With the high cost that travel represents to Canadian businesses, it’s vital that the industry is regulated to protect against financial losses if a travel agency or tour operator goes out of business or operates fraudulently.

In Ontario, this protection is through government legislation known as the Travel Industry Act and is administered by the Travel Industry Council of Ontario (TICO).

“Consumer protection ensures that the marketplace is fair for everyone,”

“Our responsibility is to monitor travel agencies and tour operators to ensure they are operating soundly, and that they are fiscally sound,” says Dorian Werda, Director of Customer Service and Stakeholder Relations for TICO.

“When you purchase from a registered travel agency, you have consumer protection through the provincial Travel Industry Compensation Fund, which we administer.”

Ensuring fair compensation

Ontario is one of three Canadian provinces (including British Columbia and Quebec) that requires a consumer compensation fund in the event that an operator goes out of business before or during a trip, or should they fail to deliver the travel services the consumer has paid for.

TICO also functions as a consumer complaint agency for travellers who are dissatisfied or feel regulations have been violated.

“Consumer protection ensures that the marketplace is fair for everyone,” says Tom Osovitzki, CEO of Corporate Travel Management Services. “Like consumers, businesses want fairness and honesty when booking travel, and businesses benefit when rules are enforced that put all suppliers on an even playing field.

“Simply put: better consumer protection means better business,” he says.

The consumer’s role

Each province outlines in its regulations what rights travel consumers have in law, but as with any claim or complaint, there are some things you can do to ensure a successful outcome in cases of complaints or compensation claims.

It’s important to have booked your travel through a registered travel agency or tour operator. This includes through internet services. Look for information of registration on the company’s website.

Make sure you’ve read all contracts and documentation before you leave on your trip. Consumer protection regulations state what information must be disclosed to consumers.

Having a file with any receipts, contracts, or other paperwork will assist in any claim or complaint against a travel agency or tour operator.

Outside of legislated requirements, there is a range of other services consumers can look to their travel agency or tour operator to provide.

“Safety is paramount in the travel industry and corporate clients expect to receive timely, relevant destination and incident reporting to keep them up-to-date and aware of risks that may affect their travellers,” says Osovitzki.