Debt and TICO Troubles: Paradis Tells Open Jaw The Fight for Agents Continues

The front nine was fun. The back nine was all business.

Wendy Paradis, President, ACTA.
Wendy Paradis, President, ACTA.

ACTA President Wendy Paradis was highly visible at the start of last week’s annual ACTA golf tournament in southern Ontario. But when most players were playing their final nine holes and sipping the odd adult beverage, Paradis was in a back room at the clubhouse, talking to Ontario government officials about the Travel Industry Council of Ontario.

“Right now in Ontario, TICO is having the biggest fee review in its history. We definitely have that front and centre. As a matter of fact I’m not golfing this afternoon because we’re meeting with the Ontario government in a Teams call.”

TICO recently launched the largest review of its funding framework and fee structure since its inception.

ACTA and CATO have complained that they’ve been “kept in the dark” on the financial impact for TICO registrants and that TICO and the Ontario government are placing an “unfair and uncompetitive burden on travel businesses.”

As reported by Open Jaw, TICO in late June said it is "premature" to share the findings of its months-long review, which began in the fall of 2022.

“We’re advocating that Ontario absolutely needs to move to a consumer pay model that’s similar to what we have in Quebec,” Paradis told Open Jaw in a one-on-one chat. “Our position with the government is that the people who are benefiting from the compensation fund should be contributing to the fund. We also think that corporate travel agencies should be excluded from the fund, that the nature of their business is that they never tap into the fund. And they’re some of the highest payers into the fund.

“CATO and ACTA are working together on that. We’re looking for a whole review of TICO; their services, their fees, and the value they bring to the consumer and the industry. We’ve been meeting with the Ontario government, we’ve been meeting with the Auditor General,” she said.

“We hear from a lot of members about the red tape and the burden of working in Ontario.”

It sounds like she’s probably not on the TICO Christmas list this year.

“Actually I am. But, yeah, I’m not their favourite,” she replied with a smile. “Let’s just say that.”

COVID shut down many parts of the travel industry. Paradis said it also put a pause on the work of government regulators.

“They were pretty quiet. But, just like there was a pent-up demand for travel, these government agencies have been really working and now in 2023 are really reaching out to us,” she said. “There are more regulations, more red tape, so we’re paying attention to that. We’re also having a lot of meetings about travel insurance” and other issues.

Paradis said many governments in Canada are moving to strengthen consumer protection rights.

advisor, agent, working, IC, work at home, home office, woman working“We all believe in excellent customer service. However, we also believe there needs to be a reasonableness to the administrative burden, which is red tape and expense. Things like having all travel advisors licensed to sell insurance and more standards around annual education - sometimes education that’s beyond what we actually do.”

The travel industry is definitely gaining strength, but Paradis said it could take several more years for Canadian travel agencies and advisors to recover from the pandemic.

“One of the priorities in the industry, which you would’ve seen just this week ( is the amount of debt agents are carrying from the pandemic. For a couple of years some travel agencies and ITAs were down 80 to 100% in revenue. Even though it’s busy now, it takes a lot of time to recover from that. Certainly, our members are telling us that debt and cash flow are significant issues.

“It’s amazing. When we talk to the government they say ‘We hear things are very busy.’ Yes, it’s busy, but I always say we’re running out of runway.

“Even though it’s busy you have all that debt you’ve accumulated. You still have to pay your staff, your rent. The revenue doesn’t come in fast enough to overcome that.”

“One of our most important advocacy issues right now is we’re collecting the data on the loans, getting agents’ opinions on what would really help them. And then we’ll be advocating.

“We will definitely get that data to the government and as we get closer to the fall, the activity will get higher and higher and higher. And we will be coming to the industry looking for, like we did in the pandemic, letters of support, meetings with MP’s.

“We really want to get debt relief.  Whether that’s in extensions to loan payments and more forgiveness.

“The industry worked very well together in COVID,” Paradis explained, “so we’re talking to leaders in other organizations. We’re already advocating on behalf of travel agencies and ITAs, but we will actively advocate with the tourism industry, the hotel industry and others. Because we … have a lot of members in debt.”

“One of the things we always say is that we focus on advocacy, things that are barriers to business, so that you, as travel agents and travel agencies can focus on what you do best. And we will watch for what is coming down the road.

“We’ve got your back.”

While she missed the back nine at the golf tourney, Paradis said she was flying to Europe the next day for an extended family gathering (21 people in all) in Greece.

“Our son is turning 30 and our daughter just graduated from university. This is kind of celebrating our children and that they’re off the payroll!”

Jim Byers

Jim Byers is a freelance travel writer based in Toronto. He was formerly travel editor at the Toronto Star and now writes for a variety of publications in Canada and around the world. He's also a regular guest on CBC, CTV News, Global News and other television and radio networks.

You may also like
Israel Ministry of Tourism Launches New Campaign to Inspire Travel this Winter
Israel’s Ministry of Tourism has launched a new digital advertising campaign, ‘Anywhere’, aiming to inspire Canadians to travel to the destination ...
Dominican Republic's DR Tourism Roadshow in Canada
At recent events in YYZ and YUL, the Dominican Republic also introduced the DO Travel Rewards program, a loyalty initiative for ...
Atlas Ocean Voyages Announces New 2024/2025 Polar Expeditions To Antarctica
Atlas Ocean Voyages announced new "Polar Expeditions by Atlas" to Antarctica, setting sail from NOV 2024 to MAR 2025. Bookings have now commenced.
Carnival Freedom
Carnival Opens Bookings on Itineraries Featuring Celebration Key
Carnival Cruise Line opens sales today for nearly 400 cruises on 12 ships sailing from eight homeports to its new private ...
Oceania Cruises' Regatta
Oceania Cruises Releases Summer 2025 Collection
Oceania Cruises revealed its 2025 Summer Collection of voyages, featuring a lineup of more than 100 itineraries, plus nearly 50 Grand ...

Talk Back! Post a comment: