What Travel Advisors Need to Know about the Florida Seller of Travel Licenseby Dori Saltzman /
When it comes to starting and running a business – of any kind – there are number of logistics that need to be taken care of, including meeting any governmental regulations. For many travel advisors, those regulations don't go much beyond needing to register as LLC, sole proprietorship, corporation or dba. But for any advisor with clients residing in Florida – whether or not their business is in the state – they'll need to meet the state's Seller of Travel licensing requirement.
Here's everything you need to know about the license, including why you might want to opt for the full license even if you don't have to.
(Agencies that offer vacation certificates have additional requirements, which are not discussed in this article.)
What is the Florida Seller of Travel License?
As dictated by the law in the state of Florida, any person or business selling travel to Florida residents must register annually with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) and acquire a Seller of Travel License, unless exempt. (see further below)
In addition to paying an annual registration fee of $300, sellers of travel are required to provide proof that they hold a surety bond, in an amount not to exceed $25,000.
What are the two types of Florida Seller of Travel Licenses?
There are two types of Florida Seller of Travel Licenses, depending on whether you own your own agency or you work for (or are hosted by) an agency.
Agency owners must hold a full license unless they own a franchise. All individual advisors must hold an Independent Agent license that is associated with a full license. The Independent Agent version costs $50 per year and is required for advisors who are employees with an agency, independent contractors with a host agency, and owners of franchise agencies (like Cruise Planners or Dream Vacations).
There is one major difference between the two types of license (other than price), which is that advisors who hold an independent sales agent license may not "receive a fee, commission or other valuable consideration directly from the purchasers of travel or travel related series."
In other words, advisors may not charge a service fee (or planning or booking fee) that gets paid to them directly. They may, however, charge a fee that gets paid to the parent company.
Who Needs a Florida Seller of Travel License?
Every travel agency or travel advisor with a client living in Florida legally needs either a Florida Seller of Travel License or an Independent Agent version of the license. As mentioned above, this applies to all travel advisors regardless of whether you own your own agency, work for an agency or function as an IC.
The penalty if an agency or advisor is found selling travel to a client without a license is fines of up to $5,000 and a cease and desist order.
Is there any way to get exempted from the requirement for a FL Seller of Travel License?
Yes. Travel agencies may be able to qualify for one of three exemptions.
Military: Active duty, honorably discharged veterans, military spouses or surviving spouses may be eligible for a waiver of the initial or renewal registration fee. This is only for the full license and does not apply to Sellers of Travel Independent Sales Agents.
ARC-Contracted Agencies: Agencies that have contracted with the Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC) for three years or more under the same ownership and control are not required to register but must have a statement of exception issued by FDACS in order to obtain an occupational license.
Long-Standing Agencies: Agencies that have been in the travel business for five or more consecutive years in compliance with the Florida law may apply to FDACS for a waiver of the security requirement.
Why should I have a full Florida Seller of Travel License if I don't legally need it?
Franchise owners and hosted ICs might want to consider getting a full FL Seller of Travel License if they want to start charging service fees of any kind.
While some host agencies or parent franchise companies provide a mechanism for charging a fee, that fee gets paid directly to the host or parent and then only a portion of that is passed on to the advisor. If your host or parent company does not offer this service, there is no legal way to charge a fee.
If you are a hosted IC or franchise owner, check with your host/parent company if you're considering switching to a full license. Some, like Dream Vacations, do not recommend they get their own separate seller of travel license.