Word from the President 2014

Michael Wukoschitz's picture

President's Message December 2014

Dear friends,

Within the last two years, IFTTA could celebrate one anniversary after the other: while in October 2013 at our conference in Prague we had celebrated 30 years of IFTTA, this year’s conference in Dublin gave us the opportunity to celebrate the 25th  World conference of IFTTA. As appropriate for such anniversary, the conference was perfectly organised by Marc McDonald and his team at the Dublin Institute of Technology. We had the chance not only to discover a lively city but also its picturesque surroundings and got some idea of the fine line between establishing tourist attractions and preserve nature and biodiversity.

As usual, the conference covered a wide range of topics. One them was Air Passenger Rights and the local speakers provided us with the views of an air carrier on the one hand and the National Enforcement Body on the other.

Interestingly enough, speakers from different parts of the world covered a new phenomenon of selling private apartments or houses as tourist accommodation through professional websites like “AirBnB”. This kind of business involves a number of legal issues from potential circumvention of planning laws to rights of neighbours, legal relations in joint ownership of condo buildings, unfair competition, safety standards and others more. Upon return home I came across a decision of the Austrian Supreme Court in which the court had held that turning a condo in a residential house into a tourist accommodation was a significant change of use which would affect the other owners and therefore require their consent.

However, to rent out rooms in private homes for tourism purposes is not new as such– what makes it challenging is the professional marketing provided through online platforms which allows for presence at a worldwide market and serious competition to hotels and guesthouses. It is a perfect example that “travel and tourism law” is a multidisciplinary area of law and not all limited to package travel or “lost luggage”.

The Dublin conference which wasn’t only an anniversary conference but also a premiere as for the first time it combined the IFTTA World Conference and an IFTTA Europe Meeting certainly marked the highlight of the year for IFTTA. The presence of no less than four emeritus Presidents of IFTTA on the one hand (including Dov Kolani as one of the ‘founding fathers’ as well as the esteemed emeritus Presidents José Fosman, John Downes and Harry Manuel) and members of the “IFTTA Young Professionals” on the other was a perfect proof that IFTTA is deeply routed in its history without gathering dust but keeping up with the time and the new challenges in travel and tourism law.

Michael Wukoschitz



Michael Wukoschitz's picture

President's Message August 2014 - Obituary on Gerry Heifetz

Dear friends,

This editoral is to commemorate a very extraordinary person - one of the three founding fathers of IFTTA and a real character, Gerald Heifetz, who passed away on March 4, 2014 after a long illness.

Gerald - or Gerry as we used to call him – born June 24, 1930 as the son of Solomon and Sarah (nee Newman) Heifetz was respected by many, from some of the movers and shakers who built Toronto (where he was a life-long resident) to travel agents, business people and the countless struggling immigrants he helped through his law practice.

As the Travel Industry was evolving in the 1970s, people in the Industry who had legal questions sought him out due to his familiarity with the Industry, arising out of:

  • His Father’s ownership of Dominion Travel, in which office Gerry had worked a bit while growing up, and
  • His brother Murray, who by then ran Dominion Travel, and was quite well-versed on Industry rules (especially IATA) and therefore quite well-known in his own right.

As senior partner in his law firm Heifetz, Crozier, Law, he was instrumental in the foundation of the Association of Canadian Travel Agents (ACTA) and the Canadian Institute of Travel Counsellors (CITC). Since 1977 until about 2009, the firm (which went through a variety of names/partners over the years) was General Counsel to ACTA, and to its Ontario branch. As such, the firm offered more than Legal Counsel.  In addition, it offered practical, strategic, policy-oriented, etc. advice.  Along the way, he helped to establish many of the laws that today govern the Canadian travel and airline industry. Gerry was not hesitant to speak out loudly and frequently at Industry meetings and forums, addressing all sorts of policy matters that a person who was just-a-lawyer would not. He maintained personal friendships with the movers and shakers in the Industry, through which he could influence events from behind-the-scene, too.

