Travel Agent License in Singapore

The travel industry has played a significant role in transforming Singapore into a leading destination for visitors from all over the world. Singapore’s legislation has actively encouraged the growth of tourism; the legislation has also provided consumer protection measures to enhance trust in the industry. The well-developed tourism sector makes Singapore a favourable jurisdiction for establishing a travel agency business — more than 1,000 travel agencies in the country attest to this fact.

Introduction

Travel agencies belong to the category of business activities that require a license since their operations can affect the health and well-being of consumers. The applicable license is issued by the respective government body — Singapore’s Tourism Board. It grants the company permission to conduct the regulated travel-related activities in Singapore. The licensing requirements are designed to ensure that travel agencies provide honest information and services to their customers.

After you have incorporated your Singapore company (see how to register a Singapore company), you must first obtain a travel agency license before commencing the relevant business activities. The licensing procedure in Singapore is simple, fast, and transparent as summarised below in this guide. It includes the following topics:

Who Must Obtain a Travel Agent's License?

If a company or a person carries on, advertises, or holds itself out as carrying on any of the following types of activities then that company or person must obtain a travel agent license:

  • Supplying any person a right to travel on any conveyance by air, sea or land; or
  • Supplying a right to travel to and a right of accommodation at a hotel or similar premises, whether in Singapore or elsewhere; or
  • Purchasing, or reserving, for resale to a person a right to travel; or
  • Supplying any tour (whether or not organised by the agent) to any other person.

However, you do not need a license if you:

  • Supply a right to travel only on a conveyance you own;
  • Conduct bus or train services;
  • Supply a right to accommodation at a hotel or similar premises you own;
  • Supply a tour to a place or point of interest you own or operate.

Furthermore, an employee or agent of the travel agency is not considered to be a travel agent in their own right and such a person does not need to obtain a separate license for conducting the above activities on behalf of his or her employer or agency.

Types of Travel Agent Licenses

Once you determine that your agency requires licensing, you may choose between two types of travel agent licenses, taking into account your planned scope of activities.

  • A Niche License permits the holder to sell, arrange or advertise tours only within Singapore, without any right of accommodation. An applicant must have a minimum paid-up capital of S$50,000 and a net value of the same amount to satisfy the minimum financial requirements set by the government.
  • A General License permits the holder to conduct any activities beyond what is described in the scope of a Niche Licence. An applicant for such a license must have a minimum paid-up capital and a net value of at least S$100,000.

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How to Obtain a License

Before application

Prior to applying for the license, your agency must satisfy the following requirements:

  • A business with the intention of conducting travel agent activity must be registered with ACRA, Singapore’s registrar of companies.
  • The business must have paid-up capital and/or net value in the amount specified above for the type of license that is sought.
  • The applicant must appoint an employee who has managerial experience in travel as the key executive officer responsible for the management and operation of the business.
  • The applicant should have an office and email address for the purpose of communicating with customers on behalf of the travel agency.
  • The applicant and all the managers should be fit and proper persons — they must be of good moral character and repute.

Applying for the license

To obtain a license, submit the completed application to the Singapore Tourism Board, the government body responsible for travel agent licenses, online via the Travel Agents and Tourist Guides Licensing System (TRUST). You must also pay an application fee of $200.

Upon receiving the completed application, the Board will consider it. This process normally takes up to 2 weeks, but it can take longer if the Board decides to perform additional checks about the managers.

After this period, you will receive an email with an In-Principle Approval (IPA). This IPA may contain some additional requirements you must fulfill. A typical condition includes submission of the tenancy agreement for the premises where you conduct your travel agency business. After you have addressed these additional conditions and submitted the respective documents, you will receive a final approval letter.

Upon receiving such approval, you must pay a license fee of $400 and collect your license. Also, your agency will be listed in the Travel Agent Directory of Travel Agents and Tourist Guides Licensing System (TRUST).

