How to Set Up a Travel Agency in Singapore

Published on October 30th, 2015 by in Blog

Singapore: the “gateway” to Asia. A popular destination for both tourists and business travelers alike, there is a definite market for travel services in the country. Setting up a travel agency can help you meet the demands for these services by offering travel and tour packages via land, air and sea.

If you have plans to open a travel agency in Singapore, it’s important to first understand: what constitutes a travel agency and how the business setup process works.

What is a Travel Agency?

In Singapore, a business is considered a travel agency if they offer tour and travel packages through three mediums: air, land and sea. Transport-only companies would not be considered travel agencies.

Section four of the Travel Agent’s Act (Cap 334) describes a travel agency as an entity offering the following services:

  1. The selling, arrangement or making available of the rights of passage to a hotel or other accommodation at one or places inside or outside of Singapore. If the place of accommodation is owned by the company, a Travel Agency License is not required.
  2. The selling of tickets that provide a person a rite of passage on any transportation.
  3. The purchasing and reselling of tickets on any conveyance.
  4. The arrangement or conduction of tours inside or outside of Singapore.
  5. Businesses that advertise or hold itself out as willing to carry out any of the activities in points 1-4.

Some examples of travel agencies include: businesses or individuals that provide tourist or travel services, excursions or sightseeing tours; and ticketing agents that work for cruise ships, airlines or tourist buses.

How to Set Up a Travel Agency in Singapore

Before you can set up your agency, you will need to establish your business and obtain a Travel Agency License. Licenses are issued by the Singapore Tourism Board.

First, you will need to get your business setup. Here’s how:

  1. Complete your company registration.

For Travel Agents and Operators, the company needs to be registered under the SIC code 78211. For ticketing agencies, the company should be registered under SIC code 78212.

  1. Ensure you have enough capital.

The minimum capital you will need is SGD 100,000.

  1. Establish a Key Executive.

Every travel agency must have a Key Executive. This person will be responsible for the everyday running of the business, and must be approved by the Singapore Tourism Board.

The Key Executive must meet certain requirements, including having relevant work experience. He or she must also be either: a Singaporean citizen, holder of an employment pass, or a permanent resident.

The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) may also require proof of character, which may include:

  • A credit check
  • Reference letter
  • Police clearing background check

These may not always be required. The STB will use its own discretion as to what requirements must be met when approving a Key Executive.

  1. Establish an office.

All travel agencies must have a physical office that’s dedicated solely to the operation of the agency. The space cannot be shared or used for any other reason or for a different business. A signboard is also required that must be clearly visible and indicate the nature of the business.

What about freelance or individual travel agents?

If you’re operating as an independent or freelance agent from your private home or flat, you will need to obtain approval from the Urban Redevelopment Authority or the Housing Development Board before you can obtain your license.

  1. Establish a TRUST website and email address.

Travel agencies must have a website to operate. The company must observe the TRUST (Terms and Conditions for the Use of the Travel Related Users’ System). TRUST is a website that is sanctioned by the state and offers relevant resources, advice and information regarding the Singapore travel industry.

Travel Agency License Application

Once you have established your business, you can apply for a Travel Agency License. All license applications are submitted online, and you will be required to declare any shareholdings you have in other travel agencies.

It takes approximately one week to process a Travel Agency License application. An In-Principle Approval, or IPA, will be sent to you via the postal mail from the authorities. It’s important to note that the processing time may take longer if financial and/or background checks need to be performed. If you are granted an in-principle approval, you still do not have the right to start operating your business. You must wait for final approval before you can begin operating.

The IPA letter that you receive may include certain conditions that must be met before approval can be granted. The authorities may require a submission of the tenancy agreement for the office space you intend to operate out of. Ideally, the agreement should be for one year. If you own the property, proof of ownership will be required.

A final approval letter will be sent if and when your application is approved. You will need to collect your license in person and pay the required fee of SGD 300.

What if the Application Is Rejected?

As long as you have submitted the appropriate paperwork and included accurate information, there should be no reason for your application to be rejected. Nevertheless, if you are denied your Travel Agency License, you have one month to file an appeal. During this time, your application will be reviewed. The review process can take as long as two weeks.

Does the License Need To Be Renewed?

Once a license has been granted by the STB, it will remain valid for two years and will expire on December 31 regardless of the month you were granted the license. The license must be renewed one month before its expiration date.

Once you have established your business in Singapore and obtained your Travel Agency License, you can commence operations. Remember, an IPA is not enough to start operating. You will need to obtain a final approval letter, pick up your license in person and pay the required fee before you can start operating.

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