ACTA has been aggressively conducting a lobbying campaign directed at the Ontario government for over a year now, seeking relief for Ontario travel agencies from the many financial and administrative burdens of the Travel Industry Act and the Travel Industry Compensation Fund.
In the fall of 2018, ACTA and CATO formed an industry coalition and hired a lobbyist to guide their efforts and deliver their concerns to the government. A team of ACTA and CATO senior leaders have been actively meeting with Ontario Government officials since early 2019.
Wendy Paradis, president of ACTA, said: “The message to every government official has been clear – the status quo in Ontario is not effective or sustainable and places an unfair burden on Ontario travel companies, as well as offering very little meaningful protection to Ontario consumers. We need to adopt a funding model similar to Quebec for funding consumer protection.”
The lobbying efforts will continue now that the Ontario government is back in session and ACTA wants all Ontario registrants to get involved.
As part of this ongoing campaign, ACTA is asking industry members to support a letter writing campaign to their MPPs and the government. Letter templates can be obtained online from the home page at acta.ca or by clicking here.
Paradis said: “All travel agency owners should be paying attention and we need their help at the grass roots level. In our meetings over the past several months, it became clear that many MPPs have never heard of TICO or the Ontario Travel Compensation Fund. We need to get relief for travel agencies from this archaic and inadequate piece of legislation. Reform is essential or travel agencies will just continue paying more and more.”
As for ACTA’s message to government, the association is telling them that the Compensation Fund model is outdated and significantly broken. It was designed in the 1970s when consumers paid by cash or cheque, before the internet and e-commerce. Today, well over 90% of travel agency transactions are completed using a credit card, making travel agency bookings a much lower risk.
It is an unfair financial and administrative burden on Ontario travel businesses, creating a disadvantage for Ontario travel companies and making them uncompetitive in a global market.
As well, ACTA points out that the Ontario Compensation Fund currently sits at more than $23 million but an actuarial study conducted for TICO says the Fund should be at $50 million. If a consumer pay model is not adopted, over time Ontario travel companies will have to contribute a lot more than they do already.
Yet, the Compensation Fund does not work for consumers. It is confusing, has many limitations and delays before paying and is the payer of last resort. TICO has a policy of forcing the consumer to first request a charge-back if payment was made by credit card– or requesting reimbursement from a travel insurance policy. And if the failure is a large one, there is a cap on total payout per failure, so consumers only get a partial payment.
Ontario must move to a consumer-pay model similar to the one in Quebec—and in most other countries around the world – if the Compensation Fund is to be sustainable and adequate to provide meaningful protection to consumers in the event of travel company failures.
ACTA is also seeking to reduce the burden of excessive financial reporting. Currently, many Ontario travel businesses are required to submit a costly audited financial statement on an annual basis to TICO. ACTA has strongly recommended to the Ontario Government that the requirement of paying for and submitting audited financial statements is an expensive and unnecessary burden on many Ontario travel agencies.
After a recent and extensive review of Canada’s financial criteria by IATA, Review Engagements were deemed the highest level of reporting necessary for Canadian travel agencies. ACTA is strongly urging the Ontario Government follow suit.
ACTA also supports the recommendation proposed by TICO that other less expensive forms of internally prepared financial statements be considered for small travel businesses with Ontario gross sales of under $2 million.
For more information, contact ACTA president, Wendy Paradis at [email protected] or phone: 905-282-9294 ext. 121.