What’s a Travel Agent
Step 1: Figure out if you need to register with the state
Step 2: Determine what kind of registration you’ll need to complete
Step 3: Determine the surety bond amount that is required
Step 4: Purchase your travel agent surety bond
Step 4: Submit your application and surety bond
Being a travel agent can be an exciting career option for many people due to its low start-up cost, ability to work your schedule, chances to travel for work, and ability to plan life-changing experiences and trips for your customers. That said, breaking into the travel agent industry can be a harsh industry, especially if you are new. Florida is a trendy vacation spot, and because of this, the state of Florida also has regulations to ensure that each person doing business in Florida is doing it legally and fulfilling their obligations to their customers. In this article, we’ll look at what a travel agent is in Florida and how someone can get started in this industry!
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) defines a travel agent or a “seller of travel” officially as:
“Any resident or nonresident person, firm, corporation or business entity that offers for sale, directly or indirectly, at wholesale or retail, prearranged travel or tourist-related services for individuals or groups, through vacation or tour packages, or vacation certificates in exchange for a fee, commission or other valuable consideration. The term also applies to those selling memberships in travel clubs for an advance fee or payment.”
In essence, anyone who organizes travel plans for another person or group would be considered a travel agent, along with anyone who sells membership for a travel service.
If you plan to sell any travel-related services in Florida, regardless of the amount, you need to register with the state of Florida to operate legally. In most states, being licensed is not mandatory for travel agents, but in Florida, all travel agents must be licensed. While it’s a regulatory requirement, registering can benefit your business in a few ways.
Being a registered travel agent in Florida can enhance your agency's credibility. Clients are more likely to trust a registered and licensed business over an unregistered one.
Some travel industry suppliers, such as airlines, hotels, and cruise lines, may require you to be a registered travel agent to access special discounts, commissions, and booking privileges.
In Florida, travel agents are broken into a few categories. If you work for a travel agency, you’d be classified as a “general seller,” you must complete the general seller application. If you’ll work independently of an agency (usually as a solo broker). Then, you’d be considered an independent travel agent and must complete the independent sales agent application.
You’ll also need to determine if you will fall into the student tour operator category. This would be for any travel agent who offers tour-related services within the educational community. If you provide these tours, you must complete a student tour operator registration form. There are additional requirements for student tour operators regarding liability insurance coverage and security clearance that can be found on the FDACS website.
Next, you’ll want to know if you’ll offer vacation certificates. A vacation certificate is a travel offer where a travel agent will offer a customer a travel deal but not for a specific date. Customers will then pay an upfront amount for the trip and then go on the trip they paid for at some undetermined date. If you or your agency will be selling vacation certificates. Then, you must include the requested documents on the Florida 2022 Statutes, a copy of the vacation certificate disclosure contract found on the Florida 2022 statutes, and an additional $100 application fee.
You may qualify for an exemption on your registration if you've worked with the Airlines Reporting Commission (ARC) for 3 years or more and have the same owner. If you sell vacation certificates, you must have a 5-year contract with the ARC under the same ownership to be eligible. You’ll need to obtain an exemption statement from the FDACS.
The FDACS requires all travel agents to provide proof of a Florida seller of travel bond in their application submitted. To determine the bond amount required for the seller of travel bond, Florida separates businesses by their gross sales and whether they sell vacation certificates.
Refer to our table below to figure out the appropriate bond amount for you:
After determining the bond amount you need, the next step is to purchase the bond. Typically, sellers of travel bonds can be purchased through surety brokers. Surety brokers, like us, are usually appointed with multiple surety carriers and work on your behalf to secure the best prices. A good broker is essential in an industry like surety bonds, where the pricing for the same bond can vary widely across surety companies. If you’d like to get started on a bond quote now with our 10+ partners, feel free to complete our application, and we’d be happy to work on a bond quote for you!
Once you’ve figured out what application you’ll need to complete and acquire the appropriate seller of travel bond, you’ll need to apply with the FDACS. The application must include the following:
You can mail those documents to the address listed below, and the FDACS will respond in 30 days if any changes or additional documents are needed for your application.
Florida Department of Agricultural and Consumer Services
Plaza Level 10, The Capitol
400 S. Monroe St.
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0800
Becoming a travel agent in Florida is an excellent opportunity for anyone looking to change careers or seeking side income. It can be a very fulfilling career because you can plan once-in-a-lifetime experiences for your customers. To do this legally in Florida, you’ll need to complete a registration with the FDACS and acquire a seller of travel bond. Best of luck with your new business journey, and safe travels!