Are you planning to start a travel agency in the Netherlands? This might be easier than you think! There is no license requirement in the Netherlands, although there are some matters to consider. Since the Corona outbreak, there has been a massive shift in this industry.
The tourism industry is one of the largest economic sectors worldwide. The number of holidays in the Netherlands, despite the current economic crisis, will grow to around 40 million in 2015, a growth of 13.8% compared to 2007 (source: NBTC-NIPO Research).
Competition in tourism is high, and there has been a scaling up for several years: the smaller players on the market are being pushed aside by their larger competitors, but there will always be room for niche players. Technological developments such as the rise of the Internet have changed the travel industry definitively. The customer has a lot of choice via internet and so-called direct sellers. For traditional travel agencies, the combination with the internet is of vital importance. A travel agency will mainly have to distinguish itself through good service provision and the delivery of customization.
Procedure to set up a travel agency
There are no compulsory diplomas in the Netherlands to start your own travel agency. A training for the tourism industry is strongly recommended.
- MBO courses: at more than 30 ROCs in the Netherlands, you can take an MBO course in Tourism and Recreation for a position in the travel world.
- SEPR (www.sepr.nl): this foundation certifies and recognizes trainers who want to offer SEPR training. SEPR is the professional diploma for the travel industry. You can obtain this diploma in two ways:
• Via a certified MBO trainer
• Via a recognized distance trainer, private trainer or self-study
• HBO programs: at various (private) universities of applied sciences, including HBO Tourism and Recreation or HBO International Tourist Management. A higher professional education takes 2 to 4 years, depending on the level. As a preparatory course, Havo, VWO (profile EM) or MBO Tourism and Recreation is required.
There are no special incorporation requirements.
You do not need a specific permit or diploma to start an (online) travel company, that's easy. As with other companies, general rules apply. Check which legal form (sole proprietorship, VOF, BV) is most suitable for your company and register with the Chamber of Commerce.
Do take a good liability insurance. A lot can go wrong when traveling abroad. If something goes wrong when arranging a trip, the customer (or his legal expenses insurance) can, in the event of personal injury or worse, file a hefty claim with the tour operator or even travel agent. A good liability insurance is a 'must'. The ANVR has therefore set minimum requirements for such insurance. In the link about liability insurance you can see parties that have specific insurance policies for travel entrepreneurs.
Travel agency or travel company
At the Chamber of Commerce, you must state whether you are performing travel mediation (SBI category 7911) or a travel organization (SBI 7912).
If you really only mediate in the purchase of (tourist) services from different suppliers by consumers, then you are a travel agent or travel agency. You are also if you only mediate in the creation of package holidays between the consumer
and a European travel organizer. It does not matter if this is
takes place at the customer's home, at your office, in a store or via the internet. That will not happen that often.
If you sell 2 or more travel items (transport / stay / tourist office) to a consumer, you are (travel) organizer and you have to comply with numerous legal requirements(see below in this memo for more examples). The link to the basic rights of consumers states what the consumer can expect from you.
The ANVR travel conditions also give a picture of the requirements you have to meet towards the passengers.
Unfair commercial practices and misleading advertising
Important, also for travelling entrepreneurs, is the legislation on unfair commercial practices (Article 6: 193a et seq. This is the case with incorrect or misleading actions or omissions, possibly resulting in insufficient professionalism. You can not make misleading advertising either (Article 6: 194 et seq.).
For the travel industry, the Advertising Code Travel Deals is also important. The Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) has a controlling role for fair competition and consumer interests.
In the Netherlands, nowadays, there is no need to have a special permit to start a travel agency any more than compulsory professional diplomas exist. It is good to be affiliated with branch organizations that offer financial and quality guarantees. Research has shown that consumers appreciate that certainty.
- Stichting Garantie Reisgelden: the SGR guarantee means that the consumer is insured to receive his prepaid travel money, if his counterparty can not meet the agreed consideration due to financial inability.
- The ANVR applies strict standards for membership and promotes the quality of travel and the information about it.
- The Calamity Fund guarantee means that the consumer will receive the full or partial refund if the trip can not be carried out or can not be fully executed as a result of a calamity.
Package Holidays, or Airline Tickets?
Do you offer package holidays or airline tickets? Or immovable property in part-time use (timeshare) or membership in holiday clubs? Then you have to take into account a number of (ACM.nl) rules:
- The price in the advertisement is the price that the customer can book.
- All standard costs, such as administration costs and mandatory final cleaning, are included in the advertising price.
- All variable costs are clearly stated with the advertising price, with the amount of these costs.
- Optional elements are clearly stated at the beginning of the booking process.
