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TICO, As I See It

Let’s deal with the problem, first. And then I promise, we’ll get to some solutions.

Here is the problem: The Ontario Court of Appeal, in the recent David Gray ruling, effectively interpreted the Travel Industry Act (TIA) in such a way that has deemed Ontario meeting planners as travel agents. 

Until the Court of Appeal ruling, it was uncertain as to whether meeting planners would be covered under the legislation which originally came about in 2002, but that was never deployed actively until roughly 2009.

However, now that the Court has spoken, there is no point in arguing whether meeting planners are classified as travel agents. They clearly are.

So what to do?

I have been actively involved in the legal end of the meeting planning industry for just over 30 years. I understand the issues and I’ve fought for the industry in a variety of forums. This particular issue requires a great deal of innovative action; and it also requires the industry to change.

Here are some possible solutions:

  • Smaller meeting planning companies could amalgamate and thereby share the TICO costs. Merging two or three companies together would be a good cost-cutting solution. Lawyers have done it and so have doctors, who now practice in groups. So why not meeting planners?
  • Planners could also hook up with a travel agency, but what would be the point of that? A loss of profits, a loss of identity. It makes more sense to for several companies to amalgamate.
  • The best solution, in my opinion, would be to have meeting planners join a giant industry group that would be the registered member of TICO. A separate designation for the meeting planning industry could bring about significantly reduced fees.

This final option is now being pursued through Business Event Industry Coalition of Canada—probably the best vehicle to bring this change about. 

I have been asked to be part of the delegation that will attempt to negotiate a satisfactory solution with the Travel Industry Council of Ontario. We will meet soon and explore every suitable alternative. Something is bound to stick, so stick around for more updates as they happen.

J. Frederick Sagel is a retired Bay Street lawyer with extensive experience in the meeting planning industry. He will be doing a follow-up report from the BEICC-TICO meeting, which is taking place on Monday, March 12 @ 2:30pm. Check our website for updates.

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