TICO and Event Planners in Constructive Exchange About Controversial Ontario Court Ruling

It has been several months since, right here on Cvent Blog, I broke the story about the implications for Ontario event planners of the 2010 case law related to Ontario’s Travel Industry Act, 2002 :

Based on a court ruling, Ontario-based event and wedding planners who are not registered with the Travel Industry Council of Ontario (TICO) are liable to prosecution for operating a travel agency without a license every time they book transportation or hotels for clients. This applies even if the client pays directly and the event planning firm does not handle funds. Non-profit organizations are exempt; however, their subcontractors must be TICO registered.  For example, non-profit associations organizing conventions and conferences for their members would not fall under TICO jurisdiction.

The original blog entry and a copy of the court ruling that TICO had graciously provided were circulated to the head of every association that represents event planners in Ontario. There was a meeting with TICO to determine what steps Ontario event industry professionals need to take to ensure compliance with emerging case law. A discussion was started in the Canada Event Planners Subgroup of the Event Planning and Management Group on LinkedIn. The discussion and the original blog entry have been widely shared.

The information came as a surprise (read that as absolute shock) to many Ontario event planners and event industry leaders. There have received been many requests for updates. Here is a news round-up:

  • Business Events Industry Coalition of Canada (BEICC) has been meeting with key industry players
  • Ignite magazine held a roundtable with event industry leaders and Michael Pepper from TICO
  • MPI Toronto held a town hall to educate members about TICO
  • BEICC held a town hall about the issues with its industry partners on February 28, 2012

Meetings Canada and Ignite Magazine have both run recently run articles about this issue.

  • MPI Toronto Chapter Town Hall Sheds Light on TIA Rules for Independent Meeting Planners
  • BEICC Town Hall Addresses Travel Industry Act Compliance Issues, Next Steps
  • Identity Crisis! About the TICO roundtable, issues and answers

The Ignite Magazine Identify Crisis feature is detailed, comprehensive, and a "must-read" for every event planner in Ontario.

Ignite Magazine reported TICO's Michael Pepper has acknowledged that there are gray areas and a need for clearer guidelines for the corporate events and business travel sectors. It will take time to work this out.

Bob Parker, Vice Chairperson of BEICC, 4 corporate lawyers "....are categorical in the statement that the Court of Appeal was RIGHT in their interpretation of the law. There is no room for movement here. We need to look at how TICO regulates this legislation as our opportunity to gain compliance for meeting and event planners".

In the meantime, MPI Toronto has consulted with corporate lawyer at Mark C. Woolgar at Toronto’s Woolgar VanWiechen Ketcheson Ducoffe. As reported by Meetings Canada, his advice to event planning firms and independent meeting firms is that to avoid the stiff fines and jail time associated with violating the Travel Industry Act, Ontario event planners have 3 options which apply even if the client and their selected destination are located outside Ontario:

  • become TICO registered....it's an expensive and long process but viable for large organizations. Here are details about the TICO registration process.
  • pass the TICO travel counselor’s exam and become affiliated with a TICO registered travel agent. (The Canadian Institute of Travel Counsellors (CITC) that administers the exam on behalf of TICO, is holding Saturday webinars and seminars to help travel and event industry professionals prepare to take the exam.)
  • ensure that all accommodation is booked through a TICO travel agent

62% of respondents to Ignite magazine's online survey have indicated that they had no knowledge of TICO regulations or their implications for event planners. Today, as a result of collective effort, more event planners are aware of how these important regulations impact their business. One thing is certain, they are a game changer for event planners in Ontario.

The next BEICC meeting with TICO is on Monday, March 12, 2012. Please post your questions in our comments section so that BEICC can ensure that they are addressed to TICO.

A constructive dialogue is unfolding between TICO and Ontario's event planning associations. I am pleased to have played a role as a catalyst for these discussions. It demonstrates the role that the blogosphere, mainstream media, and professional associations can play in working together to address key industry issues.

Read Cvent Event Blog regularly to keep abreast of key issues with an impact on meeting, event and conference planners.

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