Setting up a Travel Agency in Singapore

Setting up a Travel Agency in Singapore

Singapore is often seen as the gateway to Asia.  It is a must-stop destination for both leisure and business travellers. The tourism sector in Singapore has received a massive boost in recent years with the introduction of new tourism offerings.

The island-state now has 2 Integrated Resorts (IRs), namely the Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa.  These IRs integrate Acommodation, Entertainment, Gaming and Leisure into one comprehensive holiday experience.

Another hot offering is the Formula One Grand Prix racing.  Being a street circuit, it is the ONLY night race ever in F1’s history and has generated a global interest much like the Monaco race.

Taken together, these new offerings have injected fresh impetus to Singapore as a premier travel destination.  It certainly has strengthened Singapore’s already solid position as the MICE (Meetings Incentives, Conference and Exhibitions) destination of choice.

For a more detailed statistical look at the tourism sector, please review the Tourism Sector Performance Report for Q3 2013.

If you are considering setting up travel agency in Singapore you will need a thorough understanding of the process.  Starting a business in the Travel and Tourism sector in Singapore is fairly simple. For your convenience, we discuss the requirements, procedures, timeline in this comprehensive guide.

What is a Travel Agent?

According to Section 4 of the Travel Agents Act (Cap.334), a Travel Agent License is required for a person or entity who engages in the business of a travel agent defined as one or more of the following activities.

  1. sell tickets allowing an individual to travel, or arrange a right of passage on any conveyance for an individual.  A Travel Agent License is not required if the conveyance is owned by them.
  2. facilitates and arranges rights of passage, travel and accommodation within and outside of Singapore.  A Travel Agent License is not required if the conveyance and place of accommodation is owned by them.
  3. buys for resale the right of passage on any conveyance;
  4. arranges or conducts tours within or outside Singapore;
  5. presenting or promoting themselves as willing to carry on any activity as referred above.

Requirements for a Travel Agent License

Before applying for a Travel Agent License, the following is required.

  1. Company Registration The first step is to register a Singapore company with the principle business activity defined as that of a travel agent.  The specific Singapore Standard Industrial Classification (SSIC) codes applicable are 78211 (Travel Agents and Tour Operators) or 78212 (Ticketing Agencies).  Please refer to our Singapore company registration guide for a more detailed discussion.
  2. Paid-Up Capital The company is required to have a paid-up capital of at least SGD$100,000.
  3. Key Executive The company must appoint a director as Key Executive.  This person is responsible for the daily administration and operation of the travel agency.  The Key Executive must also be contactable at all times. It is important that the Key Executive have adequate and relegate work experience in the travel business, especially in some managerial level.  The appointment of the Key Executive is subject to the approval of the Singapore Tourism Board (STB).
  4. Travel Related Users’ System (TRUST) and Internet Email Address The Travel Related Users’ System (TRUST) is a web-based information and administration system.  It provides information, resources and advisory for the travel industry in Singapore.  Licensed travel agents can update corporate information and reflect the latest key executive and renew license online.  Access to TRUST is by a user ID and password which is issued to you once the the Travel Agent’s license is approved.  An email address is required which is to be used specifically for the travel agency business.
  5. Management Staff and Personnel All directors, executives and managerial staff of the company must be persons of good character and fame. Applicants may be required to produce satisfactory evidence to support such requirements.  Such evidence may constitute police clearance certificate, letters of good conduct, credit backgrounds and/or any other as may be required.
  6. Office and Signboard The company is required to establish a dedicated office premise to be used solely for the business of the travel agency.  Prior to Travel Agent Licence application, it is advisable to prepare and consider possible locations for the office premises in advance.  When the licence application is approved in-principle, you are required to produce the following:
    • The applicant must produce documentary proof (such as tenancy agreement etc.) to support the suitability of the office for the conduct of the travel agency business.
    • The office shall be used exclusively for the conduct of the business of a travel agency.
    • The office space may either be purchased by the company or leased for a minimum period of one year.
    • If there is any sharing of premises, please submit a ground plan showing proper demarcations from other businesses.

Application Process and Timeline

Travel Agent Licence application are filed online.  Any shareholdings or interests in other travel agencies must be declared.  The processing period for the application is 3-5 working days. If additional documents or background due diligence is required, then the time take may be longer.  If the application is approved, an In-Principle Approval (IPA) letter will be issued.

How much does this licence cost and how long is it valid?

Upon receipt of the In-Principle Approval letter,  Travel Agent Licence can be collected.  The license fee is S$300 and is valid for two years. A Travel Agent’s Licence will expire on 31 December of the following year in which it was issued.

What are the criteria a Key Executive has to fulfil?

The Key Executive must be a Singapore Citizen or Singapore Permanent Resident. If the proposed Key Executive is a foreigner, he/she must possess a valid employment pass issued by Ministry of Manpower (MOM). The proposed Key Executive must be a Director of the company with relevant managerial experience in the travel business. The proposed Key Executive must submit his/her curriculum vitae, testimonials and recommendation letters to STB for assessment and approval.

Am I required to have an office premise for my business prior to my licence application?

No, you are not required to secure an office premise at the time of applying your licence. You will be notified to locate a suitable office once your licence application has been approved in-principle.

If my application is granted in-principle approval, can I start to operate my business?

No. You are not allowed to commence business until STB grants final approval to your application.

Ryan is the senior writer at ECRA. He has more than 10 years experience in the media and communications sector. He focuses on business and immigration. Ryan creates informative and compelling content for entrepreneurs that are looking to establish or expand their companies or businesses.