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Licensing Criteria Licensing Travel Agents in Hong Kong

Updated: Apr 6

No person may, without a travel agent licence, carry on travel agent business.


A person carries on (outbound) travel agent business if—


(a) the person carries on any of the following business activities in Hong Kong —


(i) obtaining for another person carriage, by any means of transport, on a journey that is to commence in Hong Kong and then take place mainly outside Hong Kong;


(ii) obtaining for another person accommodation at a place outside Hong Kong; or


(b) the person—


(i) carries on any of the business activities described in subparagraph (a)(i) and (ii) at a place outside Hong Kong; and


(ii) actively markets, whether or not through another person and whether in Hong Kong or from a place outside Hong Kong, to the public of Hong Kong any of those business activities.


A person does not carry on (outbound) travel agent business if—


(i) the person is the operator of the relevant means of transport; or


(ii) the person is the operator of the relevant accommodation or obtains accommodation for the other person for 28 or more days.


A person carries on (inbound) travel agent business if—


(a) the person carries on any of the following business activities in Hong Kong—


(i) obtaining for a visitor to Hong Kong carriage, by any means of transport, on a journey that is to—


(A) commence outside Hong Kong; and


(B) either terminate in Hong Kong or involve the visitor passing through immigration controls before leaving Hong Kong;


(ii) obtaining for a visitor to Hong Kong accommodation in Hong Kong;


(iii) obtaining for a visitor to Hong Kong any of the following services—


(A) a service providing sightseeing or visits to local places of interest;


(B) a service providing restaurant meals or other catered meals;


(C) a service providing shopping trips; or


(D) a service providing local transport in connection with any of the services described in sub-subparagraphs (A), (B) and (C).


A person does not carry on (inbound) travel agent business if—


(i) the person is the operator of the relevant means of transport; or


(ii) the person is the operator of the relevant accommodation or obtains accommodation for the other person for 28 or more days; or


(iii) the person is the owner or operator of the relevant service described in subparagraph

(a)(iii)(A) to (D).


For a person falling within paragraph 1(a), 1(b) or 2(a), the person does not carry on travel agent business if —


(a) the person’s principal business is not the carrying on of the business activities described in the paragraph; and


(b) the relevant business activity carried on by the person is ancillary to the person’s principal business.


Licensing criteria


Criteria for issue of a travel agent licence

If an applicant for a travel agent licence meets the following requirements, TIA may issue a travel agent licence:

  • the applicant is a company, a partnership or an individual carrying on business as a sole proprietor;

  • the applicant is suitable to hold the licence (suitability requirement);


Suitability Requirement


An applicant for a travel agent licence shall be suitable to hold the licence, depending on whether the applicant is a company, a partnership, or an individual carrying on business as a sole proprietor:

An applicant for a travel agent licence must meet the following requirement:


if the applicant is a company,


Company


In determining whether a company is suitable to hold a travel agent licence, TIA must have regard to all relevant matters, including—

  1. whether every officer and controller of the company is suitable to be associated with the business of a travel agent; and

  2. any information in the possession of TIA, on any matters relating to an associated company of the company, including— (b) whether every officer and controller of the associated company is suitable to be associated with the business of a travel agent.

the amount of the company’s paid-up share capital must not be less than HK$500,000;


An applicant for a travel agent licence must meet the following requirement:

if the applicant is a partnership,


Partnership


In determining whether a partnership is suitable to hold a travel agent licence, TIA must have regard to all relevant matters, including—

  1. whether any partner in the partnership is a mentally disordered person, or a patient, within the meaning of section 2(1) of the Mental Health Ordinance (Cap. 136);

  2. whether any partner in the partnership has been convicted, whether in Hong Kong or elsewhere, of a criminal offence involving— (a) any fraud, corruption, or dishonest act; and (b) violence;

  3. whether any partner in the partnership has been convicted of a criminal offence under the Travel Industry Ordinance (Cap. 634) or the Trade Descriptions Ordinance (Cap. 362);

  4. the record of any partner in the partnership relating to— (a) any application for a licence, or the renewal of a licence, under the Travel Agents Ordinance (Cap. 218); (b) any application for a tourist guide pass or tour escort pass, or the renewal of a tourist guide pass or tour escort pass; (c) any application for a licence, or the renewal of a licence, under the Travel Industry Ordinance (Cap. 634); and (d) the travel agent business of a licensed travel agent or a person who holds a licence under the Travel Agents Ordinance (Cap. 218); (e) the directives, codes of conduct and any other instruments made by the Travel Industry Council before the repeal of the Travel Agents Ordinance (Cap. 218); and (f) the requirements in the Travel Industry Ordinance (Cap. 634); and

  5. whether every person responsible or proposed to be responsible for the management of the travel agent business of the partnership, or any part of the business, is suitable to be associated with the business of a travel agent.


the aggregate of all the partners’ capital accounts must not be less than HK$500,000

Individual


In determining whether an individual is suitable to hold a travel agent licence, TIA must have regard to all relevant matters, including—

