The overall goal of phase 1 was to have an open discussion on what the risks of travel are today, who is involved in travel, how travel is booked, and whether the Travel Industry Actfootnote 1(TIA) adequately addresses the needs of consumers and businesses in today’s evolving marketplace.

Some of the things we heard that should be considered are:

  • Increasing consumer protections under the act
  • Reducing regulatory burden on travel industry businesses
  • Enhancing enforcement tools, including additional penalties for businesses that don’t comply with the act
  • Reviewing the Ontario Travel Industry Compensation Fund (the “fund”)footnote 2, including what travel services consumers are able to seek compensation for and who should contribute to the fund
  • Evaluating the types of activities and businesses that should be regulated under the act

A more detailed summary of what we heard is outlined in the key findings section below but overall, the findings suggest that there may be opportunities to update the framework to achieve the goals of the review and be more responsive to today’s marketplace; however, there are differing opinions on the scope and scale of the changes that are needed.

Some issues that were raised during phase 1 are outside the scope of the review, to the extent that they cannot be addressed through TIA (e.g., those relating to the regulation of airlines by the federal government, or the harmonization of regulations across provinces). The scope of the review also does not include an operational review of the Travel Industry Council of Ontario (TICO)footnote 3. However, the findings of the review may have implications for how TICO operates.

This report also outlines a number of initial options for potential changes to TIA which have emerged as a result of these discussions. The options are not an exhaustive list of all of the potential opportunities to amend TIA and we welcome feedback on whether there are additional options that should be considered during the next phase of the review.


Consultation approach

We are consulting with consumers, travel agents and wholesalersfootnote 4 (also called “registrants”), travel industry partners and other stakeholders, to develop recommendations that support both consumers and businesses. The review is focused on assessing opportunities to modernize TIA and includes the following goals:

  • Improve consumer protection
  • Reduce regulatory burden
  • Improve regulatory efficiency

The review is taking place in three phases:

  • Phase 1 (summer 2016/winter 2017)
    • Identify issues through stakeholder consultations, a public survey, research and direct feedback from stakeholder meetings.
  • Phase 2 (winter 2017)
    • Hold in-person consultations across the province to examine the issues raised during phase 1 and discuss how to update the Travel Industry Act (TIA) to address these issues.
  • Phase 3 (spring 2017)
    • Post a report online with a set of final options or recommendations for the public to review and provide feedback.

During phase 1 of the review consumers and stakeholders were invited to provide feedback in support of the review through the following methods:

  • In-person meetings
    • Between September and November 2016, we held 19 meetings with over 39 key stakeholders (15 of these represented consumers or consumer groups). These stakeholders were selected based on their participation in previous consultations on amendments to the regulation. Additional individuals were invited to speak with us to ensure a balanced representation by consumer and industry representatives, and major sub-sectors which have a stake in the review.
  • Email submissions
    • In November 2016, we invited consumers and the travel industry to submit feedback on the risks and challenges associated with travel and recommendations for improving consumer protection when buying travel services via email on We received 32 email submissions from consumers and stakeholders.
  • Online survey
    • A total of 1,499 consumers and stakeholders provided feedback via an electronic survey which was sent to all registrants and was circulated by major tourism industry associations and consumer protection organizations. Of those who participated, 62% identified themselves as consumers of travel services, while 38% identified themselves as members of the travel industry or stakeholders.

The Travel Industry Act

In Ontario, TIA regulates travel agents and wholesalers, who must be registered under TIA if they operate in Ontario. TIA is enforced and administered by TICO, which is responsible for a number of activities including overseeing the regulation and monitoring of registrants, investigating consumer complaints, and administering the fund.

