How to Start a Tour & Travel Business in the UAE

May 20, 2024
tour & travel business in dubai

The tour and travel industry in the UAE has witnessed a significant rise in luxury and experiential travel. The market is estimated to generate revenue of US$1,447 million in 2024 and to grow at a rate of 2.99% per year between 2024 and 2028, resulting in a projected market volume of US$1,628 million. The UAE has emerged as one of the top ten tourism destinations in the world, thanks to its modern infrastructure, world-class hotels and restaurants, shopping destination, and safe and inviting atmosphere for visitors.

Thanks to the government’s ongoing support, it has also significantly propelled cultural and entertainment activities in the UAE, giving rise to world-class exhibitions and live events that cater not only to local residents but also to tourists who are interested in these types of activities.

If your goal is to provide services to both local and international clients, you have unconstrained possibilities for capitalizing on this growing industry. 

If you are considering setting up a tour and travel business in the UAE, you should opt for a business license from SPC Free Zone. The activities you can choose from are mentioned below:

7020.52 – Tourism & Recreation Consultants

This is a business activity that encompasses the expertise of professionals that have a deep insight into the UAE tourism and recreation market. They have the ability to identify tourist preferences, consumer behavior, spending habits, and other economic factors. These consultants provide support in strategic and organizational planning, identifying opportunities in the market, and providing guidance for recreational facilities and tourist destinations that are designed to enhance a traveler’s or client’s experiences while minimizing adverse effects on the environment and local communities.

In addition, these consultants establish strong partnerships with relevant government bodies in order to promote the local culture and attractions that correspond with the desires and requirements of local communities.

They help clients deal with complicated legal and environmental duties to reduce risks and ensure long-term success because they have a deep knowledge of sustainable practices and adhere to regulatory standards. In general, tourism and recreation consultants have a significant impact on nurturing collaboration, driving innovation, and promoting responsible tourism practices that are mutually beneficial to visitors and the local community in the UAE.

 Tourism and recreational consultants are able to guide businesses in their organizational structure by outlining strategies that can include:

  • Implementing technology that addresses database management
  • Creating customized programs and products, organizing travel schedules, handling reservations, and managing travel paperwork.
  • Evaluating recreational programs, cultivating customer relationships, and streamlining operations to enhance the efficiency of managing travel and leisure projects.
  • Assisting businesses in handling pricing and maximizing revenues

This category does not include activities such as the design of computer software for accounting systems, legal advice and representation, accounting, bookkeeping, and auditing activities; tax consulting; architectural, engineering, and other technical advisory activities; advertising activities; market research and public opinion polling; executive placement or search consulting services; and educational consulting activities.

Third-party Approval: Prior approval is required from the Tourism Department (TD) for this business activity.

Filing of Economic Substance Return: Business Activity 7020.52 is exempt from this requirement.

Anti-Money Laundering Compliance: Business Activity 7020.52 is exempt from this requirement.

7910.00 – Travel agency and tour operator activities

Within this category are the activities of businesses that are primarily engaged in selling travel, tour, transportation, and accommodation services to the general public as well as corporate customers. The process of planning and putting together tours for sale through travel agencies or by agents like tour operators themselves also falls under this umbrella.

Third-party Approval: No third-party approval is required for this business activity.

Filing of Economic Substance Return: Business activity 7910.00 is exempt from this requirement.

Anti-Money Laundering Compliance: Business activity 7910.00 is exempt from this requirement.

7911.00 – Travel agency activities

This category facilitates organizing travel plans for both individual and business clients, a prominent component of travel agency activities. They assist with accommodation arrangements for lodging with hotels and resorts, manage reservations for transportation services, flights, and tours tailored to clients’ preferences and budgets. In addition, travel agencies provide documentation for immigration services for passport paperwork and visa processing. The travel agency can offer assistance with travel insurance options and plan group itineraries. They ensure that clients are well-informed about their chosen destination by providing insightful guidance.

In order to guarantee smooth and pleasurable travel experiences, travel agencies also provide continuous client support to answer questions and assist with critical issues related to travel.

Third-party Approval: Prior approval is required from the Tourism Department (TD) for this business activity.

Filing of Economic Substance Return: Business activity 7911.00 is exempt from this requirement.

Anti-Money Laundering Compliance: Business activity 7911.00 is exempt from this requirement.

7911.01 – Activities of agencies primarily engaged in selling travel, tour, transportation, and accommodation services to the general public and commercial clients

These are agencies primarily engaged in selling travel, tour, transportation, and accommodation services to the general public and commercial clients provide comprehensive travel solutions that simplify and enhance the travel experience. They assist with booking flights, arranging accommodations, organizing tour packages, and coordinating local transportation, ensuring seamless and enjoyable journeys. These agencies cater to both individual leisure travelers and corporate clients, offering expert advice, tailored itineraries, and exclusive deals. Their services make travel planning convenient and efficient, allowing clients to focus on enjoying their trips or conducting business effectively.