  1. whether the individual is an undischarged bankrupt;

  2. whether the individual has entered into a composition or scheme of arrangement with the individual’s creditors, or has made an assignment of the individual’s estate for the benefit of the individual’s creditors;

  3. whether the individual is a mentally disordered person, or a patient, within the meaning of section 2(1) of the Mental Health Ordinance (Cap. 136);

  4. whether the individual has been convicted, whether in Hong Kong or elsewhere, of a criminal offence involving— (a) any fraud, corruption, or dishonest act; and (b) violence;

  5. whether the individual has been convicted of a criminal offence under the Travel Industry Ordinance (Cap. 634) or the Trade Descriptions Ordinance (Cap. 362);

  6. the individual’s record relating to— (a) any application for a licence, or the renewal of a license, under the Travel Agents Ordinance (Cap. 218); (b) any application for a tourist guide pass or tour escort pass, or the renewal of a tourist guide pass or tour escort pass; (c) any application for a licence, or the renewal of a licence, under the Travel Industry Ordinance (Cap. 634); and (d) the travel agent business of a licensed travel agent or a person who holds a licence under the Travel Agents Ordinance (Cap. 218); (e) the directives, codes of conduct and any other instruments made by the Travel Industry Council before the repeal of the Travel Agents Ordinance (Cap. 218); and (f) the requirements in the Travel Industry Ordinance (Cap. 634); and

  7. whether every person responsible or proposed to be responsible for the management of the travel agent business of the individual, or any part of the business, is suitable to be associated with the business of a travel agent.


  • the applicant meets the capital requirement;


Capital Requirement


An applicant for a travel agent licence must meet the following capital requirement:

  • if the applicant is a partnership, the aggregate of all the partners’ capital accounts must not be less than HK$500,000; and

  • if the applicant is an individual, the amount in the individual’s capital account must not be less than HK$500,000.

  • the applicant meets the guarantee money requirement;


Guarantee Money Requirement


An applicant for a travel agent licence or for the renewal of the licence must deposit guarantee money with TIA. The purpose of guarantee money is to guarantee the settlement of any financial penalties imposed on a licensed travel agent.

The guarantee money requirement is as follows:

  • The amount of the guarantee money is $500,000;

  • The guarantee money is to be in the form of a bank guarantee;

  • The period for which the guarantee money is to be deposited is the validity period of the licence plus six months;

  • The guarantee must be issued by an authorized institution within the meaning of section 2(1) of the Banking Ordinance (Cap. 155);

  • The guarantee must be in TIA’s specified form.


The above guarantee money requirement does not apply to holders of a pre-existing licence taken to be a licensed travel agent. However, in the following circumstances, TIA may require these holders to deposit guarantee money:

  • The original ownership or control of the travel agent becomes less than 50% (in which case the travel agent may be required to deposit guarantee in the amount of $500,000); or

  • The amount or aggregated amount of financial penalties imposed on the travel agent exceeds $100,000 in one year (in which case the travel agent may be required to deposit guarantee money in the amount of $250,000 and, if the amount or aggregated amount of financial penalties imposed on the travel agent exceeds $100,000 in one year again, another $250,000).



  • the applicant meets the authorized representative requirement; and


Authorized representative requirement


An applicant for the issue of a travel agent licence must propose an individual to be the applicant’s authorized representative. TIA may approve that individual as the applicant's authorized representative only if it is satisfied that the individual is suitable to be an authorized representative of a travel agent and that the individual is not already an authorized representative of a licensed travel agent other than the applicant.

In determining whether an individual is suitable to be an authorized representative, TIA must have regard to all relevant matters, including—

1. whether the individual is an undischarged bankrupt;

2. whether the individual has entered into a composition or scheme of arrangement with the individual’s creditors, or has made an assignment of the individual’s estate for the benefit of the individual’s creditors;

3. whether the individual is a mentally disordered person, or a patient, within the meaning of section 2(1) of the Mental Health Ordinance (Cap. 136);

4. whether the individual has been convicted, whether in Hong Kong or elsewhere, of a criminal offence, including (but no limited to)—

(a) those involving a finding that the individual acted fraudulently, corruptly, or dishonesty; (b) those involving violence; and (c) offences under the Travel Industry Ordinance (Cap. 634) or the Trade Descriptions Ordinance (Cap. 362);

5. the individual’s record relating to—

(a) any application for a licence, or the renewal of a license, under the Travel Agents Ordinance (Cap. 218); (b) any application for a tourist guide pass or tour escort pass, or the renewal of a tourist guide pass or tour escort pass; (c) any application for a licence, or the renewal of a licence, under the Travel Industry Ordinance (Cap. 634); and (d) the travel agent business of a licensed travel agent or a person who holds a licence under the Travel Agents Ordinance (Cap. 218); (e) the directives, codes of conduct and any other instruments made by the Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong before the repeal of the Travel Agents Ordinance (Cap. 218); and (f) the requirements in the Travel Industry Ordinance (Cap. 634);

