Petitioning for support
Since launching a Commission Recall Petition on Nov. 30, travel advisor Heidi Hurst has received over 4224 signatures in support. Travel Courier caught up with Hurst to learn more about the efforts.
TPI agent creates petition against commission recalls
After engaging with her clients and others in the travel agent community, Heidi Hurst, Lead Travel Consultant and Adventure Travel Specialist at Heidiway Travel with TPI in Calgary, decided to take her efforts to the next level in the plight to advocate against mass commission recalls.
With the help of fellow TPI agent Kayla Gavin and Stacey Lazarenko of Escapes.ca, Hurst launched an official Commission Recall Petition on Nov. 30, after connecting with local Calgary MP Jag Sahota.
“She was really surprised, and in other meetings I sat in on, every MP was surprised [to learn about the position agents are in], ‘Really? You get nothing for all that work?’” Hurst tells Travel Courier.
While Hurst is in full support of travellers getting refunds, she’s advocating for agents not to be expected to pay suppliers back their duly earned commission, which is the equivalent of the majority of their income earned this year.
“I wanted all Canadians to know that travel suppliers, travel agents, the industry wants refunds to be happening but the current system is antiquated,” she says. “If it’s not regulated, if it’s not brought as a restriction from the government, then it doesn’t force industry to change their system.”
Looking at her 2019 sales as an example, Hurst says her agency would be on the hook to pay back $40,000, which would bankrupt many agents.
“I wanted to make it very clear that this isn’t a blame game. This isn’t us saying our travel suppliers treat us badly, they don’t, we love them, they have been amazing to us through all of this, but we also want to be able to continue that,” Hurst says. “We don’t believe people should be working for free. And we’ve done even more work on some of these files than we generally would have for the amount of payment, and the amount of payment stays the same. I love my business, I love my job. I want to be here for travellers. We just need to step up and say don’t forget about us.”
Hurst says the response to the petition has been incredibly well received and supported, and she feels inspired to be part of the group getting a message of hope out to the industry.
“We need travellers, we need travel suppliers and we need travel agents. We’ve seen that a lot and I think going forward, having the benefit of a certified or professional travel agent really does take people to that level of care and concern. So we all need to be here and work on this.”
To sign the petition, visit:
Petition to the Government of Canada:
- Travel agents have worked tirelessly through the pandemic to protect and care for Canadian travellers at home and abroad;
- Travel Suppliers (Airlines, Cruise and Tour operators) are clawing back the duly earned agent commissions (wages) from this work, to offset impact of consumer refunds;
- This means agents are expected to pay suppliers the equivalent of the majority of their income earned this year;
- This money will come from the other government COVID-19 programs (i.e. CERB and CRB) since most travel agents haven’t generated any income in the past 9 months;
- This could also cause many to claim personal bankruptcy;
- Government bailouts for the airline and travel industries as currently proposed will have a crushing financial impact on travel agents and agencies, a workforce that is largely female (over 80%) and commission based;
- Travel suppliers are not recalling the wages of their in-house staffing when a file is refunded;
- Travel agents support consumer refunds, and will continue to manage these files for suppliers; and
- Additional support, retroactive to the pandemic declaration or non-essential travel advisory issued on March 13, 2020, for those agents already required to pay back tens of thousands of dollars, should be made available to prevent hard-working Canadians from having to declare bankruptcy to prop up large corporations.
We, the undersigned, residents of Canada, call upon the Government of Canada to consider travel agents as external staffing for travel suppliers and include this caveat on any supplier bailout terms, provided that previously paid travel agent commissions not be subject to clawbacks, but rather be considered a sunk business (staffing) cost.