TICO Regulations for Wellness Retreats


TICO Regulations for Wellness Retreats

The Travel Industry Council of Ontario (“TICO”) regulations can be difficult to navigate when considering hosting your own wellness retreat. A number of wellness professionals who have been hosting retreats for their clients for years have recently been contacted by TICO representatives who fine them or in extreme cases shut them down if they are not following the regulations for “Special Interest Travel”.  Each province in Canada has their own set of regulations for travel but Ontario, B.C. and Quebec currently have the most stringent guidelines. The guidelines apply based on the province in which the person booking the travel resides (not where the clients reside).

Since it took us many phone calls with host travel agencies and TICO to fully understand these rules we would like to share our knowledge with other wellness professionals.

TICO’s primary purpose is to protect consumers. The travel industry is unique in that consumers pre-pay for services several weeks or months ahead, and they have to trust that they will receive the service as promised. If a non-licensed individual or company is collecting travel funds and holding these in their personal accounts, the consumer is subject to the risk of losing their funds. 

In order to determine if you, as an instructor, are required to comply with TICO regulations the most important  points to consider are below:

  • 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 the travel arrangements?

If you answered yes to any of these, then you must follow the TICO guidelines which require you to book the travel portion of the retreat through a licensed travel agent. You may collect your fees separately for the “wellness” component of the trip.

A licensed travel agent can either be directly registered with TICO or affiliated with a host travel agency that is registered with TICO. Registering with TICO directly is complex and expensive, it involves having a minimum of 3 years in the travel industry, holding trust accounts (and therefore using trust accounting) and contributing to the provincial travel compensation fund in place for travel claims.

Therefore, not many individuals will choose this option. It is primarily the large agencies that are registered. We chose to become affiliated with a host travel agency.

The primary rules we must comply with are as follows:

  • Client funds are paid directly to the host agency and held in trust accounts owned by them. It is illegal to collect client funds for travel directly and hold them in a personal account.
  • For every booking, the client will receive an invoice within 48 hours with all of the required components and comments outlined by TICO.
  • We must provide the client with the booking confirmations and all terms and conditions of the purchase for each supplier.
  • We must also offer the clients the option to purchase travel insurance (cancellation etc.).

We are open to any inquiries regarding booking travel for wellness retreats – we can be reached at info@movementtravel.com.

Lisa Gordon

Co-Founder, Movement Travel