Florida Seller of Travel Requirements

Licensing requirements are often at the forefront of many new and aspiring travel agents’ minds. Are there nationwide licensure requirements? No, the United States does not require travel agents to be licensed. However, there are four states that do have such conditions. California, Hawaii, Washington, and Florida have all imposed their own regulations for sellers of travel. While they aren’t the only states that impose guidelines for travel agents and agencies, they are the only states that require licensure.

These states are known as the four seller of travel (SOT) states, and below is a breakdown of Florida’s state-specific regulations for sellers of travel that operate or sell in the state.

What is a Seller of Travel?

Before we jump into the requirements and the application process, it may be helpful to discuss what a Florida seller of travel is. The term is used to designate a person or business entity that sells travel services for a fee or commission. In Florida, the criteria also include offering membership in travel clubs and selling tourist-related services. So, travel agents who operate in the Sunshine State may be required to follow their SOT regulations.

Florida Requirements for Sellers of Travel

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If you have a business located in Florida or sell services to Florida residents, you will likely be required to adhere to the state’s SOT laws. Florida’s SOT application process will vary based on whether or not you offer vacation certificates.

For those who do not offer vacation certificates, you will need to submit the following in your licensure application:

  • An accurate and complete registration form
  • A non-refundable fee of $300
  • Proof of a surety bond of up to $25,000

Sellers of travel that do offer vacation certificates must provide the following:

  • An accurate and complete registration form
  • A non-refundable fee of $300
  • Document submission fee of $100
  • Proof of a surety bond of up to $50,000

Registrations are good for one year and must be renewed prior to expiring. You are required to submit the $300 registration fee and an annual filing fee of $50. Ensure you complete the necessary procedures for registering as a SOT in Florida because penalties for failing to do so can include a $5,000 fine and a cease and desist order.

After submitting your application, it may take as many as 30 days for the review process to be completed. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services must notify you within that timeframe if there are any missing or deficient aspects of your application. If you haven’t received any news regarding your application, contact the Department to follow up on the status of your license. Your registration form could be rejected if the fee isn’t included or if your surety bond isn’t correctly completed. Time is of the essence, especially if you’ll need to address any missing or incorrect information in your original application.

Exceptions and Exemptions to Florida Requirements

It may come as no surprise to you, but Florida’s state-issued requirements for sellers of travel do come with some exceptions. For example, some ARC-accredited travel agencies may be able to receive an exemption to the $300 registration fee that is usually required. A military fee waiver form is also for active duty service members, veterans, and military spouses.

Even the bond requirements offer some workarounds for agencies and sellers with incident-free records. If you think you qualify, you can fill out a Security Reduction Application or a bond requirement waiver, which could bring your bond amount down to between $20,000 and $0.

A completed Independent Agent Statement of Exemption Form and qualification based on the below factors could also mean you can use your host’s seller of travel number rather than apply for your own:

  • You work for a host agency and have a written contract
  • You do not accept any fees or commissions directly from clients
  • You do not issue any travel documents and have no unused ticket stock

Skipping the process of obtaining an SOT number is timesaving, but only a handful of hosted agents qualify. Check the requirements carefully before relying on this shortcut.

Florida Bond Requirements

Let’s talk about the bond requirements a little further. A surety bond is intended to provide protection to the public and offer assurance to the state that a seller of travel will follow regulations. By obtaining a surety bond, you are basically saying that you will comply with Florida Statutes and operate your business as required by state law. Any violation of this guarantee may result in a claim being filed against your surety bond.

Examples of actions that could lead to a claim are:

  • Fraud
  • Breach of consumer contract
  • Misrepresentation

Your bond will provide compensation to the wronged party for any damages they suffered as a result of your action. Then, you must repay the surety as part of the bond agreement. Bond requirements can get complex and confusing, but one thing is simple – most sellers of travel need a surety bond to operate in Florida.

It’s easy to become frustrated with the added requirements and legal hoops you must jump through as a travel agent in a seller of travel state. However, it may help to think of this licensure requirement in a positive light. Having an SOT license can be beneficial for your business by providing credibility and an added layer of officialness. Plus, following all the requirements can give you extra protection should any complications arise with clients in the future.

Are you looking for even more assistance and protection for your travel agency business? Travel Industry Solutions (TIS) offers members access to legal forms, marketing resources, and business strategies to boost their confidence, sales, and operations. We know how difficult this industry can be for newcomers, so we’ve made it our mission to create a community of like-minded travel entrepreneurs. If you want to see how TIS can answer your questions and help you navigate your career, visit our website’s membership page.

Also read this article: How To Obtain Your Travel Agent License
Learn more about: California Seller Of Travel Requirements
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