With battles raging on so many travel fronts these days, retail
professionals in California apparently are taking a "what else in
new?" approach to the word that they can expect a $103 bill in the
mail soon in the form of an assessment from the Travel Consumer
Under the somewhat arcane terms of the state's revised Seller of
Travel Law, the fund must rise to a level of $1.6 million this year
after taking two major hits in 1998, when Mexico Travel Advisors
and a Carlson Wagonlit franchise bit the dust.
Of the $103 assessment, which is over and above the regular $100
annual fee, only $68 will be earmarked for replenishing the fund,
which means $35 of a travel agency's reluctant contribution will go
to overhead. In all, the 5,700 registered sellers of travel in
California will be out $587,100 as a result of the assessment, not
an insignificant sum.
Still, travel agents, apparently, have come to terms with the
law despite deep reservations about its equity. The flat fees that
float the fund, after all, are regressive in that they are the same
no matter what the size of the company covered under the umbrella
of the legislation.
Moreover, tour operators are assessed at the same rate as
retailers, even though a vendor's potential failure threatens a far
more significant consumer hit on the fund than would be the case if
a travel agency had the misfortune to go under.
We wonder, however, if retailers should not be demanding to know
exactly how much was paid and to whom last year as a result of
claims on the fund, which is administered by the TCRC, a
The fund's spokeswoman says such payout information is not
available, despite promises in the past that the figures would be
part of the public record. It seems only reasonable that agents
know where their money is going.