As of March 31, 2016, there were a total of 2,435 registrations under TIA, according to TICO. Of these, 86% (2,093) were retail travel agencies, and 14% (342) were travel wholesalers. footnote 5 As well, 93% of all registrants can be defined as small, in that they make less than $10 million in annual sales.footnote 6

Among other things, TIA requires that when consumers book a vacation or other travel services online or in person through a registrant in Ontario, they:

  • Know the total price, including all fees
  • Receive a receipt from the travel agent once they pay for travel services
  • Are notified and offered a refund or comparable alternate travel services if there are certain changes to their travel arrangements, such as a change to the travel services they purchased including, the departure date or accommodation
  • Are notified if there is a price increase of more than 7% on the original total price
  • Are protected when they make a prepaid deposit
  • Are reimbursed for eligible claims out of the fund

Ontario’s evolving travel sector

When legislation regulating Ontario’s travel industry was introduced in 1974, the travel industry was very different from the one that exists today. Ontario travellers typically purchased travel services through a travel agent operating out of a store front. These agents were often accepting cash payments months in advance of the trips and then physically providing it to the end supplier of travel services, such as the hotel and airlines, on behalf of the consumer. Even in 2002, when TIA was last updated, many of these elements of the travel industry were still in place. Like many other sectors in the province, Ontario’s travel industry has experienced significant changes in the recent past. For example:

  • Growth in revenue across Ontario-based travel agents and travel wholesalers of over 55%, with revenues of almost $16 billion in 2016, compared to just over $10 billion in 2005footnote 7
  • Declining numbers of registered travel agents and wholesalers due to closures and consolidations into larger operations. Over the 15 year period between 2000 and 2015, registrations have decreased by 19%footnote 8
  • Changes to the size of registered travel agents and wholesalers, with the majority operating as small businesses, while the 28 largest (1.5% of the total number of head offices) represent 62% of gross sales in 2016footnote 9
  • Increase in online bookings, with 73% of travel bookings conducted online in 2015, according to TICO’s annual survey of Ontario travel consumers, compared to minimal online bookings in 2002 when TIA was last updatedfootnote 10
  • Changing business models to meet consumer demands with specialized tours, such as eco, nature, socially responsible, cruise (ocean vs. riverboat), custom, one day and multi day, now being offered alongside traditional travel services like all inclusive sun and European packages
  • Increase in the number of Ontarians who are booking accommodation with home sharing-services, such as Airbnb and VRBO, with over 170,000 Ontario residents booking trips on Airbnb in 2015footnote 11
  • Changing trends in the types of complaints, with suspected fraudulent activity of a travel counsellor, invoicing issues (i.e., invoice not complete with required information or invoice not provided to consumer), travel agents or wholesalers operating unregistered, and customer service issues as the top complaints received by TICO in the 2015/16 fiscal year.footnote 12

Key finding 1: Consumer Protection issues

Under TIA, consumers who book a vacation or other travel services through an Ontario registrant, either online or in-person, receive certain protections. In general, the majority of consumers and stakeholders felt that protection measures were necessary for Ontario travel consumers but review participants indicated that certain requirements in TIA are no longer protecting consumers as initially intended. The most frequent consumer protection issues raised in phase 1 are outlined below. We’ve developed discussion questions for public feedback based on our phase 1 consultations.

