Message from the Registrar
"After seven months of this global pandemic I am very encouraged by the continued resiliency of Ontario’s travel sector."
Since my last update to you in Spring, the global pandemic has continued to ravage the travel industry. Ontario now finds itself in a second wave with flu-season around the corner. While there is indeed plenty of reasons for a pessimistic outlook, there are also many reasons to look forward to brighter days ahead. After seven months of this global pandemic I am very encouraged by the continued resiliency of Ontario’s travel sector, the focus on safety, the innovation in new travel ideas and the incredible perseverance exhibited by so many travel professionals and registrants as they see their way through these challenging times.
COVID-19 Like you, there has been an almost singular focus on responding appropriately to COVID-19. While consumers have contacted TICO at record levels during the early months, we have seen a levelling-off of recent call activity. Many consumers continue to be upset with receiving a travel voucher (also referred to as Future Travel Credit) following the cancellation of their travel services by a supplier(s), in lieu of a refund. In response, TICO’s has increased, through staff redeployment, its attention to receiving and resolving all consumer complaints. Considerable time and effort have been undertaken by TICO staff to respectfully explain and educate consumers on the recent amendments to the travel legislation, including concerning vouchers.
While vouchers are not ideal for every traveler, many consumers understand the unparalleled and devastating impact of the pandemic on an agency’s operations. Registrants too have had some difficulty adjusting to these new regulatory changes, in particular understanding their obligations under the amended section 46 which addresses rules concerning cancelled pre-packaged travel, when the cancellation is made by one of the suppliers of the travel services.
In my last update, I also summarized the March 30, 2020 regulatory amendments which included both additional consumer protections but also important financial burden relief for registrants. For many registrants, the potential savings were substantial. Since this time, on September 1, 2020, the Ontario government also announced that registrant fees will be waived for a 1-year period for all renewal fee payments and Compensation Fund assessments due between April 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021. This meaningful financial burden relief will further assist registrants with the ongoing COVID-19 pressures expected to last well into 2021, and perhaps beyond.
TICO Response TICO’s team continues to work from home as they have since March of this year. Through modified work practices and leveraging technology, we have been able to carry out almost all our normal activities to-date. While our mandate to provide strong consumer protection has not changed, our team has also been conscious of the challenges facing all registrants. Although call volumes have levelled off from the highs experienced in April and May, there remains a backlog of compliance matters to address. We remain focused on prioritizing higher risk situations and demonstrating flexibility and understanding for less egregious matters.
During these times when many registrants have reduced personnel to bare minimums and/or are working from home, the time to respond to TICO matters is often extended. Our team of professionals recognizes these hardships and are prepared to assist you in responding to TICO matters. Please continue to reach out to us. This version of TICO talk provides helpful tips and important registrant information regarding the fee waiver, registrant refunds, home-based businesses and more. It also highlights the recent racial injustices and tragic events that have unfortunately become far too prevalent in society today, along with TICO’s commitment to action.
What’s Next COVID-19 has already taken its toll on many registrants. We have experienced a marked increase in voluntary terminations, but also continue to see a fair number of new registrations. During times of crisis, there is always opportunity, and TICO remains supportive of all new registrations. Over the next few months and through the end of our fiscal year in Spring 2021, we plan to reach out to all stakeholders to remind consumers of the importance and benefits of working with TICO registrants when planning their next travel purchase. There has never been a better time to engage a travel professional to ensure consumers are fully informed when they are ready to make their next travel purchase. TICO and the Board of Directors remain committed to monitoring Ontario’s’ travel sector, ensuring risk mitigation plans are in place, and continuing to assist registrants navigate through a very difficult period. In Closing As many travel leaders have signaled, Ontario’s travel sector has been dealt a severe blow, but not a knockout. Working together, and following established health guidelines and protocols, the travel sector will prevail and once again demonstrate its leadership and value in the travel marketplace. TICO’s Board of Directors and entire team remain committed to our consumer protection mandate, but also to working closely with registrants in the weeks and months ahead. On behalf of everyone at TICO and the Board of Directors, I wish you and your families good health and safety as we look forward to brighter days ahead. Best wishes,