Top four things to know if you employ home-based travel agents

Home-Based Travel Agents. Outside Sales Representatives. Independent Travel Advisors. No matter what the name, the trend towards working from home is increasing exponentially, including among Ontario’s travel counsellors.

When a travel counsellor works outside of the registered place of business (the host agency), TICO considers this person to be an Outside Sales Representative (OSR).

TICO’s compliance team conducts proactive site inspections to help agencies ensure they are operating within the law. As the trend towards OSRs continues, inspectors have seen an increase in questions and contraventions around these areas.

1. Agency owners are responsible for their OSRs

The host travel agency is responsible for the conduct of their OSRs, even if they are not considered employees of the agency.

Host agencies are required to have a written contract with their OSRs defining their relationship. Although TICO does not provide a sample contract, the contract should state that the OSR must comply with TICO requirements, such as advertising, invoicing, and trust accounting regulations.

Working without a contract is not only a contravention of the law but it creates added liability for the host agency.

2. Travel agency owners are responsible for maintaining internal controls

TICO registrants are responsible for the sales and activity within their business and must have internal controls in place. This includes:

  • Ensuring that any trade names used by OSRs are registered with both ServiceOntario and TICO. Click here for more info.
  • If the OSR will operate their own branded website, it must be part of the host agency’s registration with TICO. The OSR's branded website must include the host agency address, contact information and TICO registration number.
  • Verifying that advertising standards are met by OSRs, including referring to the host agency’s TICO registration number, address and phone number.
  • Issuing proper invoices to all customers.
  • Safeguarding that all consumer funds are handled in accordance with trust accounting requirements.

3. Ontario OSR sales are the host agency’s sales

Travel sales from OSRs working for a TICO registrant are deemed Ontario gross sales and must be reported on the host agency’s FORM 1.

All funds received from customers must be deposited directly to the host agency’s Travel Industry Act trust account within two days of those funds being received. Customer funds may not be kept by OSRs, nor can the OSR pay suppliers directly. All suppliers must be paid by the agency from the trust account.

4. OSRs must meet TICO’s education standards

Regardless of where an OSR is located – in Ontario, in another province, or as part of a call centre in another country – they must meet TICO’s education standards if they are representing a TICO registrant.

This includes successfully completing the TICO exam prior to commencing travel sales.

Case study

Click here to read a case study with additional tips and resources for host agency owners and OSRs.

Want to learn more?

  • Outside Sales Representative Guidelines – For Travel Agency Owners – click here
  • Outside Sales Representative Guidelines – For Travel Counsellors – click here
  • Information about trade names – click here

TICO will hold educational webinars customized for OSRs in the months ahead. Stay tuned for more details.

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