  • Clarity in pricing: Consumers frequently raised concerns about the lack of clarity of pricing when purchasing travel services (e.g., hidden fees that are not clear at the time of purchase). When the phase 1 consultations were taking place, the new amendment to the regulation requiring registered travel agents and wholesalers to display the total price to consumers (all-in pricing) in any advertising that includes the price of travel services was not in effect. All-in pricing includes all taxes, fees, levies and other charges. The majority of consumers who participated in the review were unaware of this change, which came into effect January 1, 2017.
  • Gaps in coverage: We heard from many consumers and travel industry stakeholders who felt that the current regulatory framework leaves consumers at risk because of travel services that are marketed to consumers from agents or suppliers that are not registered and do not follow the requirements under TIA (e.g., hotels, out-of-province tour operators). In particular, these stakeholders raised concerns about unregistered travel agents or suppliers who are selling travel to Ontario residents online and are located outside of the province.
  • Consumer awareness: The regulation sets out specific requirements for registrants with respect to disclosing information to consumers and allows TICO to incur reasonable expenses for promoting public awareness of the fund and TIA. A Travellers’ Bill of Rights may help expand upon these provisions by setting out the basic rights which Ontario travellers have when they are purchasing travel services within the province. TICO plays a critical role in educating consumers about the benefits of booking with a registered business. According to TICO’s annual consumer awareness survey of 1,000 Ontarians in 2016, 33% of respondents were aware of TICO, and of these, 74% correctly identified one or more of TICO’s roles.footnote 13 TICO recently launched a new consumer awareness campaign which resulted in an increase in consumer awareness of the role of TICO. However, despite these awareness activities, consumer and travel industry participants frequently commented that Ontario travel consumers are unaware of whether they are purchasing travel services from a registered travel agent or wholesaler, particularly when purchasing travel services online. Many participants commented that Ontario consumers do not fully understand the risks that they face if they choose to purchase travel from a non-registered source.
  • Information on travel services: The regulation prohibits registrants from making false, misleading or deceptive statements. Many consumers raised concerns about paying for travel services that did not meet their expectations based on what was advertised (e.g., accommodation or hotel amenities were not as pictured in the advertisement). Consumers frequently commented that they did not have sufficient information about the destination upon the purchase of their trip (e.g., health risks such as the Zika virus, information about the accessibility of the resort or hotel room). Many participants also commented about the need for consumers to have recourse against travel agents, wholesalers, airlines and hotels if the quality of the travel services were not up to the standards of the purchase agreement.
  • Travel insurance: The majority of consumers (78%)footnote 14 who participated in our phase 1 consultation survey indicated that they typically purchase travel insurance. Of those consumers who responded that they typically purchase travel insurance, 75% indicated that they purchase health and medical insurance, while 48% purchase trip cancellation coverage. The regulation requires registrants to advise customers of the availability and cost of trip cancellation insurance, and out-of-province health insurance, if applicable, and clearly identify on an invoice whether the customer accepted or declined, if the agent sells that insurance directly. However, consumers and travel industry stakeholders frequently commented that travel consumers may still be ill-informed about whether they have adequate travel insurance coverage and what it covers because of the technical language of insurance contracts. Some registrants felt that registrants should take a greater role in increasing consumer awareness about travel insurance, while others felt that this role is more appropriately played by insurance agents who are registered under the Registered Insurance Brokers Act.footnote 15
  • Credit card chargebacks: We heard that many credit card companies currently offer coverage for travel services that are purchased through a credit card but are not provided, even in cases where there is insolvency. A chargeback from a credit card issuer gives the customer a refund when they have been wronged in a transaction and the retailer won't give their money back. Some stakeholders indicated that the availability of this recourse has created redundancies in requirements under TIA. In many cases, the cardholder’s issuing financial institution can recoup 100% of the billed amount via a credit card company’s chargeback rules and reimburse the cardholder. However, some travel industry stakeholders felt that consumers are generally unaware of the availability of these protections or their limitations.
  • Financial risks: We heard from many consumers and members of the travel industry who felt that the financial risk associated with purchasing travel services in advance is a significant risk to Ontario consumers. However, many registrants also noted that the financial risks associated with travel have lessened due to changes in the nature of the travel industry in Ontario. For example, the majority of travel purchases and transfers of money to travel wholesalers and end suppliers is done online through credit card transactions, thereby minimizing the travel agent’s role in the financial transaction. Anecdotally, we heard from registrants that as many as 97% of all transactions for travel services are now conducted using credit cards. This figure is consistent with the results of our phase 1 consultation survey which indicated that over 98% of travel purchases by consumers surveyed are conducted using a credit card.footnote 16 Of those members of the travel industry who responded to the survey, 61% indicated that their businesses are credit card merchants.
  • Industry education standards: Every person in Ontario who is working for a travel agent and is selling travel services or who is providing travel advice to the public must meet the Industry’s Education Standards administered by TICO. Many travel industry stakeholders felt that the current training requirements for TIA registrants are inadequate when it comes to consumer protection-related content and the frequency of training. For example, of those members of the travel industry who participated in our phase 1 survey, 42% felt that the current education requirements should be updated.footnote 17 Common suggestions included creating a requirement for continuing education and professional development, and including content related to travel insurance and fraud protection in the current training curriculum.

