Travel insights from Rick Zimmerman, President & CEO, KHM Travel Group

Compliance Matters: Tips for Every Travel Agent

Compliance is a topic that is covered at every educational event that KHM Travel Group hosts. There’s no chance you can miss it. It’s the session that’s packed with presentation slides full of charts, checklists, and links. It’s also typically the class that has the most engagement with agents taking notes and raising their hands to ask questions.

It’s understandable to see that type of reaction because compliance is something that an agent at any stage in their business needs to understand. As someone who has led trainings on compliance, I know that you can never be too cautious or too informed.

Know the laws.

Selling travel is regulated on a national level by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). Agents living in or selling travel to residents of California, Florida, Hawaii, Iowa, and Washington should also become familiar with Seller of Travel laws to avoid hefty fines. At the local level, you should read up on the laws of your state, city, county, and even your neighborhood. Something as small as putting a business sign in your yard could be a potential violation.

There’s no such thing as free.

It may be tempting to include that four-letter word in your marketing, but remember, free means zero financial responsibility to the client–no taxes, no carrier charges, no fees. If you see an offer advertised online that claims it’s “free,” read the fine print to ensure it is accurate. Also, keep in mind the type of client that a free offer may attract. Is that the client that’s right for you?

Stay compliant throughout the sales cycle.

Compliance doesn’t end after you’ve won the sale. It’s a critical part of every phase of the sales cycle from quoting to making payments, and even preparing your client for travel. Throughout the process, it’s your responsibility to provide your clients with accurate information. Always ask about their passports and have them verify the expiration dates. No one wants to take a last-minute trip to the nearest passport office hours before a flight.

Documentation is essential.

Should you ever find yourself in a situation where you need back-up, documentation will be a life saver. Retain copies of every email, text message, document, or other correspondence with a client. This applies to supplier communication too. Document dates, the people you speak to, and take screenshots to keep. In cases of charge backs, E&O claims, or client disputes, your documentation can be the difference between a positive resolution and a costly struggle.

If you’re a new agent who feels too overwhelmed to focus on compliance or an experienced agent who is too busy, I encourage you to slow down and think about the choices you are making. You’ll find that compliance isn’t just a set of rules. It’s a guideline for running your travel business.

About the Author

Rick Zimmerman is the President of KHM Travel Group, one of the country’s leading host travel agencies. Rick joined the travel industry fresh out of college where he worked as a travel agent for a small agency in Cleveland, Ohio. After a 25-year career in the construction industry, Rick returned to his travel roots and helped found KHM Travel Group in 2005. Rick is an active advocate of the travel agent community and serves on multiple travel-related Advisory Boards.

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