In Hong Kong, the term “travel agency” refers to 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”.
Travel Agent’s License
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.
According to the Travel Agents Ordinance (TAO) (Cap. 218), a travel agent can be categorized as an outbound travel agent or an inbound travel agent:
Outbound Travel Agent:
A person is an outbound travel agent if he carries on the business in Hong Kong of obtaining for another person –
Inbound Travel Agent:
A person is an inbound travel agent if he carries on the business in Hong Kong of obtaining for a visitor –
Prior to applying for a travel agent’s license, the following legal requirements must be met:
You must first setup a Hong Kong company and obtain a Certificate of Incorporation from the Hong Kong Companies Registry. Immediately after the company is officially registered, the company should also apply to the Business Registration Office for a Business Registration Certificate. For details on how to setup a Hong Kong company, please refer to Hong Kong Company Incorporation 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 nature 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.
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:
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 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 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.