There are certain grounds upon which the Board may refuse to grant the license or revoke a previously granted license. This can occur if:

  • The applicant or its manager is deemed to not be a suitable person to be involved in the operation of the business;
  • The applicant is unable to meet the minimum financial requirements;
  • The applicant or its manager has previously committed any offence involving dishonesty or moral turpitude;
  • The applicant or its manager has contravened any relevant legislative provision, or any condition of a license, or any code of conduct;
  • The application for the grant or renewal of the license contains information that is untrue or misleading;
  • All managers are incapable, by reason of illness, infirmity or any other cause, of carrying on this business; or
  • The Board considers it in the public interest to do so.

Validity and Renewal of the License

The license is issued for a specific duration, usually 2 years. It usually expires on 31 December of the following year after the issuance of the license, and the travel agency is required to renew it before this date.

To renew the license, the travel agency must fulfil the following requirements:

  • Submit Audited Accounts and Annual Business Profile Returns for the preceding 2 years;
  • Increase paid-up capital if the net value of the business is below the required $100,000 for General Licenses or $50,000 for Niche Licenses;
  • Pay outstanding fines, composition sums and financial penalties;
  • Confirm business particulars;
  • Provide any other details as required by the Board
  • Pay to the Board the license fee of $400.

After the submission of the above, the renewed license in its physical form will be sent to the business’s registered address.

The Board may refuse to renew the license, by invoking any of the refusal grounds described above. Before refusing to renew an application, the Board must notify the applicant and give an opportunity to submit reasons why the application should not be refused.

Suspension or Revocation of the License

The Board may temporarily suspend the license for a period (usually up to 6 months) or revoke it permanently if:

  • The licensee or its manager is not a suitable person to be involved in the operation of the business;
  • The licensee or its manager has committed any offence involving dishonesty or moral turpitude;
  • The licensee or its manager has contravened any respective legislation, or any condition of a license or any code of conduct. In some situations, if an offence has not been committed, a penalty of up to $2,000 may be imposed instead of suspension or revocation;
  • The application for the grant or renewal of the license contains untrue or misleading information;
  • All managers are incapable of carrying on this business (by reason of illness, infirmity or any other cause);
  • The licensee has ceased to carry on the business of a travel agent; or
  • The Board considers it in the public interest to do so.

Before suspending or revoking the license or imposing a financial penalty the Board must notify the licensee and give an opportunity to submit reasons, within 14 days after that notice, why the license should not be suspended or revoked or the financial penalty should not be imposed.

During the suspension period, you should not carry on any new business, except for performing obligations to supply a travel product that were undertaken before the beginning of suspension.

Appeal to the Minister

If you are not satisfied with the Board’s decision, you may appeal any of the following decisions of the Board:

  • Refusing to grant or renew the license;
  • Varying, revoking or imposing a condition;
  • Suspending or revoking the license; or
  • Requiring a financial penalty.

Such an appeal must be submitted to the Minister for Trade and Industry within 14 days after the relevant notice was sent. Your appeal must include the circumstances that necessitate the appeal as well as the grounds for the appeal. The appeal should also include all relevant facts, evidence and arguments.

The Minister may determine an appeal by confirming, varying, or reversing the Board’s decision; or requiring the Board to reconsider the Board’s decision. The Minister’s decision on appeal is final and an appellant will be notified of it.

Please note that all information submitted to the Board must be true, and a person who knowingly furnishes the Board with false or misleading information is subject to a fine of up to $10,000.

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Summary

If your сompany plans to make travel arrangements or conduct tours in or outside of Singapore, you are required to apply for a Travel Agent Licence.​ The procedure of obtaining the license is transparent, clear, and fast.

Before applying, you must ensure that your business is registered with ACRA, has the necessary paid-up capital, hires key executives of good character, and has an office and an email address. Once all of these requirements have been met, you can submit an application online to the Singapore Tourism Board. In most cases you will get the license within 2 weeks and may start your travel agency activity. CorporateServices.com can help you with all of these activities — from the incorporation of your firm to obtaining the Travel Agency License — and then ensure that your business stays in compliance with Singapore’s regulations.

All of this makes Singapore a very good place to launch your travel business venture.

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