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A Reason to Smile: Developing Guidelines with TICO

TICO and BEICC have agreed to develop guidelinesRead J. Frederick Sagel's report on how the guidelines are shaping up.

Attention all independent Ontario meeting planners: Most of you can now breathe a huge sigh of relief over whether or not you need to register as "travel agents" under the Travel Industry Act (TIA).*

An agreement worked out last Monday between the Travel Industry Council of Ontario (TICO) and the Business Events Industry Coalition of Canada (BEICC) will result in the formulation of guidelines that will define how you can operate without becoming TICO members.

These guidelines will ensure that only some independent planners will need to become TICO registered, while the majority of you will be exempt provided there is adherence to the following principles:

(a) No money passes hands from the client to the planner. The planner can work as an expert on providing services and recommendations, but cannot pay for any of them. Only the client can do that. If any money is taken to make payments to suppliers, planners need to be registered.

(b) Planners do not advertise that they provide the services of accommodation or travel.

(c) Planners do not sign any contracts. Only the client can sign them. If the planner signs any contracts, TICO registration is required. This includes booking agreements with hotels.

(d) The planner is site-selecting and making recommendations but not signing the agreement or paying the hotel invoice, they can still collect their commission if that applies.

(e) There is full and fair disclosure of all the terms and conditions as to what the clients are buying—and that disclosure cannot rest with the planner unless that person is TICO registered.

After these guidelines are approved by TICO, they will set out in clear and unambiguous terms how planners can carry on business without registering with TICO. Any planner who operates outside those guidelines will need to be registered as travel agents.

Michael Pepper, the agency's CEO, reassured BEICC that it is not TICO's goal to be excessively punitive; if they believe a planner has contravened the legislation, they will inform and provide a grace period for the planner to make necessary changes before any charges are ever laid.

More good news: he welcomes a BEICC member to sit on TICO's advisory board—an important step to solving any future problems before they arise—and BEICC is acting on that quickly.

The details of the guidelines will be released shortly—after both sides approve the final draft.

One thing is certain: meeting planners in this province owe a huge debt of gratitude to BEICC and the senior people who advocated for planners at the meeting: Rita Plaskett, Helen Van Dongen, Bob Parker and Joe Orecchio. They saved the day!

Editor's note: And so did you, Fredrick Segal!

* Recap: Up to this pivotal moment, planners across the province were reeling over the David Gray case where the Ontario Court of Appeal decision deemed planners as "travel agents." In one fell swoop, the judge in the Gray case not only left planners feeling that they had lost their identities as professional planners, but that they also needed to register with the Travel Industry Act of Ontario (TIA) and all that goes with it, including an onerous outlay of money and time.

J. Frederick Sagel is a retired Bay Street lawyer with extensive experience in the meeting planning industry.

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