Thursday, August 09, 2012

so you want to be a travel agent....

I decided I wanted to have my own home based business as a travel agent. I have wanted it for a long time. I actually wanted it 25 years ago but wasn't at a point I could be a travel agent then.  So I decided it was time.  I knew there were rules and laws and fees to pay.  What I didn't realize is what a racket the state of California makes it to do this.  Actually this is for any business but travel consultants have EXTRA hoops to jump through.

I started researching. Here is what i found.

First fee I found was at the California Insurance commission.  Yes you read that correctly.  INSURANCE COMMISSION.  Because I offer travel insurance I have to pay a fee to register there.  PLUS I have to be fingerprinted for the California Department of Justice as well as the FBI.  So there is another fee.  BUT since I don't have to take an insurance test of any kind i have to go to a LIVE SCAN place like UPS to have my prints done.  Another fee.

Then I keep researching and find I have to have a Seller of Travel license from the Attorney General.  OK this one I understand.  10 page application plus a fee.  As I am filling it out I discover the HIDDEN FEES.

There is a large one time fee to pay into the Travel Consumer Restitution Corp.  This is a Corporation that refunds travelers who fall for the if it seems to be good to be true vacation schemes. Haven't figured it out exactly but it sounds like they had a great lobbying group behind them. I can't turn in my Seller of Travel request with out that number.

Then as I go further in the SoT I find I have to have a trust account in my business name. So I call the bank.  They tell me I need proof that I am a registered DBA before they can open any business account.  Back to Google.  In California it is not called DBA it is called Fictitious Business name.  Great how do I do that?  You guessed it yet another fee.  So Drew and I head down to the Department of Finance to pay the fee.  Guess what not only do you  have to pay a fee for that THEN you have to run an ad in a newspaper for 4 weeks to show the DBA and make sure no one else has it registered - you guessed it another fee to run the ad.

While I am there, the lady tells me I need to file for a business license even for a home based business. According to what I have read a business license is to cover things like street maintenance and wear and tear on sidewalks from customers - as a home based business I won't have that.  But guess what I have to have the license anyway.  I have a couple weeks to get that one turned it. It can wait.

Back to the trust account.  Off to the bank I go.  I explain the situation to them that even tho I don't accept checks and there is no cash in my business (except my commissions - which go into yet another account) the state of California requires me to have an account just in case someone writes me a check even tho I don't take checks and am basically a middle man. Someone gives me a CC # to give to a travel company and I never see that money. BUT I have to have an account that has the word TRUST in it that I can never ever touch. That account number and bank have to be on the SoT application as well.  Are you following that one? Thank Goodness for the patience of my Wells Fargo Banker who helped me figure out how to do this for the least amount of money.

Oh yea and then there is the fee to belong to the OSSN which is similar to IATA and CLIA so I can get a travel number so I can do business.  (that fee I understand)

Per the state I can't do business until everything is approved and set to go.  So on all my forms I put September 1 as my start date. It can't get here soon enough so I can start making some of the fees back.

It will be worth it in the end but WOW California you could make it a tad easier!

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