Options under consideration:

  • Remove the specific consumer protection framework for the travel sector and allow consumers to rely on general consumer protection laws; or
  • Modernize the consumer protection measures under TIA to be more responsive to the current needs of consumers and businesses through measures such as:
    • Strengthening the regulation of out-of province travel agents who sell and/or market travel services to Ontarians
    • Increasing consumer awareness and codifying consumer rights when purchasing travel services through a Travellers’ Bill of Rights
    • Improving training requirements for TIA registrants

Questions: Consumer protection issues

  • What can Ontario do to strengthen consumer protection requirements for travel agents and wholesalers who are located outside of the province, but market and/or sell travel services to Ontarians through the internet?
  • What additional measures can be taken to promote more informed travel consumers in Ontario?
  • Would a Travellers’ Bill of Rights help to promote greater protection for Ontario travellers?
  • How should training requirements for registered travel agents and wholesalers be strengthened to enhance consumer protection (e.g., include additional content and/or ongoing professional development requirements)?
  • What are the ways to ensure that consumers have a greater understanding of travel insurance prior to purchasing travel services in Ontario (e.g., additional consumer disclosure requirements related to travel insurance coverage)?
  • Given changes in the marketplace, is it still necessary to have a sector-specific approach to regulating travel agents and wholesalers in the province or are general consumer protection laws (e.g., the Consumer Protection Act, 2002) sufficient? If not, why?

Key finding 2: Regulatory burden on the industry

An effective regulatory framework should balance protections for Ontario consumers with the goal of minimizing the burden that these requirements place on businesses of all sizes. We heard feedback from registrants about how TIA is impacting registered travel agents and wholesalers in the province. For example, of those members of the travel industry who responded to our phase 1 consultation survey, 43% felt that the financial requirements under TIA need to be updated.footnote 18 The most frequent issues or risks for the travel industry raised as part of phase 1 are outlined below. We’ve developed discussion questions for public feedback based on our phase 1 consultations.

  • Difficulty and/or cost of compliance: There was agreement amongst registrants who participated in the review that the current regulatory framework is overly onerous for registrants. Most of these comments focused on the view that the cost of compliance is too high, while some participants also felt that the current requirements create an un-level playing field for Ontario registrants competing against companies based outside of the province. For example, TICO estimates that the average cost of compliance for a small registrant making between $1M and $10M in annual sales is $13,131, while the cost for a very small registrant with annual sales of less than $1M is approximately $6,282.footnote 19
  • Trust accounting: All registered businesses are required to maintain trust accounting. This means that the registrant must maintain a trust account under TIA and have the bank specifically acknowledge that the trust account is properly designated. All consumer funds must be deposited into this account and all payments to suppliers for which those consumer funds have been collected must be paid out of this account. Many registrants felt that the current trust accounting requirements are no longer relevant because the majority of travel purchases are conducted using credit cards. Even where a consumer pays in cash, stakeholders noted that trust accounting is overly costly, complicated and onerous, especially when an agency sells travel services in multiple jurisdictions. Several people questioned whether trust accounts actually protect the consumer in the event of bankruptcy on the basis that:
    • While every registrant is required to file financial statements with TICO by the end of the year, the regulator does not have the capacity to monitor every registrant’s trust accounts over the course of the year
    • The travel agency could move funds out of the trust account in order to cover their overhead expenses, outside of what these funds were intended for, in the event that the company is in financial distress
    • If a provincially regulated travel agency or wholesaler is insolvent or goes bankrupt, it is unclear whether the current requirements are adequate to prevent a company’s creditors from accessing the funds that are in the trust account
  • Audit requirements: Registered travel agents and wholesalers must file financial statements with TICO at least annually. TIA currently requires registrants with sales in Ontario of less than $10 million to complete a review engagement report, and those with sales in Ontario greater than $10 million to complete an auditor’s report for TICO’s review. Many stakeholders felt that these requirements to file financial statements with TICO by a licensed public accountant were overly onerous and expensive. Anecdotally, we heard from registrants who participated in the review that the cost of hiring an accountant to conduct the required audit is estimated at anywhere from $10,000 to $90,000 depending on the size of the business. We also heard that the cost of hiring an accountant to complete a review engagement report can range between $3,000 and $10,000. Stakeholders frequently commented that the cost of a review engagement is overly onerous for those 63% of Ontario travel agencies that make under $2 million. footnote 20 Several registrants commented that the threshold of $10 million in annual sales over which registrants are required to file an auditor’s report should be increased to reflect inflation.
  • Security deposits: Most businesses that apply for registration must provide a security deposit in the amount of $10,000 to TICO. The security deposit is returned to the applicant after the filing of two consecutive year end financial statements provided that the Registrar has no concerns about the registrant’s compliance under TIA. Some registrants questioned whether $10,000 is still an appropriate amount for a required security deposit as this is a large financial requirement for new businesses. They also questioned whether two years is still the right amount of time for TICO to hold this amount of money.
  • Place of business requirements: The regulation currently requires that a registrant must conduct business in Ontario only from a permanent place of business within the province. Many participants felt that these requirements constitute an additional financial burden for registrants given the increase in agencies that deal with consumers online, over the phone and in their homes.

