TICO Fees To Rise; 18th AGM Sees New Faces At The Table

Open Jaw
By Bruce Parkinson

Michael Janigan

Richard Smart

Tisha Saunders

Paul Samuel

Scott Stewart

Registrants of the Travel Industry Council of Ontario will make a bigger contribution to the Travel Industry Compensation Fund beginning next April, with the levy per $1,000 of sales increasing to 22¢. After being frozen at 5¢ per $1,000 for 6 years, the contribution had risen to 15¢ for the past fiscal year.

As the audience at the 18 th TICO Annual General Meeting in YTO heard, the $2.395 million contributed by registrants in the past fiscal year was nearly double the prior year. As it happened, the net claims paid out of the Fund totalled just $55,622, the smallest disbursement in 10 years and one of the lowest in TICO history.

The result was the 1 st net surplus for TICO in 7 years, totalling over $441,000. The Compensation Fund stands at $20.85 million, down from $30 million 10 years ago but considered within an acceptable range to handle any major failure.

TICO's 18th AGM was the 1st without Michael Pepper, who led TICO from its inception before retiring last year – though he was in the audience for yesterday's gathering.

It was the 1 st for new TICO President Richard Smart, who was named to replace Pepper after a lengthy search. He thanked his predecessor for his “assistance, guidance and support" during the transition period.

It was the final TICO AGM with Michael Janigan hosting the meeting. The veteran consumer advocate joined the TICO Board in 2004 and has been Chairman since 2004. He praised Pepper's contribution at TICO, saying his “record of accomplishment is well-known in the industry." Janigan also welcomed Smart, saying he has “every confidence in him" to fulfill TICO's mission of providing protection to consumers purchasing travel and a level playing field for industry stakeholders.

In his comments, Smart noted that the number of active TICO registrants is currently 2,485, down 1% from the year before and just 2% from 5 years ago. He also said the mix of retail and wholesale registrations has remained consistent – “dismissing the suggestion that you have to be big to survive."

Smart also praised the resiliency of agents and the “evolving value proposition" that is maintaining their relevance.

There's clearly plenty of interest in the profession. More than 6,200 people took TICO exams in the past year, up 17% from the year before. Smart says education of industry members is essential to the future of the industry and that voluntary education modules will be created so agents can stay current with industry regulation.

Part of TICO's mandate is to enforce working capital, trust accounting and registration rules to protect consumers and the reputation of the industry. As well as issuing hundreds of warnings for invoicing, advertising and registration transgressions, TICO launched 16 new investigations, laid 95 charges, won 34 convictions and levied $150,000 in fines. Cumulatively, the convictions also resulted in 630 days of jail time.

“TICO will take appropriate enforcement actions when necessary," Smart said.

New technology means new opportunities for unscrupulous travel sellers, Smart told the audience, and TICO is reacting by doing things like sweeping Kijiji for unregistered agents.

Next to staffing costs, TICO's biggest expense is its consumer awareness campaign, which represents another part of its mandate – letting consumers know they are protected when they buy travel through TICO-registered companies. Smart cited research that says public awareness of TICO is growing – from 26% to 32% over the past year, and just below 40% in the GTA. He says TICO will use new alliances and social media to continue to grow the awareness numbers.

The results of an election for 3 open spots on the TICO Board saw Tisha Saunders win a spot formerly held by the CITC and now open to a wholesale, retail or marketing group representative. Saunders owns a Marlin Travel franchise in Orangeville. Vision Travel's Paul Samuel was elected as a retail representative. Former Board member as an OMCA representative Scott Stewart was acclaimed for a wholesale position on the Board.

TICO CEO Smart says he sees TICO as “an industry partner and an overseer of checks and balances." The industry can't be too dissatisfied - just 210 ballots were cast in the election from a universe of 2,500 and there were no questions from the audience following the AGM presentation.

Outgoing Board Chairman Janigan provided an interesting anecdote by noting that 20 years ago when the model of joint industry/government regulation was put forward, he was among the 1 st to denounce it as a sellout of consumer interests. “It will never work," he recalls saying. “I'm happy to cheerfully eat my words," Janigan says. “TICO is a particularly good example of the ability of the system to recognize the public interest and to have industry assistance in implementing that interest through legislation."

Leave a Comment...

(will not be published)