This story was updated on Monday, August 14, 2023 at 7:12 a.m. EST
The Travel Industry Council of Ontario (TICO) will undergo a restructuring, as per orders from the province.
In a press release issued Friday (Aug. 11), TICO said it received a letter from the Ministry of Public and Business Service Delivery outlining five orders for Ontario’s travel industry regulator responsible for consumer protection laws.
The Minister’s orders include the following:
- Decrease the number of Board members from 11 to 9;
- Ensure all Board members possess a positive orientation for proactive consumer protection initiatives;
- Ensure no more than 34% of the members of the Board are drawn from the travel agent and travel wholesaler industry;
- Establish a nominations committee with requirements around eligibility criteria for nominated Board members; and
- Establish an industry advisory council, comprised of members representing the interests of travel agents and travel wholesalers to report to and advise the Board.
In a statement, TICO said the changes will help enhance consumer protection and accountability for the sector, present an opportunity for TICO’s Board to lead in governance best practices – “mirroring the recommendations given by the Auditor General of Ontario to other Ontario regulators” – and provide a forum for industry to identify issues and provide advice to TICO’s Board.
“While TICO’s existing Board structure has served the organization well for many years, this governance change brings added balance to the Board and reflects best-in-class governance practices,” stated TICO’s CEO Richard Smart. “This change allows for a more diverse range of voices to actively contribute to TICO’s consumer protection mandate, while still ensuring the industry has a strong voice at the table.”
Similar governance changes have been implemented at other Delegated Administrative Authorities, including the Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council (OMVIC), Home Construction Regulatory Authority (HCRA) and Tarion.
Click here to view the Minister’s orders in their entirety, including the effective dates.
“These orders reflect a modernized approach to board governance, which includes skills-based recruitment to ensure optimal expertise in board oversight,” TICO said.
The Board of Directors is responsible for providing ongoing strategic oversight and governance to TICO as it fulfills its mandate of consumer protection.
TICO said it is making the necessary by-law changes to implement these orders, which will be presented at TICO’s Annual General Meeting, scheduled virtually for Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023 at 5 pm.
TICO said it will host a webinar in the coming month to provide more information about how the Minister’s Orders will be implemented and provide an opportunity for registrants and stakeholders to ask questions.
More information will be shared soon.
TICO is currently undergoing the largest review of its funding framework and fee model since inception.
ACTA not surprised
The update comes after the Association of Canadian Travel Agencies (ACTA) and the Canadian Association of Tour Operators (CATO), last month, withdrew their respective appointees from the TICO board out of frustration over the lack of transparency regarding the financial impact on TICO registrants.
ACTA’s President Wendy Paradis released a statement Sunday (Aug. 13) in response to TICO’s board change announcement, saying she was “not surprised” by the disclosure of the Ontario government orders.
She noted that ACTA met with the Ontario Attorney General last spring and the Director of Consumer Policy in early July, both groups spoke about this future model for the TICO board and advised that all other Ontario regulators moved to this model after their AG audit.
TICO went through an auditor general audit early this year “so we were expecting this change,” Paradis said.
“Regardless of this change in board composition, it is important that the voice of the industry is heard by TICO and the Ontario government – and to this end, there will be two industry directors on the new board and there will be an industry advisory council formed,” Paradis said.
Anyone interested in being considered for the TICO board must apply by August 21, 2023.
"Still in the dark"
ACTA, however, says it is still in the dark about recommendations for any changes to the TICO fee structure and the mechanism for funding the Compensation Fund.
Last month, ACTA and CATO removed their appointees from TICO board meetings until the TICO AGM in September – or, until they are given a copy of TICO’s recommendations to the Ontario government on TICO’s future fee structure and Compensation Fund funding, Paradis said.
ACTA has meanwhile requested an urgent meeting with Minister Kaleed Rasheed, Minister of Public and Business Service Delivery of Ontario to discuss the Ontario Consumer Compensation Fund funding model before TICO’s consultation with registrants and stakeholders takes place this Fall.
“The message that ACTA has delivered to government is clear: the industry cannot and should not be bogged down by unnecessary administrative burden to run a travel business in Ontario,” Paradis said. “The industry cannot and should not be required to financially support an ever-expanding regulator with increased unnecessary legislation and fees.”
“Our message has been consistent. If the Ontario government is committed to a Traveller Consumer Compensation Fund in Ontario to cover potential bankruptcies, the current compensation should be fixed, including – that the beneficiary of the fund, the travel consumer – should be the contributor to that Fund as is the model in Quebec.”
“The industry is recovering from a catastrophic global pandemic and should not and cannot support unnecessary administrative and financial burden.”