Monday,  September 26, 2022  8:57 am

Travel agents! You might actually be a tour operator!

Travel agents! You might actually be a tour operator!
Blake Wolfe

Blake Wolfe is an award-winning journalist and editor, who joined PAX after nearly 10 years in Canada’s newspaper industry. In addition to PAX, his work has been featured in publications such as the Metroland Media group of newspapers and the Toronto Sun.

Many independent contractors – aka home based agents – will get creative and put together packages they can sell to several clients.

Or, they take advantage of the free seat on a group departure and go along as an escort.

Nothing wrong with that, right? Actually, there may be.

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.

If you ever package a special tour using components from different suppliers, or you go along as a guide with a group on a tour or cruise, or you add on pre- and post- tours to a cruise or river cruise, or before and after a coach tour, then you need to read this.

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.

Crossing the line

Here are some examples of when you could be considered a tour operator:

  • 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.
  • 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 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!