Options under consideration:

  • Remove or amend the existing financial requirements on registrants where the measures may be ineffective, duplicative or pose a heavy burden on small businesses
  • Introduce alternative measures to assess registrants’ financial health in order to focus on the areas that pose the greatest risk to consumers

Questions: Regulatory burden on the industry

  • To what extent should the current financial requirements for registered travel agents and wholesalers be updated to reduce the regulatory burden, while still protecting Ontario consumers?
  • Should Ontario remove or amend the trust accounting requirements? If so, how? Are there any alternative financial instruments which the province should require in order to protect consumers (e.g., insurance, bonds, enhanced security, or personal guarantees)?
  • Should Ontario remove or amend the requirement for a review engagement report for registrants that make less than $10 million in annual sales? If so, how? Are there any alternative methods of financial reporting which could maintain consumer protection which are less burdensome for registrants?
  • Should Ontario remove or amend the security deposit requirements (e.g., change the amount of the deposit or the duration in which it is held in trust)? If so, how? Are there any alternative financial instruments which the province should require in order to protect consumers?
  • Should Ontario remove or amend the place of business requirements in order to minimize gaps in consumer protection while lessening the regulatory burden (e.g., remove the requirement, amend the requirement)? If so, how? How will any changes affect consumer protection?

Key finding 3: Compliance and enforcement

TIA sets out the powers TICO has available with respect to the investigation of complaints against travel agents and wholesalers, inspections, and discipline in cases where businesses have failed to comply with TIA. The comments outlined below were frequently made about the enforcement of TIA. We’ve developed discussion questions for public feedback based on our phase 1 consultations.

  • Risk-based approach: Many travel industry stakeholders commented that enforcement efforts are currently not undertaken using a risk-based approach. However, there was no consensus amongst stakeholders about the greatest risks to consumers and which risks TIA should focus on. Registrants expressed mixed views about TICO’s enforcement role, with some arguing that the regulator was too strict in its enforcement approach, while others noting that TICO tends to give businesses multiple opportunities to comply before launching an investigation.
  • Enforcement tools: Several travel industry stakeholders commented that additional enforcement tools were required to uphold consumer protection. For example, it was felt that the ability to issue additional fines or penalties, such as administrative monetary penalties, would allow TICO to more effectively encourage compliance in those cases where revoking registration is not warranted. Administrative monetary penalties are an additional enforcement measure which allows the regulator to issue fines for specific contraventions of an act or its regulation. Others noted that TICO needs more power over other entities beyond registrants to fulfill its consumer protection mandate and ensure a level playing field. For example, while TICO has the ability to investigate non-registrants, they are limited in their ability to investigate travel agencies located outside of the province or to enter and inspect the business premises of non-registrants unless granted permission by the owner.
  • Fraudulent travel agents: In the 2015/16 fiscal year, the most frequent complaint that was received by TICO was suspected fraudulent activity of a travel counsellor.footnote 21 Many travel industry stakeholders raised concerns about the inability of travel agencies, wholesalers or TICO to address fraudulent activities undertaken by individual travel professionals or outside sales representatives who are not currently registered under the statute. Stakeholders have indicated that this issue is exacerbated by the increase in home-based agenciesfootnote 22 working with outside sales representatives. While many stakeholders were supportive of licensing individual travel professionals, others were opposed to the additional financial burden this would entail (see section 5 below on registration).

