In Hong Kong, the term “travel agency” is used for a company that arranges and organizes services related to travel and tours.
In order to set up and operate a travel agency and offer travel or tour packages (including transportation services) in Hong Kong, you will need to apply for a ‘Travel Agent’s License’.
This guide provides information on the requirements and procedure for getting a travel agent’s license in Hong Kong.
Travel Agent’s License – Who Needs It?
The travel agent’s license is required by any person or company that wishes to operate a travel agency. According to the Hong Kong Travel Agents Ordinance, a travel agent can be categorized as an outbound travel agent or an inbound travel agent.
An outbound travel agent arranges for transportation tickets and makes accommodation bookings on behalf of travelers who are traveling from Hong Kong to an outside destination.
An inbound travel agent is one who arranges for transportation tickets and makes accommodation bookings for visitors who are traveling to Hong Kong. The inbound travel agent is also permitted to conduct tours within Hong Kong and provide local transportation services.
- Prior to applying for a travel agent’s license, the following legal requirements must be met:
Company registration: You must first setup a Hong Kong company and obtain a Certificate of Incorporation from the Hong Kong Companies Registry. For details on how to setup a Hong Kong company, please refer to Hong Kong Company Registration guide.
- Suitable office premises: The office premises you will operate from must be suitable for a travel agency business. Additionally, according to the Travel Agent’s Registry, the office premises must be dedicated solely for the travel agency business operations. The space cannot be shared with any other businesses.
- Key executive & other Staff: The company must appoint a real person for the position of key executive who is in control of the company and also responsible for its management. The key executive could either be a partner, a director, a secretary or an officer of the company. The person must be deemed to be “fit and proper” by the Registrar of Travel Agents. In other words, he/she should neither have been convicted of an offence nor be an un-discharged bankrupt person. The key executive must either be a Hong Kong citizen, Hong Kong Permanent Resident, or an Employment Visa holder. In addition, he/she must have a minimum of two consecutive years of relevant practical experience in the travel industry. Apart from appointing the key executive, the company must also appoint a full time staff member.
- Paid-up Capital: The company must have a minimum paid-up capital of HK$500,000.
- Travel Industry Council membership: The applicant must be a member of the Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong (TIC). The TIC is a self-regulating organization of the travel industry and is responsible for improving trade practices; formulating and enforcing codes of conduct and directives for the industry; collecting statutory levies; handling public complaints and enquiries; etc.
- Travel Association membership: A travel agent or agency must be a member of any of the eight travel associations in Hong Kong. Each travel association has its unique characteristics and caters to the specific needs of different markets. The eight travel associations are:
- Hong Kong Association of Travel Agents
- The Federation of Hong Kong Chinese Travel Agents
- International Chinese Tourist Association
- Society of IATA Passenger Agents
- Hong Kong Taiwan Tourist Operators Association
- Hong Kong Association of China Travel Organizers
- Hong Kong Outbound Tour Operators’ Association
- Hong Kong Japanese Tour Operators Association
License Application Procedure
The travel agent’s license application procedure involves submitting the following documents and information to the Hong Kong Travel Agent’s Registry along with a non-refundable application fee of HK$630:
- A Travel Agent’s License Application Form
- A Statement of Particulars Form
- A copy of the Board Resolution confirming the appointment of an authorized person to represent your company in applying for the travel agent’s license
- A certified true copy of Hong Kong ID cards or travel documents of all the key executives of the company. The travel documents must indicate that the persons concerned are allowed to take up any employment or start a business in Hong Kong without any restrictions
- Each of the key executive’s resumes with emphasis on their work experience in the travel industry
- The proposed travel agency’s scope of business
- Certified true copies of Business Registration Certificate, Certificate of Incorporation and Articles of Association of the company
- Certified true copies of TIC Membership Certificate and Travel Association Membership Certificate
- A certified true copy of the stamped tenancy agreement or record of ownership of the office premises
- An estimated business budget for a given period (six months or a year) setting out the estimated income and estimated expenditure
- A certified true copy of the document confirming the appointment of directors and secretaries
- A certified true copy of the document confirming the allotment of shares
A successful application is usually processed within 3-4 few weeks after which the Travel Agents Registry will issue a Travel Agent’s License that must be collected in person by the applicant. A license fee, based on the validity period of the license must be paid to the Travel Agent’s Registry. The license fee is HK$485 per month. Note that the license is considered valid only on payment of the prescribed fee. Most travel agents’ licenses are issued for a period of 12 months.
The license must be conspicuously displayed on the office premises at all times. In addition, the license number must be clearly indicated on all company documents, brochures, pamphlets and advertisements.
Application for renewal of travel agent’s license must be submitted at least one month (but not more than two months) before the license expiry date. Renewal applications that are submitted after the license expiry date will not be processed and a new license will have to be obtained instead. Continuing business operations after license expiration is an offence. The applicant must submit the following documents to the Travel Agent’s Registry along with the license fee:
- A ‘Renewal of License’ application form
- A Statement of Particulars form
- Audited financial statements and/or management accounts (as specified by the
- A certified true copy of a valid membership certificate of the Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong
- A certified true copy of a valid Business Registration Certificate
- Any other document as required by the Registry
A successful application is usually processed within 3-4 few weeks. The Travel Agent’s Registry will examine the travel agency’s track record, check if it is a member of the TIC and also verify if it has satisfied the conditions which may have been specified in the license, while assessing the renewal application.
It is advisable to engage a professional services firm
If you follow the licensing procedure and comply with the documentation requirements and have a good record of serving the needs of the travel industry, there is no reason for your application to be rejected. Although you can apply for a license on your own, it is advisable to engage a professional services firm to save time and resources.