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How Ontario consumers can avoid travel nightmares
posted Mar 8, 2016 at 04:27:24 PM

Travel agencies or websites registered with the province’s travel regulator TICO protect Ontarians before, during and after their trips.

By: Dorian Werda Special to the Star, Published on Mon Feb 08 2016



Ontario’s travel industry is regulated . . . but who knows? Many Ontario consumers do not.

Using the Internet, with all the access to travel information and choices it provides for planning and booking vacations, is viewed by many people as the only way to go.

More and more people are becoming their own travel agent, as a result, and are booking everything online.

Unfortunately, by doing so, they often don’t realize they are forfeiting the consumer protection and other benefits available when they book with an Ontario-based travel agency or website.

Booking a trip through an out-of-province travel supplier (be it a hotel or travel company), or by booking directly with an airline or cruise line, you are increasing exponentially the possibility of running into unanticipated problems that can be costly, as well as heartbreaking.

These situations, for example, are far more common than you might think:

You might turn up at the airport ready to jet off to your desired corner of the globe, only to discover a) that your passport has expired, or b) its expiry date is considered by the country you plan to visit to be too close to the end of your trip, or c) you don’t have a visa you need for one of the countries you plan to visit. Trip over before it even starts.

Before leaving, or perhaps when you are midtrip, the airline you booked with declares bankruptcy. Or upon arrival you are bumped from the resort you booked due to overbooking and moved to accommodations that are not comparable. So much for that vacation.

In both cases, you’re out of pocket and on your own if you didn’t book with a travel agency or website registered with the Travel Industry Council of Ontario (TICO). All Ontario travel agents are legally required to provide you with all the travel information you need, including visa and passport requirements, prior to making the booking and accepting payment.

As well, you are protected by Ontario’s industry-financed Travel Industry Compensation Fund, administered by TICO, when you purchase your travel through a TICO-registered travel agency or website. As part of its consumer-protection mandate, TICO also provides assistance with a consumer complaints process.

And what exactly is TICO, you might wonder?

TICO is Ontario’s travel regulator. Every travel agency and tour operator in Ontario has to be registered with TICO. TICO is a not-for-profit corporation set up by the Ontario government to oversee the administration and enforcement of the provincial legislation that governs Ontario’s travel industry. TICO registrants are required to comply with the law. (Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia are the only Canadian provinces that have a regulated travel industry.)

“Ontario has some of the most comprehensive consumer protection for travel purchases in the country,” says David Orazietti, Minister of Government and Consumer Services. “Purchasing your travel services from a TICO-registered travel agency or website automatically provides you with the added benefit of Ontario’s legislated consumer-protection provisions.”

Travel companies registered with TICO must comply with strict financial requirements. In addition, all Ontario travel counsellors must, by law, meet a legislated education standard, an exam that solely focuses on the provincial law that regulates the sale of travel services. The law includes several consumer-protection provisions to which all Ontario travel agencies and tour operators must adhere.

According to Richard Smart, TICO’s president and CEO, purchasing travel services should be treated in the same way as any other significant purchase.

“It is unfortunate when we hear from consumers who have been denied boarding or who have run into trouble booking their travel services because they didn’t know about the consumer protection available when they book with Ontario travel agencies. This one simple step can be the most important in your entire travel-planning process.”

Beyond the protection offered by Ontario’s legislation, when booking travel with TICO-registered travel agencies and websites, there is the extensive knowledge and advice a travel counsellor can provide. And should you experience a serious problem, you’re not alone, you have TICO.


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