Options under consideration:

  • Adopt new approaches to strengthen enforcement, including granting TICO new compliance and enforcement tools, such as the ability to levy administrative monetary penalties on registrants.

Questions: Compliance and enforcement

  • What are those activities of travel agents and wholesalers that pose the greatest risk to consumers?
  • What changes should Ontario make to TIA in order to focus on those activities which pose the greatest risk to consumers?
  • How should Ontario modify the existing enforcement tools available to TICO to promote greater compliance with TIA?
  • What changes should Ontario make to address concerns from consumers and stakeholders about the limited ability of regulated travel agencies, wholesalers and TICO to address fraudulent activities by individual travel agents or outside sales representatives?

Key finding 4: Travel Industry Compensation Fund

The Travel Industry Compensation Fund provides reimbursement to customers in situations where, for example, the customer paid for certain travel services which were not provided and the payment was made to or through an Ontario registered travel agent and the customer has not been reimbursed by the travel agent or wholesaler due to the bankruptcy or insolvency of the travel agent or wholesaler. This includes the situation where an end supplier or cruise lines is insolvent or bankrupt. The fund is the payor of last resort, meaning that a consumer must seek reimbursement directly from, for example, the registrant, through travel insurance or their credit card company before a claim will be considered by TICO.

The Travel Industry Compensation Fund is financed by registered travel agents and travel wholesalers in Ontario and is administered by TICO, whose Board of Directors determines whether a claim or a part of one, meets the requirements under TIA. If the Board of Directors determines that a claim is not eligible for reimbursement, the claimant is entitled to a hearing before Ontario’s License Appeal Tribunal which may choose to allow the claim or refuse the claim in whole or in part. In our phase 1 consultation survey, we asked consumers what they believe are the risks associated with travel. Respondents to the question most frequently cited the risks associated with paying for a service in advance that is not delivered by an end supplier such as an airline, hotel, cruise line (at 83%), followed by not receiving value for money (at 65%).footnote 23 The comments below were frequently raised about the fund. We’ve developed discussion questions for public feedback based on our phase 1 consultations.

  • Credit card chargebacks: Many travel industry stakeholders raised questions about the need to maintain the Travel Industry Compensation Fund given the fact that most consumers who purchase travel through a credit card may receive a chargeback in the event that an end supplier fails. However, many raised the limitations to relying on credit card chargebacks, such as:
    • Some consumers still purchase travel services using cash (i.e., 3% of consumers who responded to our phase 1 stakeholder survey indicated that they paid for travel services using cashfootnote 24)
    • Credit card companies can change their chargeback policies at any time
    • Not every credit card offers the same coverage
    • Credit card chargebacks do not cover the inflated cost of booking travel back to Ontario, above and beyond the original ticket price, should an overseas end-supplier fail unexpectedly while the consumer is abroad
    • Consumers may lack an understanding about the availability of credit card chargebacks or the process for receiving compensation through this avenue
    • There may be some risks to consumer protection should one or more participants in the credit card transaction go bankrupt (e.g., a credit card company, processor, card associations/card brands, or merchant service providers).
  • Scope of coverage: Several registrants noted limitations to the current scope of coverage available under the fund. For example, failure to provide services due to the bankruptcy or insolvency of many end suppliers is not covered (e.g., accommodation providers, other travel providers that organize tours). Some registrants felt that the fund was inherently unfair as it requires travel agents and wholesalers to contribute financially despite the fact that it provides coverage for the failure of end suppliers such as airlines who don’t pay into the fund.
  • Solvency of the Fund/consumer funded model: Some travel industry stakeholders commented that the amount that is currently in the Travel Industry Compensation Fund would be inadequate in the event that there is a big failure of a major travel supplier. However, stakeholders frequently commented that there is little appetite amongst registrants to increase the financial burden on registrants in order to expand the fund.

