Hiring a travel agent
April 23, 2013

If you are trying to select a reliable travel agency review the following information:

1. Get referrals. Ask friends, relatives and co-workers about their travel agents and their experiences with the agents.

2. Travel agencies in British Columbia require licensing from Consumer Protection BC. To check licensing call  To verify registration call Consumer Protection BC at 1-888-564-9963, or go to: www.consumerprotectionbc.ca

3. Deal with agencies that are members of a travel trade association, such as the Association of Canadian Travel Agencies. Check their status by contacting www.acta.ca.

4. Check www.bbb.org for the company's Better Business Bureau Business Review which will provide a complaint summary and rating for the company.

5.  Make sure the agent has a professionally run business. Go to the agency, check it out and meet with the agents before giving them your business. Also, make sure you get along with one another. Developing a good relationship with the agent will help you.

6. Compare Fees. Hiring a travel agency will allow you to save time and money. Find out what different agencies charge for the amount of planning and booking you desire. Fees will depend on what aspects the agent books and how much research the agent is doing for the trip. 

7. Inform Your Agent.  The travel agent should ask many questions about the travelers and the type of travel. Notify the agent of the planned budget for the trip and the interests of the travelers. The travel agency will also be able to steer travelers towards appropriate hotels and sites.

8. Be careful of paying any agent in cash. Reputable dealers should offer credit card  payment options.

9. Be careful of any deals that are too good to be true. Prices way below other advertised prices may be a red flag.

10. Read all paperwork before you sign an agreement and make sure you  understand the cancellation policies and have a copy of the signed agreement with the company's information clearly stated.

TRAVEL AGENCY CLOSURES

If consumers have booked their travel through a travel agency, Consumer Protection BC recommends pursuing the following avenues to inquire into obtaining refunds:

1. If the trip was booked through a travel agent other than the original agency, ask them for assistance or to request a refund.

2. If you have purchased travel services with a credit card, call or write to find out if the charges can be reversed.

3. If you have purchased insurance, contact the carrier to confirm the coverage.

4. BC Travel Assurance Fund. Although consumers' costs may eventually be recovered through other means, all claims to the Travel Assurance Fund must be filed within six months from the date the travel services were not provided. The Travel Assurance Fund is a fund of last resort and provides possible compensation for consumers who did not receive the contracted travel services they purchased through a BC-licensed travel agent.

Eligibility to the Travel Assurance Fund is available to both consumers and BC-licensed travel agents. For more details about the Fund and to find a licensed travel agent or wholesaler, visit our website at www.travelrightsbc.ca.

TRAVEL CLUBS:

In B.C., travel clubs are included in the definition of contracts for future services under the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Authority Act. Contracts for future services must be limited to a two-year term, must include a ten-day cooling off period, and must include other protections regulated by the Act such as a refund provision.

Tips for choosing a travel club:

1. Be aware that protection through the B.C. Travel Assurance Fund is only available when travel services are purchased from a licensed B.C. travel agent.

2. Compare the bargain holidays through travel clubs with packages offered by licensed travel agents.

3. Read the fine print in the membership contract, and understand all the terms and conditions such as cancellation fees, booking restrictions, etc.

4. Be sure the contract is limited to 2 years maximum and includes a 10 day cooling off period and refund provision.

5. If they decide to cancel within the 10 day period, CANCEL IN WRITING and SEND BY REGISTERED MAIL.