The travel agency industry is projected for continued growth through 2025. According to industry experts, travel agents are finding success focusing on a specific clientele's unique desires. This is something general booking sites like Booking, Expedia, Kayak and others can't provide.
This post will cover the six steps required to obtain your Seller of Travel occupational license in Florida including:
- The definition of a Seller of Travel
- Who is required to obtain a license
- The required verbiage you must include on your advertising
- What a travel agent bond is and how to obtain one
- The requirements if you sell vacation certificates
- The registration length and how to renew your license
- Plus all applicable links
Soon you'll be able to find your niche in the travel agency industry.
The 6 Steps To Become A Travel Agent In Florida
The technical term for a travel agent according the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is seller of travel.
Step 1. Determine If You Must Register
How Does Florida Define a Seller of Travel?
It's important to understand how Florida defines a seller or travel. This definition will determine whether or not you're required to obtain your license from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
A seller of travel is:
- Any resident or non resident or business entity (company, partnership, LLC)...
- Offering for sale directly, indirectly, wholesale, or retail...
- Prearranged travel packages and/or travel related services, i.e. vacations, tour packages, or vacation certificates for individuals or groups...
- In exchange for a fee, commission, or other consideration...
- Including any business entity offering membership in a travel club or travel service for an advanced fee or payment (even if no travel contracts or certificates or vacation or tour packages are sold by the business entity)
Let's define some of these terms so everything is clear.
Non-Florida residents have to get licensed in Florida if they sell any Florida based vacations, packages, or certificates.
Indirectly would include selling travel memberships or clubs. You're not directly selling a vacation to a destination. You're selling the ability for the member to purchase a vacation to a destination for a lower cost or included special travel benefits.
Indirect sales of vacation packages require a license.
Opt-Out of The Seller of Travel Occupational License
If you're contracted with the Airlines Reporting Corporation for three years or more under the same ownership and control, you can opt-out of obtaining your occupational license with an exemption issued by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
If you're selling vacation certificates, you must have been contracted with the Airlines Reporting Corporation for five years or more.
What Is The Airlines Reporting Corporation?
It's a company made up of nine major airlines that provides travel agencies the ability to ticket flights worldwide on more than 200 airlines. This includes processing service fees, making billing and bookkeeping for agencies far easier to manage.
Here's how to join the Airlines Reporting Corporation:
The following details and more can be found on their faq page.
If you're a travel agency, there is a $2,300 nonrefundable application fee to join. Agencies must also purchase a $20,000 surety bond, letter of credit, or cash deposit.
If you're an individual, there is a $195 nonrefundable application fee. Individuals are not required to post a bond, certificate or deposit or cash deposit.
A little further down, we'll talk about what a surety bond is and a surety bonds function for a seller of travel.
Step 2. Pay Applicable Fees
As far as license fees go:
- If you do not offer vacation certificates, there is a $300 nonrefundable application fee
- If you do offer vacation certificates, there is a $300 nonrefundable application fee and $100 vacation certificate document submission fee
- $50 annual filing fee for each independent sales agent within an agency
Remember, membership with Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC) changes these requirements.
Unless you're approved exemption because of your ARC membership term, you're required to purchase a surety bond.
- If you do not offer vacation certificates, your surety bond value is not to exceed $25,000
- If you do offer vacation certificates, your surety bond value is not to exceed $50,000
The final value of your bond is determined by the dollar amount of travel you sell on an annual basis. The more travel you book the greater the required bond value.
We will cover the seller of travel surety bond in detail during step 4.
Step 3. Include Necessary Verbiage In Contracts, Advertisements, and Physical Office Space
In contracts given to your customers, this exact verbiage is required:
"(Name of firm) is registered with the State of Florida as a Seller of Travel Registration NO. (registration number)"
In all advertisements, this exact verbiage is required:
"Fla. Seller of Travel Reg.No. (registration number)"
In you're physical office space, you're required to display:
- Addresses of all branch offices if any
- Your certificate (license) issues by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
4. Purchase Surety Bond (Travel Agent Bond)
Even if you exempt yourself from having to obtain your license through the FDACS, the Airlines Reporting Corporation requires a surety bond.
What Is a Surety Bond?
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services requires proof of financial responsibility that you will fulfill your services to your clients and customers, including handling customer funds for their intended purposes.
Beyond setting up and booking a vacation, as a travel agent and agency you're responsible for:
- Making accurate claims and statements in advertisements and during client interactions
- Collecting the correct amount of money for trips and packages
- Collecting and handling customer deposits in good faith
It's an unfortunate fact there are unscrupulous travel agents and agencies willing to:
- Falsely advertise or claim false benefits to make sales
- Overcharge or collect fake fees
- Steal from customers deposits
Because of these bad actors, government agencies require licensed businesses to purchase a surety bond to protect consumers from unscrupulous businesses.
How Much Is A Seller of Travel (Travel Agent) Surety Bond?
The bond values discussed so far are:
- No greater than $25,000 if you don't sell vacation certificates
- No greater than $50,000 if you do sell vacation certificates
- $20,000 if you join the Airlines Reporting Corporation plus you're an agency
These are the bond values, not what you're required to pay to obtain your bond. Remember, your specific bond value is determined by the FDACS based on the number of trips you book during the year.
A seller of travel bond's price is based on your personal credit and the history of your business.
As a new travel agent, your personal credit will determine a premium rate you'll pay for the entire bond for the year. Here's a table show bond costs for a variety of common rates from good credit to bad credit.
|Bond Amount||Premium Rate||Total Cost|
Plus you can use our surety bond cost calculator to get an idea of your specific bond purchase price.
How Do You Purchase A Surety Bond?
Learning how to purchase a surety bond is not hard. You must work with a surety bond agent like Surety Bonds Direct. As a business offering surety bond services, we have relationships with most of the surety insurance companies, giving us the opportunity to provide you with the lowest possible price for your bond.
5. Special Requirements For Vacation Certificates
If you sell vacation certificates, you must:
- Submit a copy of the certificate contract including all of the rights, obligations, benefits, and privileges of the vacation offer.
- Submit a copy of each promotional brochure, pamphlet, form letter, registration letter, or any written material used in connection to advertising any vacation certificate.
Vacation certificates require more regulation from the state of Florida because the consumer is purchasing the certificate pays upfront for the future use of a vacation package.
6. Handle Your License and Bond Renewals
Travel agent occupational licenses require renewal on a annual basis along with renewing your surety bond.
The bond requires renewal because the amount of travel you book will hopefully go up each year. Your bond amount is based on the volume of travel you're booking. Remember, the bonds amount will never go above $25,000 or $50,000 if you sell vacation certificates.
If you fail to renew your bond, the FDACS will issue you a cease and desist order plus civil or administrative fines up to $5,000 per violation.
If you've been in business for five or more consecutive years, you can apply for a waiver by filing an Application for Security Waiver and providing the necessary docs.
When You're Ready To Purchase Your Seller of Travel Bond
Use our free online quote request tool and a bond specialist will search for the lowest price for you. You can also call a bond specialist directly (1-800-608-9950) to start the quote and purchase process.