Options under consideration:

  • Maintain the existing scope of the fund
  • Narrow the scope of the fund so that it only covers those situations which are currently not covered through other avenues, such as credit card chargebacks (e.g., coverage for the cost of returning passengers back to Ontario in the event of a bankruptcy or insolvency when travelling internationally)
  • Expand the scope of the fund (e.g., to provide coverage where there is failure to provide services due to the bankruptcy or insolvency of additional end suppliers), while also adopting a consumer-funded model
  • Make the fund optional so that consumers can opt to pay into the fund, if they choose to receive additional coverage

Questions: Travel Industry Compensation Fund

  • Given changes in the marketplace, such as the increased use of credit cards, to what extent is Ontario’s Travel Industry Compensation Fund still necessary to protect consumers?
  • What changes should Ontario make to address concerns from stakeholders that the fund’s scope and/or amount of coverage does not reflect the current marketplace and/or the risks associated with travel?
  • Should Ontario consider adopting a consumer-funded model for the fund, with expanded scope and coverage?

Key finding 5: Registration (who is covered)

Stakeholders raised questions about whether certain individuals and businesses require registration and how they fit within the current registration framework. The suggestions below were frequently raised by stakeholders (in addition to suggestions about strengthening the regulation of travel agencies or wholesalers located outside of Ontario, and licensing individual travel professionals, mentioned above). We’ve developed discussion questions for public feedback based on our phase 1 consultations.

  • Who is a registrant: TIA currently establishes two types of registrants — travel agent and travel wholesaler. Given changes in the travel industry, we heard that these two categories of registrants may be too vague, not reflecting the terminology which registrants use to refer to themselves (e.g., travel professionals, different business models such as home-based agents, and specialized areas such as corporate event planning). Some registrants suggested that the current definition of registrant in TIA may not capture the specific types of players who are now involved in the travel transaction. For example, many travel agencies and wholesalers are working with home-based agents or outside sales representatives for which the agency has less direct oversight. TIA may need to introduce additional requirements for these agents in order to adequately protect consumers.
  • Areas that should not be regulated under TIA: Some registrants felt that the following areas constitute a lower risk from a consumer protection standpoint and should be the subject of a specific exemption within TIA:
    • Two or three-day tours taking place within the province, on the basis that hotels and travel services in the province are already highly regulated at the municipal level, and the cost of returning travellers to their homes in the event of a bankruptcy or insolvency would be relatively small within province
    • Special interest groups for which travel services are a very small portion of their business (e.g., photography shops, yoga studios)
    • Individuals or groups should be allowed to plan travel as long as they are not earning a profit, as is the case in other jurisdictions (e.g., a tennis club planning a group trip)
    • Gift cards that can be redeemed for travel services, as these are already regulated in Ontario
    • Corporate travel, on the basis that the majority of corporate bookings are done online through a credit card within a short time period between the booking and the travel date
  • Areas that should be regulated under TIA: Some consumers and travel industry stakeholders also felt that the following areas should be subject to TIA explicitly within the legislation:
    • Hotel services, on the basis that Ontario travellers should have access to the fund if a hotel becomes bankrupt or insolvent
    • The sharing economy/home-sharing websites, based on concerns around the safety and security of travellers booking accommodation through these sites

Options under consideration:

  • Reconsider the existing exemptions under TIA to determine if they are still relevant
  • Create new exemptions for some activities which either pose a low financial risk to consumers or are already regulated through other means
  • Require individual sellers of travel services to be registered
  • Create new classes of registration with varying obligations

