Do You Need a Travel Agent License?


There’s a lot of things to think about when you’re starting up your travel agency – a name, a niche, how to find clients.  One day, it dawns on you,  Do you need a travel agent license?  Is there even such a thing as a travel agent license?  How do you get one?  So you turned to Google and here you are – welcome!  Whether you’re in the US or Canada, the answer is yes, you may be needing one.

Travel Agent License: States with Seller of Travel Laws

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A Travel Agent License – United States and Canada

When you’re an agent in the United States and you’re asking about a travel agent license, it’s really just the government red tape (ahem, and fees) of registering your travel agency.  It has nothing to do with training or testing of your travel agent knowledge.   You fill out some forms, pay a fee, and get a seller of travel number.

Canada, it’s a little different.

TICO logo

Travel agents in Ontario, Canada, you’re the most highly restricted.  All agents and supervisors/managers must take the Travel Industry Council of Ontario (TICO) exam.  It currently rings up at $32 CAD.

Travel agencies in British Columbia, Canada are required by the Insurance Council of British Columbia to take a travel insurance exam.  It’s a license tied to the agency and every travel agent in the agency is required to attend 2 hours of training a year.

Moving onto travel agents located in Saskatchewan, Canada.  The licensing is again related to travel insurance and involves an exam required by the Insurance Council of Saskatchewan.  Unlike the licensing in British Colombia though, this license is tied to the travel agent, not the agency.  Agents are required to attend 3 hours of training every year.

Note: Shout out to @JamesShearer for his insights into the Canadian travel insurance licensing!

National Level

On the national level, you don’t have to worry.  The government isn’t looking to cash in on travel agencies through registration/licensing fees.  Whew!

State Level Travel Agency Licensing

Sad FaceThat changes a bit when it comes to the state level.  In the US, there are 6 states that have seller of travel laws, i.e. a travel agent license. Before I tell you more, be warned you’re going to feel overwhelmed – don’t worry, it’s natural!  As with anything, there’s a general miserableness that accompanies government paperwork and legalese.  Remember, it’s temporary.

So here we go, the states that have seller of travel laws:

If you’re located in any of the states above OR if you are planning to sell to residents of those states, you should look into their requirements.

New agencies in Delaware (scroll to No. 24), you are required to register for an occupational license.  Louisiana is also occasionally mentioned by industry attorneys, but I couldn’t find travel agencies listed under Louisiana’s Professional and Occupational Licenses list.  You’ll have to interpret that how you want.

Why aren’t Delaware and Louisiana paired with the 6 states above?  Good question.  Travel industry attorneys always refer to the 6 bulleted states as Seller of Travel states but rarely mention Delaware or Louisiana.  I don’t know why but will try to get an answer for you at an upcoming trade show!

Note on the California Seller of Travel

California Seller of Travel law is the strictest and most complex.  Don’t be afraid to contact their office for clarification.

  • Email: Sellers.Travel@doj.ca.gov
  • Phone (you’re going to love me for this since they took it off their website): (213) 897-8065.

A common question is if you can be under your host’s California Seller of Travel number.  Most independent contractors don’t meet the requirements to be exempt from the California Seller of Travel laws by going under their host.   In layman’s terms, you most likely can’t use your host agency’s CST# (California Seller of Travel Number); you’ll need to register on your own.

Travel attorney Mark Pestronk gives some details on what is required for an independent contractor to be exempt from California’s Seller of Travel law (and more).

If your principal place of business is in California, you will need to participate in the Travel Consumer Restitution Fund (TCRF).  If your principal place of business is outside of California, you’re off the hook unless you’re a nationally traded company.

Are you Exempt from Seller of Travel Laws?

Just when you think you understand, you discover maybe you are exempt from seller of travel laws through your host!  Lucky for us, travel attorney Mark Pestronk wrote a fabulous article (in English that you can understand) that clarifies when independent contractors with a host agency are exempt from seller of travel laws.   It’s a gem of an article!  Read it all up

Local Licensing

Breaking down regulations to the city level is complex.  The local level is going to involve some research on your end.  What you’ll want to do is familiarize yourself with local laws that affect travel agencies.  While you’re at it, see if there are any general business regulations you should be aware of.

If you don’t know where to start to find out more about local laws, contact your Chamber of Commerce or visit our resources page to find your local SBA or SCORE office.

Did We Mention Travel Insurance Licensing… and Waivers?

Yeah.  We have more info and regulations for you.  Boring, confusing, and frustrating… but very important.  Find out more on travel insurance licensing for travel agencies.

Most travel agencies have a travel waiver for their clients.  See what other agencies are including in their travel waivers and download a free sample travel waivers and an Oversea Travel Tips & Checklist.

Save Some Money on a Travel Agent License with a Host Agency

Since my site focuses on host agencies, it’s important to mention another host agency benefit - saving you money on your travel agency license.  In some states, you can use your host’s Seller of Travel number instead of purchasing your own!

For instance, in Florida, independent contractors that are exempt don’t have to pay the full $300 annual registration fee for a Florida Seller of Travel number.  Agents with a host can go under their host’s number and pay only $50/yr – a savings of $250.  :)

Check with your host agency or the state’s seller of travel office for details.  If you’re interested in finding a host agency, visit our host agency list and reviews.

Finally, if you liked what you read, make sure to join over 3,000 other agents and subscribe to our monthly newsletter for more helpful articles!

In Closing

Steph Lee Travel

It’s hard to find info on a travel agent license.  Try googling ‘Iowa Seller of Travel’.  Trust me, it’s not easy to find the right page!  I wrote this article to save agents time and money.  If it helped you out, please give this article a like, tweet, or +1 at the top of the article – doing so makes it easier for others to find this page.

I work with agents starting and growing their travel agencies.  You can find me on FacebookTwitter, and Google+.

>>Learn more about Steph

Sorry, we need an obligatory disclaimer.  I am not an attorney.  I aggregated this info from first-hand experience and other industry sources to create a resource for those looking into a travel agent license.  All info is accurate to my knowledge but information given should be fact-checked and never be considered legal advice.  

Photo Credits: Brandi Carolyn

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