TORONTO — The head of the Travel Industry Council of Ontario is reaching out to the industry amid the ongoing review process for the funding model and fees for Ontario’s Compensation Fund.
In a new statement today, TICO CEO Richard Smart says TICO’s goal is to create an equitable, sustainable, and easy-to-administer model, one that continues to provide support to consumers in need.
Smart said TICO understands there is apprehension regarding future fees, and that TICO also understands the industry’s challenges and the need for flexibility in recovering costs.
“We are on the same side,” said Smart.
He added: “At TICO, we remain fully committed to our consumer protection mandate. But we do this while being mindful of the travel industry’s well-being.”
He said TICO’s goal is to launch a comprehensive consultation process with the industry later this year.
Smart’s statement also addressed the motion for TICO’s Sept. 26 AGM, filed Aug. 11 by CATO Chair Brett Walker. As reported earlier this week, the motion calls for a legislated consumer contribution protection ‘insurance’ system for Ontario’s travel industry to replace the current Comp Fund.
Says Smart: “Such changes can only be made by the Legislative Assembly. TICO does not have the authority to institute such a change. Motions brought forward to TICO need to be within the organization’s authority to act upon.”
“WE WANTED TO EXPLORE ALL AVAILABLE OPTIONS”
Smart’s statement today is the latest in a months-long back-and-forth of updates and statements sent to the trade media and industry by ACTA, CATO and TICO, following the September 2022 launch of a review process of the Comp Fund and its funding model. Travelweek’s coverage includes this story in the Aug. 17th issue of Travelweek.
Here is Smart’s statement in full…
“I wanted to reach out directly to Ontario’s travel agencies, websites and tour operators to address recent media coverage about TICO’s funding review and the Compensation Fund.
“I understand there is apprehension regarding future fees to TICO. The last three years have been devastating for the industry and any uncertainty around financial obligations is stressful.
“At TICO, we remain fully committed to our consumer protection mandate. But we do this while being mindful of the travel industry’s wellbeing.
“When the pandemic hit with unprecedented force, we took swift action to ease the financial hardships faced by registrants. For a period of three years, we waived all registrant fees and Compensation Fund payments, reduced the pressures of financial reporting obligations and allowed registrants to issue vouchers at their sole discretion.
“Our aim was to provide much-needed relief during these challenging times. We firmly believe that the best way to achieve consumer protection is by fostering a flourishing travel industry.
“When businesses prosper, they offer exceptional service to consumers.
“Following our announcement to you last September, TICO has worked with a consultant and engaged the Board of Directors to conduct a thorough review of our funding framework.
“The objective was to gain insights from stakeholders, including the industry and consumers, while critically assessing funding models from other provinces and countries. This includes the consumer pay model in Quebec.
“We wanted to explore all available options to ensure a well-informed recommendation.
“I would also like to provide an update on the motion recently brought forward by a CATO member, which proposes that a legislated consumer contribution protection insurance system be instated to replace the current Compensation Fund. Such changes can only be made by the Legislative Assembly.
“TICO does not have the authority to institute such a change. Motions brought forward to TICO need to be within the organization’s authority to act upon.
“TICO understands the industry’s challenges and the need for flexibility in recovering costs. We are on the same side.
“We value our relationship with the travel associations and the perspective they bring.
“TICO is not looking to burden or hamper the industry’s recovery or growth. TICO’s operating costs have remained unchanged over the past five years, while reducing burden on registrants.
“Our aim is to create an equitable, sustainable, and easy-to-administer model that continues to provide support to consumers in need.
“Our goal is to launch a broad and comprehensive consultation process with all of you later this year. This process will provide a meaningful opportunity for all stakeholders to have their say.
“We plan to host both virtual and in-person focus groups to hear directly from you. I’m looking forward to meeting many of you throughout the coming months as we connect over the proposed funding approach.
“Thank you for your time.”
CEO, Travel Industry Council of Ontario