Questions: Registration (who is covered)

  • Are there types of travel services and travel service providers that should be explicitly included within the scope of TIA which are currently excluded? If so, why?
  • Are there types of travel services and travel service providers that should be explicitly excluded from the scope of TIA? If so, why?
  • What changes or clarifications should be made to the definition of a travel agent or travel wholesaler?
  • Should individual sellers of travel services be required to be registered?
  • Should there be different classes of registration with varying obligations? If so, how should the classes of registration be divided (e.g., by risk profile, business model, size)?

Key finding 6: Other

The comments below were frequently raised by stakeholders but do not fit under the themes noted above. We’ve developed discussion questions for public feedback based on our phase 1 consultations.

  • Definitions: Travel industry participants noted that the following terms are unclear and/or are left open for interpretation, creating ambiguity in the application of TIA:
    • Consumer vs. customer (e.g., does TIA apply to the customer as the person who pays for the travel, or the consumer as the person who travels?)
    • Sell (e.g., does this include marketing a product at a trade show?)
    • Place of business (e.g., does this include hosts that are using Airbnb as a business?)
  • Flexibility: Registrants frequently commented that the products and services offered, the business models, and technology utilized by registered travel agencies and wholesalers evolves so quickly that the regulatory framework may quickly become out of date. It was suggested that TICO could be given greater flexibility by providing more discretionary power.

Options under consideration:

  • Amend the existing definitions to provide clarity
  • Modify the framework to provide additional flexibility to respond to changes in the marketplace such as providing discretion for TICO’s Registrar to set operational policies for certain requirements that are currently prescribed in regulation (e.g., thresholds for financial requirements).

Questions: Other

  • What can the government do to ensure it has the ability to quickly respond to the constantly evolving business models in the travel sector?

Key finding 7: Comments that are out of scope for the Review

There were some comments which were raised frequently by stakeholders which fall outside the scope of the review:

  • Jurisdiction: Several registrants noted that the travel industry is global in nature and that it should be regulated at an international or federal level to eliminate gaps in consumer protection created by a provincial regulatory framework. Stakeholders felt that effort should be made by the provincial government and stakeholders to advocate for federal regulation
  • Governance: The scope of the government’s review of TIA does not include an operational review of the TICO. However, the findings of the review may have implications for how TICO operates
  • Cancellation fees: TIA requires registered travel agents and wholesalers to include information about cancellation terms and any cancellation charges in representations to the consumer about specific trips. However, consumers frequently raised concerns about the high cost of airline or hotel cancellation fees. Many stakeholders also commented that they should not have to pay cancellation fees in the event that an unavoidable event occurs, such as an illness
  • Airline services or prices: Consumers frequently raised concerns about airlines which are regulated by the federal government through Transport Canada and the Canadian Transportation Agency, such as:
    • High prices or changing prices (e.g., purchasing a flight in advance and having the prices drop)
    • Being “bumped” from a flight due to over-booking
    • Flight cancellations or delays, and difficulty receiving adequate compensation

On November 3rd, the federal Minister of Transport, Marc Garneau, announced the government’s intention to introduce an air travellers’ passenger rights regime to ensure the rights of flyers are protected by fair and clear rules.footnote 25 It is unclear whether this federal initiative will address some of the concerns raised during the review.

How to provide feedback

All travel industry stakeholders and consumers are invited to provide input on the initial options and the questions posed in this report, as part of phase 2 of the review, in the following ways:

  • Register to attend in-person consultation sessions across the province in February/March, 2017.
  • Send us an email with your comments or feedback in response to the questions posed in this report to by April 14, 2017. Please do not use shortened URLs (e.g., Bit.Ly, Ow.Ly, Tinyurl) or include attachments larger than 25 MB.

Based on the feedback provided in phase 2 of the review, we will develop a set of options and recommendations to move forward which may include potential changes to TIA and/or the regulation. These findings will be detailed in a final report which will be posted for public feedback.