Chargebacks, cancellations, refunds, vouchers, impossibility of performance, Acts of God, and now COVID-19, as well all sorts of other terminology that most travel agents have never had to deal with, have shaken the Tourism Industry as never before. Agents, tour companies, and suppliers are dealing with events simply unimaginable and unforeseeable, resulting in the need to turn to the legal industry and governments for solutions. Those solutions, when viable, revolve around laws, previous case histories, and, most important, contracts and the interpretation of the terms and conditions contained or implied in those contracts.
As an attorney representing the Travel Industry for nearly 40 years and a former travel agency owner, I have found the commonality of my travel agents’ and tour company’s problems have been a lack of knowledge and understanding of contracts and contractual language. Unfortunately, this has put the travel agent(s) in the precarious situation of having to reply and respond to their clients and the third party suppliers, most often with some form of explanation as to where the client money is and why or why not and how it can be returned.
I have been honored in being a Keynote Speaker and making numerous presentations and seminars over the years at Travel Agent Conferences and Webinars. As a result of constant requests for legal follow ups to the information presented, our law firm developed a TRAVEL AGENT TUNE UP package available for Travel Agents as well as home-based travel industry businesses. These packages are available in numerous formats and have been updated considerably as a result of the challenges presented by COVID-19. However, having the proper Contracts, Waivers, Assumption of Risk Forms, among other documents in our package, does not imply that the travel agent understands the legal language and the necessity for certain legal terms and conditions contained therein. Therefore, this and the series of articles to follow will include many of the following topics to assist the agent in understanding the basics of contract law.
- First: How is a contract formed and what constitutes a contract?
- Second: How is the client obligated by the acts of the Travel Agent and Third-Party suppliers/vendors?
- Third: What are the most important clauses in a typical Terms and Conditions Agreement including consideration, due dates, cancellation, refunds, insurance?
- Fourth: What are the essential modifications and additions to contracts necessitated by COVID-19 including chargebacks, acceptance of vouchers, rescheduling trips due to cancellations due to COVID-19, assumption of health care risks, third party suppliers/vendors client acknowledgement?
Additionally, TRO has requested that Gore International Law participate in a series of forthcoming webinars based on a similar series of topics, which will enable the participant Travel Agent(s) to engage in an extended question and answer period. The first webinar entitled Staying Afloat Legal Solutions for Travel Today will concentrate on the immediate problems for agents dealing with COVID-19 pandemic and travel restrictions.
The first topic is the essence of a legal contract. What are the necessary components to form a legally binding document?
- Offer and Acceptance and Consideration
- There must be a clear and definite offer to contract and qualified acceptance of the offer. Each party must promise or provide something of value to the other.
- For Lawful Purpose
- Purpose of the agreement must not violate the law of state or country in which its written.
- Consensus to All Terms (Mutual Assent)
- There must be a meeting of the mindsm which means all must be in agreement to be bound by the agreement of the essential terms.
- Contract Not Declared Void
- The contract must not at any time be declared null and void due to legality or frustration of purpose, Acts of God, impossibility of performance, unforeseeable events.
- Both parties must be able to perform their part of the contract and non-performance by one party may excuse the performance of the other.
- Capability of Parties
- All parties must not be under duress or undue influence, coercion, mentally capable of understanding the contract and of legal age.
The next topics will be to deal with:
- Obligations by the acts of the Travel Agent, client, and Third-Party suppliers/vendors.
- What are the most important clauses in a typical Terms and Conditions Agreement including consideration, due dates, cancellation, refund policies and travel insurance?
Laurence Gore has served in numerous capacities with the Florida Bar including the Real Estate, Probate and Trust Section and the International Law Section. He was chairman of the International Law Section and its representative to the International Bar Association. During his tenure he developed and led the first International Law Section Exchange Program to China and to Argentina leading to significant Bar affiliation agreements in both countries. He served as chairman and representative to the International Bar Association, OAS, and was founder of the Travel Law Committee.
He is currently a partner with Laurence D. Gore & Associates.