My Turn: Gag Orders and More

By The Numbers 

by Bruce Bishins, CTC
President and Chief Executive Officer
Association of Retail Travel Agents - Canada

As you may know, ARTA Canada does not disclose membership lists, numbers, nor member demographics. Our bylaws prohibit public disclosure of this type of information for several reasons. One of those reasons is that we do not wish to engage in a war of words with ACTA about the numbers of agents ARTA Canada represents when we have already conceded that the number of agents in ARTA Canada is less than that which ACTA boasts.

ARTA Canada has lived with this self-imposed discretion despite frequent pummeling from both the trade press and ACTA. We are resigned to keeping our lists and numbers confidential and rely on the work we do, rather than the numbers we do it for, to prove our value to our members and the industry.

ACTA's continued assault on ARTA Canada for this non-disclosure has opened the door for us to justifiably comment on ACTA's own assertions on membership numbers and recent developments in ACTA Québec which have raised additional questions.

On Friday, 22 October 2010, ACTA Québec held its Annual General Meeting in conjunction with the SITV (Salon international tourisme voyages) in Montréal. To the surprise of many, including the trade press covering the meeting, only 6 members attended the AGM along with the Regional Board of ACTA Québec.

The regional association claims to have 284 members, but with about 2% of the membership attending the AGM, even those numbers are specious. While the agenda for the AGM included electing an additional 6 members to the regional board, not a single candidate came forward.

According to trade press reports, ACTA Québec states that it is the only regional council within ACTA which did not suffer a decrease in membership. Presumably, the other regions of ACTA have lost members, and due to the lack of transfer payments to ACTA Québec by ACTA National (allegedly $30,000.00 was agreed to by ACTA President David McCaig last May 2010), ACTA Québec is not happy that the money was never paid to it as promised.

Trade press reports (in French) can be sourced by clicking on the links below:

ExpressVoyage                                          Tourisme Plus                                        J'ai Mon Voyage

With the potential of an increasingly acrimonious relationship between ACTA Québec and ACTA National boiling over at the AGM and the possibility that such discontent might spew internal ACTA secrets into the public arena, it should probably come as no surprise that, according to trade press reports, a bailiff delivered a law firm's "gag order", orchestrated by ACTA National, to prevent the regional president, Robert Turcotte, from speaking on behalf of ACTA National at the AGM.

It is also surmised that, according to the trade press, ACTA Québec is considering pulling out of ACTA National and forming its own association; a déjà vu of what happened a few years ago when APAV was formed from disgruntled ACTA Québec members.

Now why is all of this relevant?

ARTA Canada works very hard on behalf of its members, and time after time, we are criticized by ACTA for "not really representing" agencies. The ACTA charge beats a never-ending drum, according to its web site, that ACTA "represents 3,000 members employing 14,000 travel professionals". However, yesterday, ACTA's own membership campaign web page states that ACTA has "2,000 travel agencies and travel partners", presumably including travel suppliers and other non-agency members.

Given that the ACTA web site is brand spanking new, there are surely some "number" discrepancies with about 1,000 members missing in action.

We accept that ACTA has more members, even considerably more members, than ARTA Canada. So what?

We stand by the exceptional work we do for our members, the many services we provide to them, and the conflict-free mandate ARTA Canada has by having only retail travel agents as members.

It would seem that ACTA plans to launch its membership campaign beginning on Monday. ARTA Canada's campaign will be launched not long thereafter. Retail travel agents have a choice of which organization is best able to represent their interests and provide needed services. ARTA Canada encourages you to make that choice with us. No one works harder than we do to advocate on your behalf.

Thank you for taking the time to consider my views. Let me know if ARTA Canada can help.

Best regards,



Bruce Bishins, CTC


27 October 2010


ARTA Canada is the largest non-profit federally incorporated professional association of travel retailers in Canada, the members of which consist exclusively of travel agencies and travel agents. In addition to advocating fair and equitable treatment of travel consumers, ARTA Canada represents the commercial and strategic interests of its member travel agencies and travel agents in a variety of national and provincial domains including regulatory and legislative matters, automation, technology, sales and marketing, and distribution.

ARTA Canada is the strategic partner in Canada of the U.S.-based Association of Retail Travel Agents (ARTA). ARTA Canada is the Canadian member of UFTAA, the United Federation of Travel Agents' Associations. To join ARTA Canada, complete details and online membership application and secure payment are available on the ARTA Canada web site at