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ACTA announced more than just a new name at its annual summit in Toronto on Thursday, where 400 advisors and 100 suppliers descended for sessions, a trade show and an awards cocktail.
The Association of Canadian Travel Advisors unveiled its strategy for 2024 that will include continuing to advocate for advisors but will also focus on helping advisors to maximize their time, attracting new talent to the industry and implementing and managing AI tools effectively.
So it was very fitting this year’s opening panel session was titled Maximizing ROE – Return on Effort- in the Canadian Travel Industry.
Speaking on the panel alongside Lisa Pearce, Air Canada and Air Canada Vacations’ VP Global Sales, Trevello CEO Zeina Gedeon, and Michael Johnson, President Ensemble, Joseph Adamo, president of TDC and Chief Sales and Marketing Officer of Transat said advisors’ time was “persishable and is to be valued.”
In an interview with TravelPulse Canada, Wendy Paradis, ACTA President said she agrees.
“I think that as a Travel Advisor, it is so important that we focus on return on effort,” she says. “If potential clients don't want to pay you for your expertise, then they need to move on. They can use the internet, they can use chat GPT. But a Travel Advisor is highly valued and should be valued.”
Paradis says the industry is still seeing a huge shift in the workforce after many skilled advisors left during the pandemic, but that was already forecasted years ago due to the sheer number of baby boomers retiring. During his session, Andrew Grantham, Executive Director, and Senior Economist at CIBC confirmed a labour shortage was a key issue back in 2019; COVID just exasperated it.
“COVID just made the shortage move more quickly,” Paradis says. “The good thing is there are a lot of individuals in Canada who love to travel, who are well travelled and have a great interest in entering our industry. We absolutely love seeing that.”
ACTA plans to work more closely with colleges and universities to help raise awareness and funnel recruits into the industry. During the pandemic, many post-secondary schools dropped their travel and tourism program offerings but are starting to re-instate. ACTA wants to capitalize on that by helping to facilitate apprenticeships and internships for eager travel advisors to be.
“Our industry is really much better when we have diversity, where that’s cultural or age. It creates a dynamic which is why it’s an area we’re going to focus on and really try to bring the travel career front and center.
“That's why, for example, we have Travel Advisor Essentials, which is an online entry level training program that newcomers to the industry can take. We then match them with a travel agency, or host agency, and they can become an employee being an independent travel advisor. We have opportunities in this industry.”
A younger generation may be more comfortable with new technology such as AI, but Paradis says that’s something that older agents shouldn’t be afraid of. With so much information available online, a travel advisor can cut through it to build a wonderful experience for their clients.
Paradis says AI can complement travel planning, but human interaction is still valuable for clients who want a personalized experience.
“AI is a real buzz word, many of us are using it. And it is very, very helpful in many ways, but it will not replace that human-to-human contact and collaboration.
Way back when the internet came out, we thought that was going to eliminate travel advisors, and now AI is going to eliminate Travel Advisor. I think it's just different. We keep reinventing ourselves and that human-to-human contact and is so important.
I think really makes a difference."
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