Gerry also was instrumental in the foundation of IFTTA: The idea of founding a new organization of jurists who had an interest in travel and tourism law was brought up when, in 1981, Dov Kolani met with Al Anolik in San Francisco and suggested that such an international organization did not exist and that the time was ripe for its creation in view of the growing tourism industry world wide. At that meeting they phoned Gerry in Toronto who agreed to take part in this exciting new venture. They decided to organize the First International Conference on The Legal Aspects of Tourism and Travel, with the goal to establish the new organization. The three organizers also approached distinguished speakers from abroad. The Conference opened in Jerusalem on  November 21, 1983  with over 100 participants. The three founders put the idea of the new organization to a vote and it was unanimously approved together with its name – IFTTA, the International Forum of Travel and Tourism Advocates.

I met Gerry at my very first IFTTA conference in 1996 which took place in Jerusalem and Eilat. Though we didn't talk a lot at that first occasion, I realised his keen mind and his attitude to state his opinion and freely speak out his mind without any attempt to hide behind superficial phrases of civility. One year later we met again at the IFTTA conference in Florida and became friends. It turned out that Gerry's bright mind was accompanied by a good sense of humour, a deep love for music and other beauties of life and a very charming character. We shared a family background in the travel industry and a predilcetion for jazz standards which we used to sing together in the leisure time of the conference. Gerry taught me not to be satisfied with the first impression when making a legal assessment but to go deeper into the matter, reconsider and always critically scrutinize one's own position. After the conference he sent me a booklet he had written, called “A Travel Agent’s Guide to Travel Law”. Gerry’s personal dedication read “Thanks for the memories” – the title of an old standard sung by Frank Sinatra.

In 1998, Gerry played a key role in reviving IFTTA when it had entered a critical phase, lost members and attraction. Gerry tirelessly worked for the association, acted as treasurer and with commitment and enthusiasm as the editor of the IFTTA Journal. The efforts were successful and IFTTA began to grow again. Gerry became the guardian of the „IFTTA spirit“ which he himself personalized ian an impressive way: a spirit of collegiality, friendship and respect combined with high professional standards on the one hand and joie de vivre and a good humour on the other. Gerry would always challenge speakers at the conferences with his incisive and penetrative questions but at the same time encourage them to defend their opinion.

No doubt, for Gerry IFTTA was a matter truly dear to his heart and IFTTA is proud that it had this unique person in its ranks.

Last time I actually saw Gerry was at the IFTTA conference in 2005. After he had missed the preceding conferences in Monaco and Buenos Aires, he took the time and effort to travel to Vienna. However, he told me that this was the last time that he would travel abroad for a conference. At the beginning of the conference, Gerry appeared somewhat aged and tired. But during the course of the meetings the shine in his eyes returned and as in former times he actively took part in the discussions in his very characteristic and unique style. It was my particular pleasure to invite Gerry and some other IFTTA friends to my home for a dinner with my family. I didn't know though that the farewell at the end of the conference would be the last time to see him.

To honour Gerry and his numerous efforts for IFTTA it was decided to hold the 23rd IFTTA conference in Toronto, his home town, in October 2011. We all hoped that Gerry would at least join us for a dinner. However, his health condition prevented him from joining us. Obviously, he also wanted to preserve our memories on the lively and cheerful Gerry we used to know. The warmth and respect with which one of his clients who sponsored the farewell dinner at the Hockey Hall of Fame spoke of Gerry was a proof that his personality did not only enchant IFTTA but also his professional environment.

Now it is my turn to say “Thanks for the memories” – and I may add another phrase of the lyrics of this song: “How lucky I was” – lucky to have met you, Gerry, lucky to have enjoyed your friendship, lucky to be able to continue your lifework in IFTTA.

My sincere condolences again got to his friends and family, in particular his daughter Laura who is well aware of Gerry’s commitment for IFTTA and is keen to find a way to keep Gerry’s memory alive in our organization.

Michael Wukoschitz