Any time a country or region imposes any sort of visa stipulation - even if it’s a waiver - the travel industry sighs a collective groan, knowing the obstacles and headaches to come.
TORONTO — Sinorama Holidays has closed its doors after 13 years in business, with a voluntary termination of its Ontario Travel Industry Act, 2002 registration.
TICO has issued the closure advisory along with a list of cancelled tours for the Markham, ON-based company.
“At this stage, we estimate that the claims against the Compensation Fund due to the closure of Sinorama Holidays in Ontario may exceed the legislated maximum of $5 million,” says Dorian Werda, TICO’s VP Operations.
She adds: “Consumers have six months to file a claim. Claims may be received at TICO fairly quickly and will be processed in the order of receipt during the six month filing time period. The claim filing deadline is Feb. 11, 2019. If we confirm that claims appear to be close to or exceed the legislated maximum payout of $5 million, we may hold the claims for 6-months and then pro-rate the payouts.”
TICO says it is not aware of any Sinorama clients currently in transit at risk of not receiving their travel services but adds that in the event that consumers incur expenses in destination to complete their travel plans due to travel services not provided as the result of Sinorama’s closure, consumers may have an eligible claim against the Compensation Fund.
Consumers affected by the closure and who will not be receiving all or a portion of their future travel services may also file a claim against the Fund, says TICO.
TICO includes these tips in its closure advisory:
Consumers may file a claim form against the Travel Compensation Fund (clients can read up on information at the TICO link regarding claim forms).
There is no provision under Ontario Regulation 26/05 pursuant to the Travel Industry Act, 2002 for a consumer to claim on the Compensation Fund when they have purchased travel services from an out-of-province travel agency. “TICO can only recommend that you contact your travel agency for further assistance.”
TICO’s closure advisory also includes this important reminder: “Please be advised that the legislation requires claimants to exhaust all other possible remedies for reimbursement as part of the claims process. Therefore, claimants who paid by credit card for the travel services not provided are required to contact their credit card company and dispute the charge and request a refund (credit / reversal of the charge on their account).
“If, for some reason, your credit card company refuses to provide you with a credit refund, you will be required to obtain a letter from the credit card company stating that a credit refund will not be provided. The letter from the credit card company will be required to be submitted with your claim against the Compensation Fund.
“Should you not be able to obtain a chargeback (refund) from your credit card company or obtain all the documentation required in order to substantiate your claim in a timely manner, please submit your claim to ensure your claim is received at TICO prior to the deadline date. Any additional documentation that is required to complete the claim can be sent to TICO when it is obtained.
“Should consumers or travel agents have any questions or are uncertain about their circumstances after reviewing this Closure Advisory, please feel free to contact TICO to review your circumstances and obtain some guidance as to whether you may have an eligible claim against the Travel Compensation Fund and/or information as to whether or not your travel services are still available to be received.”
According to the closure advisory, except for two departures scheduled for Aug. 10 and Aug. 11, listed as TBA, all other North American tours for Sinorama are cancelled.
Two Europe trips scheduled to depart today (Aug. 9), the 15-day Charms of Europe and the 12-day Images of Europe, are still running.
For tours to China, Thailand, Cambodia, Japan, India and Vietnam, the advisory notifies agents and clients that air and land arrangements in destination will not be provided. Clients with international airline tickets (from North America to overseas) “may have confirmed round trip air transportation. Consumers who are in possession of their airline tickets are asked to contact the airline(s) or check the airline’s website to confirm their travel arrangements.”
Sinorama got its start in 2005 with the founding of Vacances Sinorama in Quebec. The company set up shop in Toronto in 2009, at the same time as it launched online booking, which ramped up to travel arrangements for 10,000+ people booked online by 2011.
Soon Sinorama took its expansion to Europe, adding Paris in 2012 and Germany in 2014. It also added a Vancouver office in 2013.
By 2014 Sinorama was serving more than 80,000 travellers in North America.
In 2015 Sinorama Holidays (Toronto) got its wholesaler license, which according to Sinorama’s website “pushed the Group business to the forefront in the North American English-speaking market and laid a solid foundation for Sinorama to enter the U.S. market.”
In 2016 Sinorama said it was “committed to becoming the best Chinese tourism brand across the world” and with its bus tours looking to gradually augment its market share “and evolve into OTA mode.” More U.S. expansion followed in 2017.
A notice just posted on the company’s website says: “Dear customers, we are making a voluntary termination and trying to refile an application for entering the industry again. TICO will ensure that customers who purchased travel services from Sinorama Holidays Inc. in Ontario will receive their travel services or refunds.”