Conquest Tours back in 1988. She worked as a travel agent in Hamilton ON and then as a senior travel consultant in St. John’s Nl. Arlene was promoted and became a travel branch manager in both Lethbridge AB and in St John’s Nl where she spent 21 years before She decided to start her own small business as an Independent agent with The Travel Agent Next Door 8 years ago.
Arlene is happily married, has 1 daughter, 2 cats & 1 grand puppy. She enjoys early morning walks, decorating and reading for a life/work balance. AB and back to St John’s Nl where I spent 17 years before I decided to start my own small business as an Independent agent with TTAND for the past 8.
Michelle has always loved adventure. In 2016 she, her husband and 2 kids went on a 4-month backpacking adventure that changed the course of her life. When she returned to Canada, she knew she wanted to spend the rest of her life helping others to travel our beautiful world.
With a background in restaurant management and event planning, Michelle made a career change and began her training to become a Certified Travel Counselor. In 2018, she opened her independent travel agency. In 2019 she won her host company’s Rising Star Award and was also recognized as a G Adventures “Change Maker.” In 2020 Michelle was featured in Travel Courier’s Agent Appreciation Edition for her community work raising funds for Boots On the Ground, a 24-hour – peer to peer- support line for First Responders in Canada.
Michelle lives in southern Ontario with her husband, 2 teenage kids, a bunch of cats and a parrotlet. She is passionate about experiential & sustainable travel. Michelle hosts several small group “Inspired Travel Adventures” for her clients each year.
Lynda has been a Certified Travel Consultant since 2010 and a Home-Based Consultant since 2017. She has worked in retail Travel and at a Call Centre but enjoys the freedom and flexibility of being a Independent Advisor.
She is located in Langley, BC and is a member of the Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce, the Valley Women’s Networking group and Happy Healthy Women Networking- South Surrey branch.
She specializes in European travel with a keen interest in River cruises, Culinary, Food and Women’s Solo or Group travel.
Lynda has a strong belief in Community involvement and Volunteerism.
Bronwen has been in the tourism and aviation industry since departing school. Starting as ground crew at her local airport and in various positions in local resorts, she then moved to Canada and worked in helicopter aviation.
It was all started by wanting to be a Travel Agent and share travel stories and memories. Now located in Whistler, BC Bronwen works with her clients to explore the globe. She believes that the Travel Agent is essential in the travel market place and has joined the ACITA team to advocate for Independent Travel Agents (ITA’s). As Travel Agents realise the benefits of being an ITA, we are increasing our numbers and we have to ensure that we continue to be recognized as professionals in our industry. ITAs are essential to the success of the Travel Industry and we have to ensure to not fall in gaps of policy.
Since June of 2020 we have had a very dedicated group of Travel Advisors who have been instrumental in our creation and the driving force of ACITA. We would like to acknowledge all of them for putting themselves out there, to create change in our industry.
Judith Coates, Co- founder (Ret.) initiated the first call with MP Bruce Stanton, and put the call out asking for other Independent Advisors to join her. On this original call, Brenda and Nancy answered, and agreed that something needed to be done to protect ourselves, our businesses and our community. After several calls, the Association of Canadian Independent Travel Advisors was born. Judith dedicated countless hours of her time, leading zoom calls, modifying our PowerPoint presentations and managing our many projects along with Nancy & Brenda. Without her participation, perseverance and drive, we are not sure where we would all be. We owe her a massive debt of gratitude for what she has helped achieve for our industry.
There are several others that we need to acknowledge, who took an active role in our advocacy. The “A-team”, our partners, our friends who jumped right in to help ACITA achieve our many goals. Jamie Scott, Sarah Boville, Kristin Hoogendoorn, Mandy Armstrong, Pamela Pereira, Terry Declare, Caitlin Lajeunesse, Mike Sanderson and Cathy Cordy. Thank you so much for showing up, for being so supportive, and for throwing yourselves into our cause with abandon. And a big thank you also, to Caroline Hay who created our very first PowerPoint presentation, and to our host agencies who championed our cause and provided invaluable input throughout this adventure.