The regulations may be different where you live, but here in Canada, in the Provence of Ontario there is a regulatory organization called TICO, (Travel Industry Council of Ontario).
This organization is charged with monitoring the travel and tourism. The Travel Industry Council of Ontario (TICO) is an organization mandated by the Ontario government to administer the Ontario Travel Industry Act, 2002 and Ontario Regulation 26/05 which governs all of the approximately 2,500 travel retailers and travel wholesalers registered in Ontario.
They are there to protect the consumer!
Recently TICO has been made aware of the ever popular sub industry of photo tours, as such, have been reaching out to people like me who facilitate photo tours for photographers both here in Canada, the USA and around the world.
At first, I was a little taken back, receiving an official document citing how I wasn't compliant, outlining the legal action that can be taken and what I had to do in order to be compliant.... well, it made me take a deep breath. To be honest my first reaction was, "typical, big brother putting their foot down on the little guy and stopping me from making a living".
BUT... after I took the time to read the regulations, why they monitor the tourism industry, plus the benefits to consumers, I embraced the request and have made a lot of modifications to my tours and workshops. I altered how money is handled, how my relationship was structured with the tour companies, and actually cancelled a few tours in favour of a more "consumer friendly" tour to these locations.
Since then we have gone out and partnered with GW Travel Planners. Since 2001, Bill & Gail’s focus has been to match trip and client, providing all, with a memorable exciting experience, within their budget. And their experience is not just from behind the desk custom designing trips for clients, they have also led various groups. Their extensive travel background includes numerous cruises, river cruises, destination travel, and resorts.
Bill and Gail now work with Northof49 Photography as our travel arm. They work with us from beginning of the planning phase to create your workshops, right through to the end where they collect your money in trust and disperse payments to the locations we visit in a timely and efficient manner. This allows you, the traveller, to deal directly with an accredited travel agent that can handle booking your workshop with Northof49, booking your flights that will get you to the workshop, and discussing options like travellers insurance.
Now, any photo tour or workshop that someone takes with "North of 49" can have peace of mind and know that their trip is insured and your money held in escrow with an travel agent until the items listed that you will receive on your tour are paid for.
With "North of 49" the financial transaction is between you and our travel partner, GW Travel Planners. We do not get involved in the financial transaction, nor do we act as a tour company. We are merely the people there to facilitate photography learnings on the tour you invested your money in. We do not see a penny or get paid until 30 to 60 days prior to travelling.
Think of it like this. You approach a photographer that runs tours. They are a small business and you pay them a non-refundable deposit, and in turn they facilitate payments for the hotels, ground transportation and meals. What happens if you have a death on the family and you cannot go? What happens if that photographer goes out of business? What happens if the hotel closes down? What happens if you get to your destination and there is a problem? With an accredited travel partner like GW Travel Planners, there is assurances put in place and insurance offered to you to cover the money you have invested in your tour. With a photographer that did the booking all themselves... well, let’s just say I would hope you had the foresight to ensure your investment was protected and you had an iron clad agreement to protect you and your money.
I am not insinuating that other photographers are like this whatsoever. All the photographers that I have met here in Ontario, Canada, the USA and around the world are honest, hardworking individuals with your best interest at heart. They are just trying to make a living doing what they love to do. Everyone I know that runs tours is legitimate, honest, and believes in full disclosure with their clients.
All I am saying is, "Make sure you are protected, know your photography workshop leader, ask if the tour can be insured, and get assurances that you are protected."
To learn more about TICO, please visit their website at www.tico.ca
I hope you have peace of mind and enjoy your next photography tour or workshop!