- You can not check options in advance.
A package tour lasts at least 24 hours or has a minimum of 1 night and consists of at least 2 travel services.
As a package travel provider you take measures to protect your customers if you encounter financial problems. You mention these measures in your travel guide or on your website.
You can join a guarantee fund like the Stichting Garantiefonds Reisgelden (SGR), the Takeover Foundation (STO) or the Guarantee Specialized Tour Operators (GGTO).
You inform your customers about the payment and requirements for the trip.
You inform your customer in advance about the consequences of taking an option on a trip.
You deliver the trip at the price you confirmed to the customer at the time of booking. Have you made a mistake here? And can you make it plausible that the customer knew that? Then you can cancel the booking without any consequences.
Do you sell separate travel services? If you offer customers to link these services to 1 travel arrangement, a linked travel arrangement (GRA) will be created. A GRA is not a package trip. Different obligations apply for this.
Are you a foreign company that wants to offer package holidays in the Netherlands? And has your company taken adequate guarantee measures in a Member State other than the Netherlands? Then you can also do business in the Netherlands.
Do you offer airline tickets for flights departing from an EU airport? Then you must comply with the rules of the European Aviation Regulation.
Timesharing and holiday clubs
Do you offer timeshare or membership in a holiday club? And do you enter into an agreement with customers for more than a year? Then you must:
offer a payment arrangement in annual installments. You send your customer a payment reminder every year.
inform your customer with standard information forms before you enter into an agreement;
a period of reflection of 14 days and no prepayment;
Additional rules for separately sold accommodations and airline tickets
Do you sell individual accommodations or air tickets over the telephone or via the internet? Then follow the additional rules for telemarketing and internet sales
CHECK LEGAL REQUIREMENTS For Travel Agencies
The Dutch government has published a guide (https://www.rijksoverheid.nl/documenten/richtlijnen/2018/05/04/richtlijn-pakketreizen) where you can check your requirements, based on your situation. If you provide us with an exact overview of the services that you will offer, we can assist you to determine the right definition (and requirements) of your services.
In most cases the requirements are simple, and refer to consumer protection, and informing (and protecting(for example, related to getting a travel insurance)) them properly.
Below you find some examples with basic translation:
You are facilitator of it linked travel package.
What should you do?
- Provide protection in the event of insolvency
- Inform the 2nd trader that the travelers have booked a travel service with you
- Tell the travelers that protection, as in case of a package tour, does not apply
A package tour lasts at least 24 hours or contains at least 1 night, and consists of at least 2 travel services.
Are loose travel services sold to consumers? By the way customers can book, they can link these services to 1 travel arrangement. Then a linked travel arrangement is created. A linked travel arrangement is not a package trip. There are other obligations on the part of the seller.
You are a trader of the 2nd travel service.
What should you do?
- Inform the 1st trader/provider that travelers have booked a 2nd travel service.
You are the organizer of the package trip.
What should you do?
- Provide protection in the event of insolvency the whole trip.
- Tell the travelers what they need to know before they book.
- Make the package travel agreement meets the requirements.
- Tell the travelers what their rights are at change or cancellation of package travel.
- Ensure proper execution of the package trip.
- Provide help and assistance when needed the journey.
- Offer price reduction and / or compensation in case of non-conformity.
You are a reseller of the package trip.
What should you do?
- Tell the travelers what they need to know
before they book.
- Give questions and complaints from the travelers
to the travel organizer.
In the travel industry, a CAO( collective labour agreement) applies to the entire industry.
When a travel organizer offers package holidays or linked travel arrangements, this organization is legally obliged to take measures in the event of bankruptcy or imminent bankruptcy (Civil Code Book 7: Special agreements Title 7A: Travel Agreement Article 512). The tour operator can join a guarantee scheme or a guarantee fund. In the Netherlands, the three most famous travel guarantee schemes: GGTO, STO travel guarantee and SGR, for the business market there is also SGRZ. When a travel company wants to become a member of the VvKR and sells package holidays, the travel organization is obliged to be affiliated with a travel guarantee scheme.
- In total, the Dutch spent 15 billion on holidays in 2010. Estimation is that 40% is spent online. Expectation for the coming years is that this will increase to 60%.
- In order to become a member of the ANVR, a financial condition applies, among other things: an annual turnover of at least € 500,000 or at least 500 bookings per year.
- The turnover of a travel agency is partially exempt from VAT, namely the sale of travel and cancellation insurance. An exception applies to travel agencies: in order to reduce the administrative burden, VAT is deductible for 96%. You therefore do not have to split the VAT on your expenses into turnover ratio.
(more info: www.belastingdienst.nl)