The Association of Canadian Travel Agencies (ACTA) launched a lobbying campaign in 2018 to have the Ontario government relieve some of the financial and administrative burdens imposed on travel agencies under the Travel Industry Compensation Fund. Now after more than a year of aggressive lobbying, ACTA is seeking support from agents within the travel industry to help bring necessary legislative reforms.
The Travel Industry Compensation Fund provides reimbursement to customers in the event that they paid for travel services that were not provided, and the payment was made to or through an Ontario registered travel agent who could not provide reimbursement due to bankruptcy or insolvency.
The Fund is financed by registered travel agents and wholesalers in Ontario, and is administered by the Travel Industry Council of Ontario (TICO), of which the board of directors determines whether a claim meets the requirements.
ACTA has argued that the Compensation Fund model is outdated and significantly broken, and by fall of 2018, ACTA formed an industry coalition with the Canadian Association of Tour Operators (CATO), and hired a lobbyist to bring their concerns to the government of Ontario.
“It was designed in the 1970s when consumers paid by cash or cheque, before the internet and e-commerce. Today, well over 90% of travel agency transactions are completed using a credit card, making travel agency bookings a much lower risk,” said ACTA in a statement. “It is an unfair financial and administrative burden on Ontario travel businesses, creating a disadvantage for Ontario travel companies and making them uncompetitive in a global market.”
The Fund currently sits at more than $23 million, but according to an actuarial study conducted for TICO, the Fund should be at $50 million. ACTA fears that if a consumer pay model is not adopted, over time Ontario travel companies will have to contribute a lot more than they do already.
“The message to every government official has been clear: The status quo in Ontario is not effective or sustainable and places an unfair burden on Ontario travel companies, as well as offering very little meaningful protection to Ontario consumers,” said Wendy Paradis, president of ACTA. “We need to adopt a funding model similar to Quebec for funding consumer protection.”
As part of this ongoing campaign, ACTA is urging travel industry professionals to support a letter-writing campaign to the government of Ontario, asking it to support adopting a similar funding model as Quebec. Letter templates can be found online on the ACTA homepage.
“All travel agency owners should be paying attention, and we need their help at the grassroots level,” said Paradis. “In our meetings over the past several months, it became clear that many MPPs have never heard of TICO or the Ontario Travel Compensation Fund. We need to get relief for travel agencies from this archaic and inadequate piece of legislation. Reform is essential, or travel agencies will just continue paying more and more.”