IMAGE: Travel Industry Council of Ontario (Image courtesy of Travel Industry Council of Ontario – TICO)
When the far-reaching impact of the pandemic became clear In early 2020, the Travel Industry Council of Ontario (TICO) took steps to reduce the financial burden on travel agencies and wholesalers. Despite the current prospect of better fortunes, the industry regulator is extending its support.
“While there is renewed optimism that brighter days are on the horizon, it will take time to restore consumer confidence and for the travel industry to fully rebound,” said Richard Smart, TICO’s President & CEO.
Richard Smart, CEO, Travel Industry Council of Ontario
“The industry has endured severe hardships over the last two years and it’s important that we continue to assist registrants, while ensuring consumer protection, during this crucial recovery period.”
The following burden relief measures will be extended:
— Temporarily exempting registrants from filing Annual Financial Statements, which will continue to reduce administration and expenses associated with financial reporting.
— Providing an exemption for two additional years from the requirement to file an annual financial statement, accompanied by a review engagement report or audit opinion, for registrants with annual Ontario sales greater than $2 million. Only a verification statement needs to be filed, subject to the exception listed below.
This exemption covers registrants with fiscal year-end dates until November 30, 2024. For registrants with annual Ontario sales less than $2 million, a permanent regulatory amendment was made on March 30, 2020, allowing a verification statement to be sufficient in most cases, subject to the exception listed below.
The exemption would not apply if the registrant is required for any other reason to prepare an annual financial statement for a fiscal year that ends during that period and the annual financial statement is accompanied by either a review engagement report or an audit opinion, prepared by a public accountant licensed under the Public Accounting Act, 2004. In that case, the financial statements and review engagement report or audit opinion shall be provided to TICO and a verification statement would not be acceptable.
— Temporarily extending registrants’ ability to issue travel vouchers, as a means of offering flexibility during the COVID-19 recovery period.
Registrants who acquire the rights to travel services for resale can continue for an additional year (until March 31, 2023) to choose to provide a voucher or similar document for future redemption towards travel services.
The voucher or similar document provided would be in lieu of a refund or comparable alternate travel services acceptable to the customer if a supplier (e.g., airline or cruise line) fails to provide the travel services on or after March 30, 2020 and that failure is related to COVID-19.
Consumers’ eligibility to claim unredeemed vouchers through the Compensation Fund remains unchanged:
If a consumer is unable to redeem a voucher or similar document issued by a TICO-registered travel agency, website or tour operator (does NOT include a voucher issued directly by an end supplier to a customer, including airline, cruise line or hotel) for future travel services because of a registrant failure associated with COVID-19, the consumer may be eligible for reimbursement under the Travel Industry Compensation Fund until March 31, 2024.
You can find the regulatory changes on the e-laws website, found here.