The COVID-19 (formerly Coronavirus) worldwide health emergency has once again cast a spotlight on the value of using a travel agent, prompting ACTA to remind agents of best practices in these situations, in addition to a “duty of care” that agents are responsible for.
Agents in the regulated provinces of Ontario, Quebec and BC are required to comply with their legal obligations under provincial regulations.
Recommended best practices:
- Encourage clients to always use a credit card for booking. This is strongly recommended as a best practice. Cardholders may have additional securities offered by their credit card provider as stated in the Cardholder Agreement and/or Terms and Conditions.
- Make sure you offer travel insurance – and that it is the “right” travel insurance. Not only is this a best practice, it may be a requirement within provincial regulations. In Ontario, agents are obligated to advise customers about the availability of trip cancellation insurance, and out-of-province health insurance, before accepting payment. It is also important to sell travellers the “right” travel insurance dependent on their client’s needs and explain to clients what the insurance does – and does not – cover.
- Supplier Terms and Conditions. It is important to inform your clients of the terms and conditions of each supplier involved in the client’s itinerary. Each supplier may have different policies, including refunds or possible penalties for changes and cancellations. Also make sure you are up to date on suppliers allowing changes or cancellations due to COVID-19. These are changing often so be sure to keep checking.
- Reference Only Official Sources. It is important that agents are using official sources to get the most up-to-date information on their clients’ destinations and to encourage their clients to refer to these resources so that they can make an informed decision. The Travel Advice and Advisories under the department of Global Affairs are the Government of Canada’s official source of destination-specific travel information.
- Know your legal obligations. It is important that travel agents are aware of what their responsibilities are if they operate within the regulated provinces of BC, Ontario and/or Quebec. Disclosure of conditions that may impact a consumer’s decision to purchase travel services as well as advising customers of changing conditions is an example of an agent’s responsibility.
- Document everything. Now more than ever, travel agents are encouraged to document all communications (whether that is through electronic means, telephone or in-person) with their clients to ensure that they met their responsibilities – and at the same time protected against any liability for their business.