Message from the Registrar
"While COVID-19 is clearly unique and hopefully a once-in-a-lifetime crisis, I am convinced the travel industry will emerge once again."
Facing Adversity These are especially challenging times for families, businesses and travelers and I sincerely hope that you and your loved ones are safe and healthy. We are constantly reminded of the courage and strength of our healthcare workers, hospitals, first responders and all frontline workers. No amount of appreciation is enough when it comes to recognizing their sacrifice and dedication during this difficult and unprecedented time.
Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) As I write this, the COVID-19 crisis has already had a devastating impact on the travel industry. Without a doubt, there has not been a single TICO registrant that has not reached out and helped consumers with either returning home or navigating the complexities associated with cancelled travel or working through the myriad options to consider before booking future travel, if any. Registrants have worked tirelessly to help consumers during this unprecedented crisis, during a period of incredible uncertainty and financial stress. The travel industry has never experienced a crisis of this magnitude, nor has any other industry for that matter. Registrants, travel counsellors and their support teams must be acknowledged for their unwavering support and resiliency during this horrible crisis.
TICO's Response Since the early days of COVID-19, TICO staff have been diligently working from home and providing continuity of services to consumers and registrants. Like you, we have been working with consumers who are understandably upset, confused and very concerned over their future travel plans. Many consumers are facing terrible financial hardships of their own. TICO’s call volumes and consumer correspondence reached record levels during March and April and we have endeavored to reach out to each person individually, as follow-up remains our priority. We have also heard from many registrants, including their customers, citing success stories and incredible consumer support in the midst of increasingly difficult circumstances.
On March 30, 2020, after collaborating with the Ontario government, a series of amendments to the existing regulation became effective, providing immediate financial relief to registrants related to annual financial filings and working capital thresholds. In addition, the use of travel vouchers and/or future travel credits by registrants was recognized as a fair and reasonable form of reimbursement. Lastly, enhancements were made with respect to future claims against the industry-financed compensation fund, and a time-limited provision associated with unredeemed travel vouchers or future travel credits became effective. These measures were all aimed at striking a fair balance between consumer protection and maintaining the viability of the travel industry within the province.
In addition, recognizing the financial burden facing many registrants, a fee deferral was implemented retroactively for registrant period/year-ends starting in January 2020, and now extended through May. Effectively, all fees due and payable to TICO will be extended through to the end of November 2020 providing a much needed cashflow relief. We are committed to exploring other means of simplifying and reducing burdens on registrants during this crisis.
While many consumers have accepted a travel voucher or future travel credit as a fair and reasonable form of reimbursement, there are also consumers who, for health reasons and/or other conditions may not be able to travel, even when the environment for travel is otherwise deemed safe. There are still another group of consumers where a travel voucher or future travel credit is not appropriate, and we are working with those consumers and registrants to explore all options.
What’s Next? Most economists and travel industry leaders expect a very slow recovery in the months ahead. Until there is a significant, measurable and sustainable improvement in the COVID-19 metrics, a travel recovery will be nascent at best. Various government assistance programs are underway, and the industry continues to lobby for further positive change to assist registrants through this crisis. Many suppliers remain optimistic for the winter and spring 2021 season and revised schedules are now becoming available. At TICO, we remain focused on working with the Ontario government and all stakeholders to assist in the recovery and the future of our industry – all options remain open for consideration.
TICO’s most recent fiscal year ended on March 31, 2020. Our external audit is now complete, and our audited financial statements have been approved by the Board of Directors. Our Annual General Meeting has also been rescheduled to September 17, 2020 when we look forward to seeing many of you at our meeting to share 2019/20 results, and more importantly, to discuss the path ahead.
Future The travel industry has experienced many hardships over the years and has always proven to be resilient. While COVID-19 is clearly unique and hopefully a once-in-a-lifetime crisis, I am convinced the travel industry will emerge once again, beaten but not broken and clearly ready to meet the pent up demands that Ontario travelers, and others have come to enjoy from registrants. While there are many challenges ahead, TICO remains committed to its mandate of strong consumer protection and a vibrant travel marketplace in the years ahead.
On behalf of everyone at TICO and the Board of Directors, I wish you and your families good health and safety in the months ahead as we look forward to brighter days.