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TICO Regulations for Wellness Retreats

 

TICO Regulations for Wellness Retreats

The Travel Industry Council of Ontario (“TICO”) regulations can be difficult to navigate if you are considering hosting your own wellness retreat.  A number of wellness professionals in Ontario, who have been hosting retreats, have recently been fined, or in extreme cases, shut down, by TICO for not complying with regulations surrounding “Special Interest Travel”.  Each province in Canada has their own regulations for travel but Ontario, B.C. and Quebec have the most stringent guidelines.  As Special Interest Travel regulations are based on the province where the retreat host resides, and not where their clients live, if you are a wellness professional living in one of these three provinces, you will have to comply with the respective guidelines governing travel in each of these provinces.

After speaking with TICO on a number of occasions to fully understand these regulations, we would like to share our knowledge with wellness professionals interested in hosting their own wellness retreats.

TICO’s primary purpose is to protect consumers.  The travel industry is unique in that consumers have to pay in advance for travel-related services and trust that they will receive these services at a future date as advertised.  In order to protect consumers, TICO requires all client funds to be held in a segregated travel trust account to ensure payment will be made for these services.  If a non-licensed individual or company is collecting funds for travel-related services and depositing them into their personal or business accounts, there is no assurance that the consumer funds will be used to pay for travel-related services.  

If you are considering hosting your own retreat and would like to know if you are required to comply with TICO regulations, the most important points to consider are as follows:

  • Are you booking sleeping accommodations or transportation for your clients?
  • Are you advising customers about the retreat or asking them to contact you to inquire about it?
  • Are you collecting customer funds for travel-related services?

If you answered yes to any of these, you must comply with TICO guidelines and book the travel portion of your retreat through a licensed travel agent.  Any non-travel-related fees incorporated into the total price of your retreat may be collected from your clients separately or reimbursed to you by the travel agent if they are collecting full payment for the retreat from your clients.

A licensed travel agent can either be directly registered with TICO or affiliated with a host travel agency that is registered with them.  Registering with TICO is complex and expensive.  It requires a minimum of 3-years experience in the travel industry, maintaining trust accounts and contributing to the provincial travel compensation fund.  Therefore, most individuals will not choose this option and will use a licensed travel agent instead for simplicity and convenience. 

Movement Travel is a licensed travel agent affiliated with a TICO registered agency.  We would be happy to help wellness professionals book their wellness retreats that will be in compliance with these regulations.  All travel booked through Movement Travel will ensure the following as required by TICO: 

  • As it is illegal to deposit client funds into personal accounts, all of your client funds will be paid directly to our host agency and held in their travel trust accounts.  
  • For every booking, your client will receive an invoice within 48 hours.
  • Clients will receive reservation confirmations as well as terms and conditions of their purchase.
  • Clients will be offered the option to purchase travel insurance.

If you have any questions about these regulations or would like to book your wellness retreat through Movement Travel, please contact us at info@movementtravel.com.

Lisa Gordon

Co-Founder, Movement Travel