How to Start a Travel Agency in Hong Kong
The travel industry has always been a booming business. People love to travel, and with how much easier and more affordable it is to travel internationally, the demand for travel is on the rise. If you are keen to dive into this sector and learn how to start a travel agency in Hong Kong, this is the guide for you.
Before you can set up a travel agency in Hong Kong, you will need to apply for a license. This is known as a Travel Agent’s License, and you will need this in order to operate an agency and offer tour packages and transportation services.
What Is a Travel Agent’s License?
Any person who wants to operate a travel agency in Hong Kong must have a license to do so. The Hong Kong Travel Agent’s Ordinance outlines that an outbound or inbound travel agent is categorised as a travel agent.
An Outbound Travel Agent is any person who conducts business in Hong Kong, and their business involves assisting another individual with travel related matters. These matters include providing carriage by any means of conveyance, on a journey which is to commence in Hong Kong and thereafter takes place mainly outside Hong Kong. Or, these matters could relate to accommodation outside Hong Kong for which payment is or will be made by the person or on behalf of that individual. The amount to be paid is the cost of the accommodation in question.
An Inbound Travel Agent is any person or individual who conducts business in Hong Kong by assisting another person with travel related matters. These matters could include obtaining a carriage (by any means of conveyance) on a journey that is going to commence in Hong Kong and thereafter take place outside Hong Kong. Or, these matters could include sourcing accommodation outside Hong Kong where payment is or will be made by that person on behalf of that individual. The amount to be paid is the cost of the accommodation in question.
The Inbound Travel Agent is also responsible for overseeing one or more of these travel-related services:
- Organising shopping excursions
- Organising local visits to places of interest (sightseeing excursions)
- Organising meals at restaurants or catered meals
- Organising local transportation in connection with any of the activities listed above
Requirements to Apply for A Travel Agent’s License
Before an individual can lodge an apply for a travel agent’s license, they must meet the following legal requirements:
- Complete the Company Registration Process. They must complete the company incorporation in Hong Kong process, and obtain the Certificate of Incorporation from the Hong Kong Companies Registry. Once incorporated, they must then apply for the Business Registration Certificate at the Business Registration Office.
- Complete the Location of a Suitable Premise. A suitable office premise must be located for the business before applying for the license. The Travel Agent’s Registry requires that office premises be dedicated only for travel agency related business operations. They will not be allowed to share that office space with any other business.
- Appoint the Key Executive(s). A natural person must be appointed for the role of key executive within the company. They will be in control of the company and responsible for overseeing its management. This individual can be either a partner, secretary, director of an officer, and they must be deemed fit by the Registrar of Travel Agents. They must also be a Chinese national, or a Hong Kong Permanent Resident or Employment Visa holder. They would also need to have at least two consecutive years minimum of related practical travel industry experience. Full time staff members must also be appointed in addition to the key executive.
- Finalised the Paid-Up Capital. The minimum paid-up capital of HK$500,000 must be completed.
- Acquire the Travel Industry Council (TIC) Membership. The TIC is a self-regulatory organisation, whose responsibilities include improving trade practices, enforcing and formulating codes of conduct and directives, handling public enquiries and complaints, as well as handling the collection of statutory levies.
- Acquire Travel Association Membership. They must be a member of any of the 8 travel associations within Hong Kong. These associations possess their own unique traits and serve specific needs for different markets. These associations are:
- The Hong Kong Association of Travel Agents
- The Hong Kong Japanese Tour Operators Association
- The Federation of Hong Kong Chinese Travel Agents
- The Hong Kong Outbound Tour Operators Association
- International Chinese Tourist Association
- Hong Kong Association of China Travel Organisers
- Society of IATA Passenger Agents
- The Hong Kong Taiwan Tourist Operators Association
The Procedure to Apply for a Travel Agent’s License
To apply for the required Travel Agent’s License before you can commence operations of your company, you must submit the following documentation:
- The completed Travel Agent’s License application form
- Statement of Particulars form
- Copy of the Board Resolution which confirms the appointment of a authorised individual that will represent your company
- A certified true copy of your Hong Kong identification cards or other travel documentation for the key executives of the company. Please note that these travel documents must indicate that the individual is allowed to take up employment without any restrictions.
- Certified true copies of all corporate documents. These include Business Registration Certification, Memorandum and Articles of Association, Certificate of Incorporation and documents which confirm the appointment of directors and secretaries. A document which confirms the allotment of shares is also required.
- Certified true copies of the TIC Membership Certificate.
- Certified true copies of the Travel Association Membership Certificate.
- Certified true copy of the stamped tenancy agreement or record of ownership of the office premises.
- Estimated business budget for a given period, which can be 6 months to a year.
- A detailed resume of the key executive(s). The resume must emphasis related travel industry work experience.
- The scope of intended business.
The documents must be submitted to the Hong Kong Travel Agent’s Registry. You will also need to pay a non-refundable application fee of HK$630 along with your application submission.
Successful applications will be processed within 3-4 weeks. Once completed, you will be issued with a Travel Agent’s License from the Travel Agent’s Registry. This must be collected in person by the applicant, and a fee must be paid to the Registry. The price of the fee depends on the validity period of the license.
The monthly fee for the license is HK$485, and the license is only considered valid once payment of the prescribed fee has been completed. Most licenses will be issued for a 12-month period.
The license must then be prominently displayed on the office premise at all times. The license number must also be clearly indicated on all company documentation. This includes advertisements, pamphlets and brochures.
To renew your license, you must submit an application at least 1 month (but no more than 2 months) before the date of expiry. Any applications which are submitted after the expiry date will not be processed. In this case, you will have to apply for a new license. You will not be allowed to continue business operations if your license has expired, as this is considered an offence.
The Travel Agent’s Registry will oversee and check up on a travel agency’s track record. These checks determine if the agency is in fact, a member of the TIC. The checks are also to verify that the agency has satisfied the necessary conditions needed.
To renew your license, the following documents must be submitted to the Travel Agent’s Registry (successful applications will be processed within 3-4 weeks):
- The Renewal License Application Form
- Statement of Particulars form
- Audited financial statements and/or management accounts
- Certified true copy of the membership certificate to the Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong
- Certified true copy of a valid Business Registration Certificate
- Any further documentation required by the Registry.
Need Assistance Starting a Travel Agency in Hong Kong?
For more information and assistance on setting up a travel agency business in Hong Kong, visit 3E Accounting today for all your business needs. Our dedicated and highly professional experts are ready to assist you on any query that you have.