With a number of amendments to the Ontario Travel Industry Act passed this week, TICO President & CEO Richard Smart said that the next step in bringing a number of new industry regulations into effect will begin almost immediately.
For the travel industry, the passing of the omnibus Bill 166 (the Strengthening Protection for Ontario Consumers Act, which also includes provision on event ticket sales and real estate) on Dec. 13 will set the stage for the development of changes to the supporting Regulation, before the changes to the Travel Industry Act take effect, which will include a further consultation process regarding the proposed changes.
“We’ll start Jan. 2,” Smart told PAX. “I’ll be on the phone to the government asking them to get started (on the new consultation).”
"Broad, new powers" for TICO
According to Smart, the entire process – from consultation to drafting a regulation to enactment - will last several months with final implementation of the new Regulation expected to take place sometime in 2019.
“It’s a long process but it needs to be,” he said, “since we’ve got a big province with consumers from all ends of the spectrum and it’s important that there’s input received both from the consumers and registrants. We know there’s a lot of work to be done in 2018.”
The amendments to the Act passed this week gives TICO “broad new powers,” Smart said, including:
- Enabling the creation of new rules for representations, such as advertising, by out of province travel sellers who target Ontarians.
- Creating a registration requirement for individual travel salespersons.
- Lessening the burden on travel agents and travel wholesalers by creating a registration class of travel seller so that the businesses would no longer need to register as both a travel agent and travel wholesaler.
- Improving compliance with the rules by providing new enforcement tools, such as administrative penalties and compliance orders, including a new appeal mechanism to the License Appeal Tribunal for these new enforcement measures.
Tracy MacCharles, MPP Pickering-Scarborough East, Minister of Government and Consumer Services & Minister Responsible for Accessibility (centre), announced the review of the Travel Industry Act in June 2016. The minister is pictured here at TICO's 2017 AGM with Jean Hébert, chair, board of directors, TICO and Richard Smart, president and CEO, TICO. Image courtesy of TICO.
In addition to the amendments to the Act, many of the recommendations made by the travel industry through the consultation process over the last year will appear in the Regulation, Smart said, including clarifying which businesses qualify for exemptions from the Act; examining financial burdens on registrants such as security requirements as well as statement filings and the associated thresholds for audits; and with the incoming requirement for travel agents to be registered with TICO individually, a review of an industry code of ethics, as well as the disciplinary process in the event of breaches and ongoing education requirements, the latter of which TICO is looking to other industry organizations to partner on.
Formalizing the industry
Smart said that with the incoming requirement for individual registration, the industry in Ontario will become more formalized, similar to other professional associations.
“We view the travel industry as a profession and every profession has standards and continuing education associated with it, as well as a method of licencing and monitoring to ensure that the standards are maintained and grow over time,” he said. “We’ll now have the capability of doing that at an individual level, rather than just dealing with the owners or principals of a travel agency.
While there will be an additional cost for agencies to register individual agents, Smart said that savings from changes such as the streamlining of the registration categories for businesses into a single travel seller will help offset the increase. In addition, further savings may be realized as changes to the Regulation are developed next year.
“On the individual level, there’s costs to administer the program and we’re looking into ways to minimize the expense,” Smart said. “We’re working hard to keep costs low and we’re still doing our analysis of what a fair recovery model looks like. Other savings come from simplified registration and once we get into the Regulation, there may be relief on financial statements, and other thresholds which provide real savings to the business.”