Thinking about a startup in Canada’s Travel industry? Here’s what you need to know

A while ago I wrote about starting a travel company, which you can read here . The entrepreneurial path is absolutely hectic… one day you make a plan only for the next you have to change it all over. All good, its part of the game.

During the very early stages of a new venture there is a lot of concept proofing, meaning that the business model, the product or the sales channels are not yet clear and must be tested and revisited many times.

Contrary to popular belief, companies do not start businesses the day the launch… or when they are incorporated. There is a lot of head bumping before committing fully to an enterprise.

In my specific case the very early stages of the venture meant having some business. Any kind would do. I wasn’t prepared to incorporate, upgrade website, invest in online marketing without having an analog, old school acquired business to start. This would be my proof of concept. Calling people, meeting, pitching ideas… you know… things done off screen.

It so happens that I landed one such deal! Super nice client, would give me a lot of exposure for future business, would allow me to try some things and would even help me sell the trip. A lot of work was put into creating this product and everyone was thrilled that this was happening.

For me then, was time to go legit. Incorporate, get a bank account and be a business… Except not.

You see, several Provinces in Canada have something like a regulatory body on the travel industry. These were created back in the 80’s to make sure agencies really delivered what they promised to clients, you know, instead of fake flights and ghost hotels. I think that’s a great idea. I’m all for businesses actually delivering what they sell and protecting customers. So I got in touch to see what I had to do in order to register with them and start my operation.

It turns out these regulatory bodies are more than regulatory, they are prohibitive. Their requirements for anyone trying to open a tourism business are really tough. Especially for entrepreneurs whom often times are bootstrapping their way up. The feeling this institution gave me was of a oligopoly that lobbied so well that they got their institutionalized protection agency.

There are so many people out there that have the skills to sell Canada as a destination, that can put together comprehensive travel plans and market them, that can run a small business of their own and benefit themselves and society as a whole, that need to know these things before starting to spend time amd energy on it.

A few facts on owning a travel business in Canada:

If you want to sell travel products in these provinces you must be registered with them. Doesn’t matter where you’re from: UK, Peru, Japan…

You, the owner and/or manager must have at least 3 years of industry experience.

You need at least $18k. At least! In fees and security deposits that serve your business absolutely nothing. Put all your productive investment on top of this.

You need an office. Yes really. An actual office. Even if you are an Online travel agency.

And to top it all off, you must be a Canadian Citizen! For a country that prides itself on diversity, a successful immigration framework and equality, this is a very sharp contrast.

If you are thinking about it let me know and I’ll do my best to help you with the path I had to take so far.