Do I Need a Licence?

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Consumer Protection BC issues travel services licences based on the requirements of the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act and the Travel Industry Regulation.

Definitions

The following defined activities require a licence:

"Travel agent" means a person who engages in the business or occupation of selling or otherwise providing to the public travel services supplied by another person.

"Travel wholesaler" means a person who engages in the business or occupation of:

  1. purchasing or acquiring from another person rights to travel services for the purpose of resale; or
  2. dealing with travel agents or other travel wholesalers for the sale of travel services supplied by another person.

"Travel service" means:

  1. transportation;
  2. accommodation; or
  3. another service combined with transportation or accommodation
that is for the use or benefit of a traveller, tourist or sightseer.

Travel Agent Licencing and Location Clarification

Consumer Protection BC is offering some clarification to the way in which travel agents and travel wholesalers are licenced and where they can operate. This clarification is in response to a changing marketplace, and feedback from our businesses and stakeholder groups.

In 2009, the BC Travel Industry Regulation (TIR) was changed making it possible for BC licenced travel agents and travel wholesalers to operate from locations other than commercial/retail addresses.  Since this change, there has been growing demand for even more flexibility in how businesses are licenced and where they may operate. Consumer Protection BC is working with businesses and with the Travel Industry Advisory Group (TIAG) to find solutions that benefit business, protect consumers, and are consistent with the law.   

The following clarification is meant to assist travel agents with their understanding and interpretation of the law. More information can be found on the Consumer Protection BC travel industry portal at: www.travelrightsbc.ca

WHO IS A TRAVEL AGENT AND HOW DOES LICENCING WORK?

According to BC law, a travel agent is “an entity engaged in the business or occupation of selling, or otherwise providing travel services to the public”. This includes proprietorships, partnerships and corporations.

People who work for licenced travel agents as employees or under independent contractor agreements on behalf of the licenced business may not require separate travel agency licences. These persons may operate under the licence of the employer/business under certain conditions. However, when they work outside of the retail location they may require a branch office licence.

The travel industry has many words to describe independent contractors and the arrangements between travel agents and these independent contractors often vary. Consumer Protection BC may require copies of the contracts or agreements to make a decision on who requires licencing. These agreements are reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

1. Employees: People working for a licenced travel agent and defined as employees according to the Canada Revenue Agency and/or BC Employment Standards Act.

2. Independent Contractors: Those persons who operate as “agents” of a licenced travel agent and are engaged in the occupation of selling or otherwise providing travel services. These people typically operate under a contract or other agreement that allows them to enter into contracts and engage in other activities on behalf of the licensee when selling travel services. Often, these workers are paid on a straight commission basis and are issued Revenue Canada T4A employment slips for taxation purposes.

IMPORTANT NOTE:
Anyone engaged to sell or provide travel services on behalf of licenced travel agents is not required to be independently licenced when they are under the control of the licensee and operating on their behalf. All activity related to their selling/advertising and marketing of travel services must identify that they are conducting business on behalf of the licensed travel agent. People in this category must use only the registered operational name, marketing, or business identity of the licenced travel agent. The licenced travel agent accepts all responsibility – including all liability - for the activities of those people when they sell or provide travel services to the public on behalf of the licensee.

Examples: 
1. If a person works on behalf of Apple Travel, only uses the Apple Travel website, does not have their own company, conducts business through Apple Travel’s phone number and email, and does not meet clients at a location separate from Apple Travel’s location, they may be covered by the Apple Travel licence. 

2. If a person is working for or with Apple Travel and they have their own company name – such as “Anywhere Travels” - and advertise on their own website, they would not be covered by Apple Travels’ licence; they are considered a separate legal entity and would require a separate travel agency licence.

3. If a person has their own company or has registered a trading name, is operating under that company name or trading name, is marketing under that company name or trading name (website, flyers, newspaper advertisement, etc.), then they must have a separate travel agency licence.

WHERE CAN TRAVEL AGENTS OPERATE FROM AND WHAT LICENCES DO THEY NEED?

A licenced travel agent is required to have a licence for each location from which they conduct business in British Columbia. TIR (5). There has been no changes to this requirement for many years. 

If employees or other “agents” (independent contractor, outside sales agents) of a travel agent work from a location other than the location licensed by Consumer Protection BC, a separate “branch office” licence is required.

IMPORTANT NOTE:
Consumer Protection BC interprets “conducting business” to mean any activity where a business’s specific address, local phone number or person’s physical presence is established and therefore known to consumers or to other businesses.

Travel agents whose employees and independent contractors meet with consumers in person, advertise locally or otherwise conduct routine business from locations other than the licenced location, need to closely examine the nature of their employees' activities. Depending on their activities and presence, the travel agency may need to establish a licenced branch office in order to comply with the Regulations.

Examples:

1. If any employees/agents of a licenced travel agency “work from home” or are “home based” and do not attend the licensee’s location to conduct business,the licenced travel agent is required to obtain a branch licence for the location where the employees/agents are conducting business.

2. Similarly, if a company chooses to have an agent, independent contractor, or outside salesperson work from a location other than the licenced location the company must apply to Consumer Protection BC for a separate branch licence.

3. By applying for a branch licence, the company is agreeing that they are legally liable for the agent, independent contractor, or outside salesperson. The company must complete all the paperwork and submit the payments on behalf of their branch.

IMPORTANT NOTE:
If the agent, independent contractor, or outside sales person has their own company or is trading/doing business as (DBA) a company different from the licenced travel agent company, they must apply for and obtain their own travel agency licence.

For more information on Consumer Protection BC and Travel Agent laws and regulations in BC, please visit www.travelrightsbc.ca or contact Consumer Protection BC at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 1-888-777-4393.  


Exemptions from Licensing

The following classes of persons are exempt from the requirement to be licensed as a travel agent or travel wholesaler:

  1. a person providing sightseeing or tour guide services if the person is not providing any other travel services;
  2. a common carrier providing scheduled interline transportation if the carrier is not providing any other travel services;
  3. a person who is an agent of a person licensed or whose licence is continued under the Passenger Transportation Act, selling bus travel services if the person is not providing any other travel services; or
  4. an operator of a motel, hotel or resort in respect of arranging local travel services that are incidental to the provision of accommodation.

Please view Consumer Protection BC's policy statement regarding the exemption from licensing for hotel, motel and resort operators.

Questions?

Please contact our Licensing Department.