How to start a travel and tourism company in the UAE?


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The UAE’s tourism industry has been in ascendance for some time now. Dubai alone saw 7.28 million international visitors in 2021. The total number of international visitors from January to June 2022 is 7.12.

In 2019, the contribution of the travel and tourism sector to the UAE’s GDP was nearly AED 180.4 billion which is equivalent to 11.6% of the total GDP. This is predicted to increase to AED 116bn (USD 31.6bn) by 2027.

Naturally, this presents an incredible opportunity for the UAE’s entrepreneurs. If you have a passion for travel and business know-how, it’s easy to launch a travel agency in the UAE.

How to open a travel and tourism company in the UAE

As with starting any business in the UAE, there are a few steps you need to take before you can apply for your business license.

Step one is to establish your business activity – i.e. travel agency, tour operator, travel and tourism consultancy. This activity must align with one of the thousands permitted within the UAE. To ensure your license covers you for your chosen business activity, it is a good idea to work with a business formation company at this stage that can suggest those that align best with your business.

The next step is to choose a company name. This takes a little more thought in the UAE than in other parts of the world. Why? Because the UAE has a strict, yet easy-to-follow, set of naming conventions. Once again, an expert in company formation can help you make sure you adhere to them.

In short, you should avoid any offensive or blasphemous language. Avoid names of well-known organisations and avoid abbreviations if naming your company after yourself – i.e. Daisy Kraig Consulting, rather than D Kraig Consulting. You must also check that your chosen name is available to register.

Applying for a travel and tourism license in Dubai

Want to know how to open a travel and tourism company in the UAE? The first step is to apply for your business license.

The easiest way to do this is to apply to a UAE free zone. You can apply directly to the free zone or work with a company formation expert who can manage the entire application process on your behalf.

There are plenty of great reasons to establish your company in a free zone. Businesses setting up in a free zone benefit from customs tax exemption, no foreign currency restrictions, no paid-up share capital requirement, no annual audit, and an easy incorporation process. There is also no need to be present in the UAE to establish your new company.

You’ll also need to apply to the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) for your specific tourism license. There are three types to choose from: trade license for an outbound tour operator, trade license for an inbound tour operator, and trade license for a travel agency.

These license types are fairly self-explanatory. The outbound license allows you to organise trips out of the country, the inbound license allows you to organise trips for visitors to the country and the trade license for travel agency allows you to sell tours, plane tickets, and visit visas.

Whichever license you require, the process follows the same steps. Simply submit your application form, a copy of your passport, an outline of your business plan, and a clean criminal record certificate to the DTCM.

As well as your licenses, you’ll also require a visa to work in the UAE. Most free zone packages come with visa eligibility. You can also sponsor your dependants for their visas too. This follows the same process whether you wish to sponsor domestic staff or a child or spouse.

If working in a free zone, your account manager can help you with this process, managing your visa and license applications on your behalf.

If you are looking to get your company license in the UAE, free zone, or mainland, or even in Qatar and Saudi Arabia –  then our team can help.

entrepreneur working on his travel agency

Cost of a travel agency license

The cost of a travel agency license is largely dependent on a number of factors including company size, number of owners, business activities, and more.

Ready to launch your travel business in the UAE?

If you’re asking how to start a travel agency business, the answer is fairly simple. The company formation process is not overly complex, however, it does require a level of prior knowledge of the process. What’s more, it is important to note that the process is only straightforward if your license application is complete at the time of submission and free from errors.

To help you to ensure that this is the case, it’s a good idea to work with a company formation expert when establishing a new company in the UAE.

We are the team of Set Hub, your best business setup advisor across the Gulf Region. If you are looking to open your company in Dubai, across the UAE, in KSA or Qatar, get a free zone license, or start a business in the mainland, then we can help. From visa applications to all the necessary admin tasks, we handle it all – leaving you free to get on with your business.