The Travel Industry Council of Ontario (TICO), amid a stage of transformation as it commits to an end-to-end review of its funding framework, services and Compensation Fund, has shared an update on its progress towards modernization.
The Optimus SBR study was announced last September with the goal of examining TICO’s current framework and Compensation Fund, including feedback from a broad range of stakeholders.
Activities, so far, have included stakeholder engagement to obtain input on the “strengths, challenges, gaps and constraints” of the current funding framework and the Compensation Fund, TICO stated Wednesday (Jan. 11) in a news release.
Feedback was obtained from sessions with retailers with various business models, tour operators, host agencies, independent travel advisors and consolidators.
Input was also gathered from associations, such as the Association of Canadian Travel Agencies (ACTA), the Canadian Association of Tour Operators and Ontario Motor Coach Association.
Surveys of registrants and Ontario consumers were conducted.
There were also sessions with TICO’s leadership, Board of Directors and Consumer and Industry Advisory Committee (CIAC) members.
Additionally, efforts have been made to understand practices taken by comparable travel regulatory bodies in Quebec, British Columbia, California, the U.K. and Australia.
The focus of the review has now turned from assessing the current framework to forming recommendations for a future approach to TICO’s funding models.
“TICO is open to all options, balancing industry input with regulatory responsibilities and consumer protection,” the council said.
Any recommended frameworks will be presented to all registrants and stakeholders for consultation, which is expected to take place later this year.
The timeline for the review is as follows:
- Spring 2023 – Consultant to present recommendations to TICO’s management and Board of Directors
- Summer/Fall 2023 – TICO to conduct comprehensive consultation/fee review with registrants and stakeholders on new funding framework
- Fall 2023 – Final recommendations provided to the Minister of Public and Business Service Delivery
- Late Fall 2023 – Announce next steps regarding the framework and timing/transition for a new, modernized funding framework.
Registrant fees, notably, will return on April 1, 2023, reverting to the structure that was in place prior to the pandemic until a new framework is announced.
“Not because that's the preferred model we would like to have, but quite the contrary, we think the whole revenue/fee model needs to change,” Richard Smart, TICO’s president and CEO, told travel trade media last September.
One reason TICO is reinstating fees, beyond the fact that provincial funding is winding down, is that the market is seeing pent-up demand, which is translating into bookings and signalling a recovery.
The bottom line?
“We've got to find a way of getting back to a self-funded model moving forward,” Smart said last fall, noting that “all options are on the table,” including a possible consumer pay model.