TICO & Retreat Planning with the Travel Industry Act

Are you a facilitator or leader residing in Ontario and interested in planning retreats?  That’s great!  TICO is actively approaching Ontario Retreat Facilitators to ensure they are complying with the Travel Industry Act – There are some important guidelines that you will need to understand in order to promote and facilitate your retreats legally:

What is TICO?

The Travel Industry Council of Ontario exists to protect travellers when they pay in advance for travel, to ensure they receive services as advertised.  According to the act, unlicensed individuals or businesses depositing these funds into personal or business accounts provide no actual assurance that the travel services will be provided, so TICO makes sure we all get what we pay for when we choose to travel.

When does this apply to your retreat?

  • If you’re advising clients or asking them to inquire with you about your retreat.
  • If you’re collecting money to pay for travel services.
  • If you’re booking accommodations or transportation on behalf of attendees.
Retreat planner navigating TICO guidelines and the Travel Industry Act

If any of these apply, your retreat is mandated to comply with TICO guidelines and be sold by a licensed travel agent.  See the guidelines for Special Interest Travel here. (Fun fact!  A 2007 review of the act made a recommendation that businesses like Yoga Studios should be able to sell retreats if participants were traveling within Ontario and this was not a primary source of income for the studio – but it doesn’t sound like any changes were made yet based on this recommendation.)

That said, if you’re working with Northern Edge Algonquin, a dedicated retreat centre with years of experience in facilitating, planning, and selling retreats, you can easily comply with the act via the Registration Not Required exception #2 in the Special Interest Travel guidelines:

“In some circumstances (see below #1 and #2), an individual or business organizing Special Interest Travel may not require registration as a travel agent under the Act if they meet the following condition:

2. Working with an end-supplier who is not registered with TICO (i.e., a hotel, cruise line or an out of province tour operator). The end-supplier is offering a package/tour and has made arrangements to include an Ontario based individual or business in the capacity of a specialist relating to the tour.”

Under this exception, the following guidelines must be adhered to:

a. The package/tour must be organized and run entirely by the end-supplier (such as a hotel or a cruise line) or the out of province tour operator.

Northern Edge Algonquin takes care of all the planning and delivery regarding the package/tour in regards to meals, accommodations, equipment rentals, and anything else tourism-related.  We consult with you, the partner facilitator/specialist in regards to your specialty workshop/programming/classes.

b. The individual or business would only be working in the capacity of a specialist in his or her field and therefore cannot act as a travel agent/travel counsellor/OSR, i.e., counselling/advising consumers about travel services, collecting payments from customers, facilitating any transactions such as direct payment from customers to travel suppliers, making bookings and/or making arrangements for accommodation and/or transportation for customers.

As a facilitator/specialist, you’re responsible for offering your retreat program and can leave the transactions, bookings, and arrangements to Northern Edge Algonquin. 95% of our Ontario retreat planners promote their retreat and direct their community to the Edge to book and pay — the other 5% are licensed to sell travel in Ontario or working with an agent who is.

c. Any promotion or advertisement about the package/tour made by the individual or business must clearly instruct the consumer to contact the end-supplier directly or a TICO registered travel agency to inquire about travel arrangements.

You can advertise and promote the retreat clearly – just be sure to identify that while clients can inquire with you about your facilitation/programming for the retreat, any questions about accommodations/meals/transport/pricing are to be directed to Northern Edge Algonquin.

d. The individual or business is providing a specialty service not related to travel (e.g., photography instruction, health & wellness coaching) and may charge a fee/payment for providing the specialty service. Any payments requested from consumers must be exclusively for the specialty service.

Our planners have the option of collecting their program fee separately – we also offer an option to bundle this in with our packages as a local service that will be offered on-site, and pay you this fee upon receipt of your invoice as a contractor.

When you decide to plan your retreat with the Edge, and fill out our Retreat Services Agreement, you will be given a choice of working with us as the end supplier selling the retreat or acknowledging your responsibility to work with a licenced travel agent to sell the retreat yourself. Retreat planners from B.C. and Quebec are held to similar requirements, so be sure to do some research on regulations for selling travel in your home province or country.

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