I. Who Needs a Travel Agency License?
A travel agency license is required in order to conduct business as a travel agent. The Singapore Tourism Board (STB), the government body responsible of issuing the license, has defined a travel agent as providing the following services under Section 4 of the Travel Agent's Act (Cap 334):
- Sells tickets entitling an individual to travel, or otherwise arranges for a person a right of passage on any conveyance. (A TAL is not required if the conveyance is owned by the company).
- Facilitates a person's ability to travel by selling or arranging for a fee transport tickets, hotel accommodation and foreign visas to destinations outside and within Singapore. A TAL is not required if the mode of transport and the place of accommodation is owned by the company (for example, a hotel that owns its own transportation).
- Purchases for resale the right of passage on any conveyance.
- Arranges or conducts tours within or outside Singapore.
- Carries out any activity which may be prescribed by the Board.
- Holds itself out as, or advertises that it is, willing to carry on any activity referred to in the previous points.
The above definitions cover companies that provide travel services, excursions, sightseeing, tours (including freelance individuals), tourist services and ticketing agents for airlines, tour buses and cruise ships.
II. Pre-Requisites for Travel Agency License
Before filling in the application form for a travel agency license in Singapore, you must be aware of the following requirements:
- Company registration – You must first set up a Singapore company with the intention of conducting business as a travel agent. The company must be registered under the Standard Industrial Classification (SSIC) codes of 78211 for Travel Agents And Tour Operators, or 78212 for Ticketing Agencies. For details on how to set up a company, please refer to the Singapore company registration guide.
- Paid-up Capital – The company must have paid-up capital of at least S$100,000.
- Key Executive – The company must appoint an appropriate person for the position of key executive. A key executive is responsible for the day-to-day running of the business and his/her appointment must be approved by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB). The key executive should have the relevant work experience and qualifications to manage the company. He/She must be a Singapore citizen, permanent resident, or employment pass holder.
- Character – The company's executive and managerial appointments must be of good moral character and fame. Proof, such as police clearance, credit background checks and letters of good conduct from relevant government agencies, may be required at the STB's discretion.
- Email Address and TRUST – The company must have a website to operate the business. The company must also observe the "Terms and Conditions for the Use of the Travel Related Users' System (TRUST)". The TRUST website is a state-sanctioned website that provides relevant information, resources and advice related to the travel industry in Singapore.
- Office Space and Signboard – The company must set up a business office dedicated solely to travel agency operations. The space cannot be shared with any other type of business. An easily visible signboard that reflects the nature your business must be erected. If you are an individual freelance travel agent conducting business from home, in either an HDB flat or private accommodation, you must obtain approval from the Housing Development Board or Urban Redevelopment Authority before the STB will give you your license.
III. Travel Agency License – Application Procedure
All travel agency license applications are filed online. You must declare any shareholdings in other travel agencies.
The application processing time is approximately one week (3 – 5 working days). The authorities will respond by sending you an In-Principle Approval (IPA) letter via postal mail. The approval may take longer if the authorities feel the need to perform background criminal and financial checks on proposed company individuals.
The IPA letter may contain certain conditions that you will need to fulfil before the final approval is given for your Singapore travel agency license. A typical condition includes submission of the tenancy agreement for the premises where you intend to conduct travel agency business. The tenancy agreement should be for a period of at least one year. If you own the premises, you need to show proof of ownership.
Once you receive your final approval letter, you must collect your Singapore travel agency license in person and pay the license fee of S$300.
IV. Rejected Applications
If you have submitted all the necessary documents and accurate information in your travel agency license application, there is no reason for the authorities to reject your application. If, however, you have been rejected on whatever grounds, you may file an appeal within one month of rejection. The review process may take up to two weeks.
The Singapore travel agency license is valid for two years and expires on 31 December of the following year irrespective of the month in which you initially made your application. You must renew your license one month before it expires.