TORONTO — It was a year of major accomplishments for TICO, all of which were highlighted at its Annual General Meeting in Mississauga.
Taking place at the Mississauga Living Arts Centre on June 20, the AGM was chaired by Jean Hébert, who introduced special guest Tracy MacCharles, Ontario’s Minister of Government and Consumer Services. She opened the meeting with congratulatory words for the organization in its 20th anniversary year.
“Over the last two decades, TICO has served Ontarians with dedication. Your organization has helped to create high standards of practice throughout the industry, and has contributed to a strong travel industry in Ontario by administering registration, inspection, supervision and disciplinarian measures for travel retailers and wholesalers when needed,” she said. “Consumer protection as well as consumer education within the travel industry has definitely increased under TICO’s watch. Twenty years is such an accomplishment and I congratulate you.”
MacCharles highlighted several key accomplishments made in the past year, most notably the introduction of all-in pricing on Jan. 1, which requires registered businesses to display the total price to consumers, including all fees, levies and other charges, when advertising travel services.
“Whether consumers are coming into the office to book or are booking online, with the all-in pricing, they know exactly what they’re going to get. This helps to remove undue stress and potential disappointment, and it really goes to show how small changes can have a huge impact on people’s lives,” she said.
But MacCharles was quick to note that this wasn’t the only milestone for TICO this year. As part of its efforts to increase consumer protection in the industry, it began a detailed review of the Travel Industry Act, “the first one in over 15 years,” she added. A three-phased approach to the review is currently underway following in-person consultations in cities such as Thunder Bay, Sudbury, London, Ottawa, Markham, Toronto and Mississauga.
“I’m confident we’ve been able to collect thorough and detailed feedback from the travel industry and consumers about the challenges they face and how we can collectively improve,” she said, adding that the full report will be posted online by the end of this month.
Also in attendance was Richard Smart, President and CEO of TICO, who noted a dip in registrants this year but remains hopeful for the industry at large. On March 31, 2017, there were a total of 2,418 registrations with TICO compared to 2,435 the previous year, an approximate 1% dip. However, said Smart, TICO also approved 139 new applications, which were offset by 169 registrations that were either revoked, voluntarily terminated or otherwise expired.
“Six years ago we had approximately 2,500 registrations, only 82 more than today. While the number of registrants continues to decline, the overall travel market continues to grow,” he said. “The decline in challenges of the traditional agency model each year reflects the ongoing evolution of the market and the overall heightened pace of change, a harbinger for the continued shift of the provision of travel services. I’m pleased to report that good progress has been made towards our strategic priorities.”
Other key accomplishments and findings at yesterday’s AGM include:
- TICO’s 2016-2017 Consumer Awareness Campaign strategy included the development and production of two new 15-second animated icon story commercials, which were aired on all major Ontario television networks in January-February 2017.
- Of the consumers surveyed in Ontario, 33% indicated awareness of TICO in 2016-2017, which matched the awareness in the previous year.
- TICO attended 12 consumer trade shows throughout Ontario and conducted eight speaking engagements with consumers to increase awareness of the organization and the consumer protection available in Ontario.
- TICO migrated its IT platform to a safe and secure Cloud-based infrastructure, including the upgrade of key operating systems.
- TICO resolved 172 written consumer complaints against registrants in 2016/2017 compared to 240 in the previous year. Some of these complaints related to files that were opened in the previous fiscal year. The number of new complaints received during 2016/2017 was 177 compared to 256 in the previous year. In processing these complaints, TICO successfully assisted consumers in obtaining $86,948 in restitution compared to $126, 475 the previous year. TICO also handled 1,165 telephone complaint inquiries and 583 email complaint inquiries.
- As of March 31, 2017, the assets held for the Compensation Fund were $20,644,930. In 2016/2017, a total of 80 claims were paid, compared to 31 in 2015/2016.
- For the third consecutive fiscal year, TICO generated a positive net surplus, slightly above break-even for fiscal year 2016/2017. Like recent years, this was another year where claims against the Compensation Fund were low by historical standards.
- As of March 31, 2017, total Net Assets at year-end were $22,282,737 compared to $22,274,594 for the year ended March 31, 2016. This increase in Net Assets was the result of total revenues exceeding all expenses net of claims by $8,143 for the year, compared with a slightly larger surplus of $94,837 in the prior year. Total revenues increased by $317,342 (7%), while operating expenses, before net claims, were higher by $522,362 (12%).