Tourism is a booming business, particularly in states where individuals and families have access to must-see attractions. Because of Florida’s coastal vibes and world-renowned theme parks, it is no surprise that millions of Americans and foreign tourists make their way to the state each year.
To take part in the tourism business opportunities Florida has to offer, becoming a travel agent is a common choice among prospective and current business owners in the state. However, before operating a business in tourism in Florida, it is crucial to understand what requirements you must follow in order to become a licensed travel agent in Florida.
Before working through the steps to become a licensed travel agent in Florida, it is helpful to first recognize how the state defines a travel agent, also known as a seller of travel.
Defining Seller of Travel
Under Florida state laws, a seller of travel is any person, firm, corporation, or other business that provides prearranged travel or tourist services for individuals or groups in the state. A seller of travel may offer these services directly or indirectly, at either wholesale or retail prices. Vacation or tour packages count as well, as do vacation certificates. Sellers of travel in Florida perform these services or provide these products in exchange for some form of a fee, commission, or valuable consideration.
If you or the business you work for offers these services, registration as a seller of travel is mandated by the state. This means you must follow the licensing and registration guidelines specific to your business activities, detailed below, in order to comply with the law.
State Requirements for Non-Vacation Certificate Agents
Travel agents who do not offer vacation certificates as part of their day-to-day business activities have different licensing and registration requirements than those who do. Under Florida state law, a seller of travel registration form is needed, which asks for detailed information about the business or individual agent, any owners of the business, and its operations in the travel industry. In addition, travel agents who do not sell vacation certificates must secure and provide proof of a travel agent bond of no less than $25,000.
There is also a nonrefundable fee of $300 that must be paid as part of the application process. The license to operate as a seller of travel is good for one year, and the fee is paid again every year you want to renew your license and registration with the state of Florida.
State Requirements for Agents Who Sell Vacation Certificates
For travel agents who do offer vacation certificates as part of their business operations, requirements under Florida state law are similar to those who do not offer certificates. A registration form must be filled out with the same information about the business, its owners, and its activities.
However, in addition to the $300 annual filing fee, a $100 document submission fee is necessary as well. Sellers of travel who offer vacation certificates also have a higher surety bond requirement. Instead of $25,000, a bond of no more than $50,000 must be obtained before business activities can begin.
The annual filing fee is required each year to renew a seller of travel license for those who offer vacation certificates as part of their business.
Getting Your Travel Agent Bond
The surety bond requirement for sellers of travel in Florida is a form of security put in place to protect the state and consumers who interact with licensed travel agents. Whether in the amount of $25,000 or $50,000, the travel agent bond is renewed annually and required for all sellers of travel. However, if you have been in the travel business for five or more consecutive years, an application for a waiver may be submitted, along with supporting documentation of business activities.
Securing a travel agent bond for Florida sellers of travel is not a complicated process. It begins with submitting a quick and easy quote request online, for the type and amount of the surety bond needed. Once that is submitted, your surety bond company provides details on how much your bond will cost. For most sellers of travel, the bond cost, also known as the premium, is calculated as a percentage of the total bond amount, ranging between 1 and 10%. The bond premium is based on your business, the amount of your bond, and your credit history.
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Submitting Your Application
After you determine which category of travel agent you fall into – selling vacation certificates or not – you will complete your application for your travel agent registration and obtain the bond you need. These pieces of information, along with your nonrefundable filing fee of $300, and the additional $100 for vacation certificate travel agents, is sent to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) at the following address:
FDACS, Sellers of Travel
PO Box 6700
Tallahassee, FL 32399
You should receive confirmation within 30 days of submitting your application, so long as there is no missing information. FDACS now provides an online registration and renewal service for sellers of travel, which can help expedite the process.
There are certain scenarios where sellers of travel may request an exemption from registration with FDACS. These include the following individuals and businesses:
- Independent contractors who receive written contracts with a host registered in Florida
- Independent contractors who do not receive fees directly from customers, or those who do not have blank tickets in stock
- Independent contractors who do not have the ability to issue travel documents
- Individuals contracted with the Airlines Reporting Corporation for at least three years
Although these exemptions are available, travel agents who fall under these circumstances must still pay a $50 annual filing fee and complete a statement of exemption each year.
The process for obtaining a seller of travel license as a travel agent in Florida is not overly complex, but it is necessary to follow through with each of these guidelines, including the surety bond requirement, to ensure your business is operating legally from the start.