6. whether the individual is associated with the business of the travel agent in the capacity of—

(a) a director, manager*, company secretary or controller of a company; (b) a partner in a partnership, or a person concerned in the management of the partnership; or (c) a sole proprietor, or a person concerned in the management of the sole proprietorship;

7. whether the individual has completed an authorized representative course specified by TIA; and

8. whether the individual meets the following qualification requirement—

(a) completion of Hong Kong’s Form 5 education under the 5-year secondary academic structure or Senior Secondary 3 education under the New Senior Secondary academic structure (or equivalent), and possession of at least 5 years of management experience in the travel industry; or

(b) possession of at least 10 years of management experience in the travel industry. The authorized representative of a licensed travel agent must fulfil certain duties, failing which the individual may be required to cease to be the representative.


* A manager, in relation to a company: (a) means a person who performs managerial functions in relation to the company under the directors’ immediate authority; but (b) excludes: (i) a receiver or manager of the company’s property; and (ii) a special manager of the company’s estate or business appointed under section 216 of the Companies (Winding Up and Miscellaneous Provisions) Ordinance (Cap. 32);


  • the applicant has paid the relevant fee.


Criteria for issue of business permit


If a licensed travel agent meets the following requirements, TIA may issue a business permit in respect of the local place of business stated in the application:


  • the applicant holds a valid travel agent licence;

  • the local place of business and the location of the place are suitable for travel agent business, namely they are in accordance with the requirements set out in paragraphs 1.2 to 1.4 of the Directives for Licensees regarding the local place of business; and

  • the applicant has paid the relevant fee.


Application for licence and business permit


A person carrying on travel agent business within the meaning of section 4 of the Travel Industry Ordinance (Cap. 634) must hold a travel agent licence. The requirement applies whether or not the person carries on the travel agent business at a local place of business. A local place of business is a place of business in Hong Kong to which the public ordinarily have physical access. A licensed travel agent carrying on travel agent business at a local place of business must hold a business permit in respect of that place.

Please click here for the criteria for the issue of a travel agent licence and business permit.

To apply for a travel agent licence, please click here.

Travel Agent Licence


An applicant for a travel agent licence must—

  • make an application to TIA in the specified form;

  • state the correspondence address and e-mail address in the form;

  • submit any document TIA may require; and

  • pay the relevant fee.


Please click here for the criteria for the issue of a travel agent licence. Please click here for the procedures, documents and fees required for an application.

To apply for a business permit, please click here.


Business Permit


A licensed travel agent carrying on travel agent business at a local place of business must hold a business permit in respect of that place. A local place of business is a place of business in Hong Kong to which the public ordinarily have physical access. A licensed travel agent applying for a business permit must—

  • make an application to TIA in the specified form;

  • state in the form the address of the local place of business at which the applicant intends to carry on travel agent business;

  • submit any document TIA may require; and

  • pay the relevant fee.


Please click here for the criteria for the issue of a business permit.

Please click here for the procedures, documents and fees required for an application.


How to apply

The completed application form and related documents may be mailed or delivered to:

Travel Industry Authority Address: 8/F, South Island Place, 8 Wong Chuk Hang Road, Wong Chuk Hang, Hong Kong

Click here to make an appointment to submit, either in person or through a representative, an application and/or documents at the TIA office.

The application must be accompanied by the required fee. The fee may be paid:

  • by cash at the TIA office; or

  • by cheque (payable to “Travel Industry Authority”).


Application Procedures


An application for licence or business permit may be made following the procedures set out below:

1. download and complete the relevant application form; 2. have the required documents ready; 3. make an appointment to submit the application, required documents and fee at the TIA office, or mail the application, required documents and fee* to the TIA office; 4. if follow-up action is required (e.g. missing documents), act on the request made by TIA staff (typically made via telephone and/or email; 5. wait for a notification (usually via email) from TIA of the result of the application; and 6. depending on the collection method indicated in the application form:

  • (for application for travel agent licence or business permit) make an appointment to collect the licence and/or business permit or wait for the licence / permit to be mailed to the correspondence address;

  • (for application for tourist guide licence or tour escort licence) check your email inbox for an email containing an electronic licence (pdf file); for the tourist guide card or tour escort licence, make an appointment to collect the card or wait for the card to be mailed to the correspondence address;

* some required documents, especially those for first-time applications, must either be original or a copy certified by a practising solicitor in Hong Kong; do not send cash or original documents through the mail.


Required Documents


Applicants for licences or business permits are required to provide the relevant supporting documents as follows:

  • Required documents (for applicant which is a company);

  • Required documents (for applicant which is a partnership or sole proprietorship);

  • documents for applying for a business permit;


Online Booking

An appointment may be made through the online booking system to do the following at the office of the TIA:

  • submit an application for licence or business permit;

  • submit a renewal application for licence or business permit;

  • collect licence or business permit that has been issued or renewed; and

  • submit an application for shop registration.


Please click here to make an appointment.



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