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When does a travel agent become a tour operator?

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

When does a travel agent become a tour operator?

You are a home-based agent. You do lots of things for your clients – really, anything they want. You also come up with ideas to attract sales and create new business.

That might include building a special tour using components from different suppliers – or you may go along as a guide with a group on a tour or cruise.

Or maybe you add on several things around a cruise or river cruise, or before and after a coach tour.

If you’ve ever done this – or think you will in the future – please read on. You may have become a tour operator somewhere along the line – and you will need tour operator insurance coverage, even though you are primarily a travel agent.

In the eyes of the insurance industry, you may be acting as a tour operator when you put together certain types of itineraries to sell to clients and your regular host agency’s Errors & Omissions insurance may not cover you.

Travel agents do not get sued very often, but when they do, it can be costly to defend. When a client is injured or things go terribly wrong, the client can, and will, name the travel agent along with other suppliers in the suit. If the travel agent has been acting as a tour operator, travel agent insurance may not cover the situation.

When would you be considered to be tour operating? Here are a few examples of where travel agents often cross the line:

  • When you put together a package and sell it to various clients. An example could be you charter a bus to travel to a nearby large city for shopping and theater and book hotels.
  • You sell a group departure on a cruise or river cruise to various clients and you go along as the escort, becoming a tour conductor.
  • You package components and offer them for sale as a package to your clients.
  • You offer pre and post excursions and tours around a group cruise or river cruise.

It is important to discuss this with your host agency and with their insurance company to make sure that the regular activities you are doing for your clients would all be covered under the host agency Errors & Omissions policy.

Some host agencies offer this coverage, but most do not. Make sure you ask if they have tour operator coverage and be sure to ask whether you are covered for NOA (non-owned auto).

If you are organizing bus trips, transfers, excursions or group departures where you go along as escort – or you are packaging components, make sure you protect yourself.

Don’t wait to get sued and then find out you are not covered by insurance!

Jill Wykes

Jill Wykes

Jill Wykes is a travel industry veteran who has held a series of senior management portfolios in travel corporations. A former chairman of the Travel Industry Council of Ontario, she is now an independent communications consultant and writer since retiring in 2011.
Jill Wykes
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