If you are starting a travel agency there are probably a million and one things that need to be considered.

In terms of legal considerations, there are 7 main things that you should think about.

What services are you providing?

You need to consider what services you are providing and what services you are not providing. Will your travel agency only do bookings for flights and accommodation? Or will you also do bookings for tours, events and transfers?

Some travel agencies also offer their own tours. You need to decide whether or not you will provide such services as there are different obligations between acting as a booking agent and acting as a tour guide service.

It is important that you are clear on what services you will provide and what you will not to minimise the chance of disputes between you and your customers.

When is payment required?

Many people book holidays months in advance. You need to decide when payment is required. To be safe, you may wish to require that full payment is made upfront at the time of booking. However, this may not be attractive to your customers, as they are required to fork out a significant amount of money months in advance. Perhaps you could consider taking, for example, a 20% deposit upfront, with the balance being payable 30 or 60 days prior to departure.

What personal information are you collecting?

You are required, under the Australian Privacy Principles, to inform your customers of how you will collect, use, disclose and store their personal information. As a travel agent, you will undoubtedly be collecting personal information, including passport information. It is important that you have a proper privacy policy in place setting out how personal information will be handled.

Whose responsibility is it to ensure that proper visas are obtained?

Depending on the passport holder and the destination, some travels will require your customers to have visas. As a travel agent, it is generally not your responsibility to ensure that your customer has the necessary visas. If it is the customer’s responsibility to obtain their own visas, then you should have a disclaimer in your terms and conditions which make it clear that you cannot be responsible or liable for any refused entry to any country.

Do you provide any insurance?

Do you offer insurance to your customers? If not, then will you require your customers to obtain personal and medical travel insurance? If you require your customers to take out insurance, then you should also require them to provide you with a copy.

What is your cancellations policy?

The earlier the customer books, the higher the probability of the customer wanting to cancel or make changes closer to the date. You need to think about what cancellations policy will help you strike the best balance between minimising losses to your business and keeping customers happy.

What are you not liable for?

You must make clear what you will not be liable for. If something goes wrong on a trip, or if a hotel gets a booking wrong, your customers may come back seeking damages or compensation from you. It is extremely important that you are clear on what you will not be liable for. Your disclaimers and limitations of liability should be set out in your terms and conditions.

Setting up a travel agency has many legal implications. It is recommended that you consult with an experienced small business solicitor to ensure that you understand your obligations and the risks involves in starting a travel agency.

Priscilla Ng

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