The cost of a vacation is a large investment and should be protected just as you would any other valuable asset, says the Travel Industry Council of Ontario (TICO).
According to President Michael Pepper the best way consumers can protect themselves is to ensure they book through a TICO-registered travel agency.
“Before you book, have a look,” says Pepper, referring to the blue and green “tico.ca” logo that must be displayed by all registered travel providers.
Ontario travel agents are required by law to register with TICO. This is important because in the event they become bankrupt or insolvent before delivering the services paid for, consumers may receive a reimbursement of up to $5,000 from the Travel Compensation Fund.
“Consumers can best protect themselves two ways,” said Pepper. “Firstly, by making sure their travel agent has the tico.ca logo in plain view both at the office and on their website. Secondly, by using a credit card instead of cash, and obtaining a receipt. Without a receipt, you cannot make a claim.”
The Travel Industry Council of Ontario ensures that travel agencies follow Ontario’s strict consumer protection laws. In certain instances they will even help travelers stranded in destination to get safely back home. TICO will also mediate complaints if a situation cannot be resolved between the travel agency and its customer.
Asking the right questions up front can avoid disappointment down the road. TICO suggests you keep the following in mind to help ensure a happy and memorable trip.
1. Make sure your travel agency or online travel service is registered with TICO (look for the tico.ca logo).
2. Know where your credit card payment is going. If your funds are re-directed to a third party not registered in Ontario, you may not be protected by TICO.
3. Read the fine print as cancellation and refund policies can differ. You are entitled to know all applicable fees and charges up front.
4. Research your country of destination. Check the Canadian Foreign Affairs website at www.voyage.gc.ca for any applicable travel warnings.
5. Know the travel documentation you will need, and plan enough time to get it.
6. Buy cancellation and out-of-province medical insurance.
7. Always obtain a receipt for travel services purchased.
8. Visit tico.ca for more information and further tips on how to plan a successful trip.
The Travel Industry Council of Ontario governs approximately 2,700 travel retailers and wholesalers in Ontario. For more information, contact TICO at 1-888-451-TICO (8426) or www.tico.ca.