Third-party Approval: Prior approval is required from the Tourism Department (TD) for this business activity.

Filing of Economic Substance Return: Business activity 7911.01 is exempt from this requirement.

Anti-Money Laundering Compliance: Business activity 7911.01 is exempt from this requirement.

7912.00 – Tour operator activities

These involve organizing and providing a wide range of travel experiences for both individual and group travelers. These activities include creating comprehensive tour packages that typically bundle together transportation, accommodation, meals, sightseeing, and guided tours. Tour operators design itineraries that cater to various interests, such as cultural tours, adventure trips, and luxury vacations. They coordinate logistics, manage bookings, and often work with local guides and service providers to ensure a smooth and enjoyable travel experience. By leveraging their expertise and industry connections, tour operators can offer unique and curated travel experiences that are often difficult for travelers to arrange on their own.

Third-party Approval: No third-party approval is required for this business activity.

Filing of Economic Substance Return: Business activity 7912.00 is exempt from this requirement.

Anti-Money Laundering Compliance: Business activity 7912.00 is exempt from this requirement.

7912.01 – Arranging and assembling tours that are sold through travel agencies or directly by tour operators. The tours may include any or all of the following: transportation, accommodation, food, visits to museums, historical or cultural sites, theatrical, musical, or sporting events

These tours typically include a combination of transportation, accommodation, meals, and various activities. They may feature visits to museums, historical or cultural sites, and attendance at theatrical, musical, or sporting events. Tour operators meticulously plan and coordinate these elements to provide travelers with a seamless and enriching experience, ensuring that every aspect of the trip is taken care of. By offering these all-inclusive packages, they make travel planning easier for customers, providing them with well-organized and memorable journeys.

 Third-party Approval: No third-party approval is required for this business activity.

Filing of Economic Substance Return: Business activity 7912.01 is exempt from this requirement.

Anti-Money Laundering Compliance: Business activity 7912.01 is exempt from this requirement.

7912.02 – In Bound Tour Operator

The business covering the activity of an inbound tour operator ensures that tours can be arranged for local and international clients to promote the UAE. Usually, these tours include transportation, hotel bookings, meals, trips to famous landmarks, and cultural attractions. These tours are conducted for leisure travelers and corporate clients.

Inbound tour operators curate and sell tour packages by leveraging their local expertise and, if necessary, procuring permits to organize specific activities for clients or business travelers.

Third-party Approval: No third-party approval is required for this business activity.

Filing of Economic Substance Return: Business Activity 7912.02 is exempt from this requirement.

Anti-Money Laundering Compliance: Business Activity 7912.02 is exempt from this requirement.

 
7912.03 Outbound Tour Operator

This category covers tour operators who specialize in creating customized travel experiences for discerning clients in the UAE who are keen to see places outside of the country’s borders. These tour operators organize excursions for leisure travelers, curate packaged tours, or tailor events for business travellers or corporate companies. The operators provide a variety of packages that are sold to customers directly as well as through travel agencies. Outbound tour operators also build a network of vendors in different countries to ensure tours are conducted efficiently

These carefully planned trips include a variety of services, such as transportation, immigration services for visa processing, reservations in premium hotels, organizing gourmet dining experiences, and special access to iconic landmarks and cultural attractions.

Third-party Approval: No third-party approvals are required for this business activity.

Filing of Economic Substance Return: Business Activity 7912.03 is exempt from this requirement.

Anti-Money Laundering Compliance: Business Activity 7912.03 is exempt from this requirement.

7912.04 – Educational & Recreational Tours Organizing

This category covers the organising of educational and recreational excursions that usually include local and international tours for students. These tours are meticulously organized and put together, which can be booked either through travel agencies or directly from tour operators. The tours transcend conventional tourism; these tours are organized for educational purposes that can include educational events, competitions or cultural exchange programs. On the other hand, a recreational tour usually encompasses leisure activities and activities specifically crafted to provoke students’ intellectual inquisitiveness and how they experience the world around them.

These tours provide a comprehensive package that can include visa processing, transportation services, accommodation arrangements, dining reservations, and immersive experiences at museums, historical sites, and cultural landmarks, as well as theatrical, musical, or outdoor events.


Third-party Approval: No third-party approvals are required for this business activity.

Filing of Economic Substance Return: Business Activity 7912.03 is exempt from this requirement.

Anti-Money Laundering Compliance: Business Activity 7912.03 is exempt from this requirement.

This category covers activities that involve a range of offerings intended to make travel and leisure experiences more convenient for individuals and groups. This category includes a range of services such as transportation arrangements, booking hotels, reserving restaurants, organizing vehicle rentals, securing entertainment venue tickets, and facilitating access to sporting events.

Furthermore, it includes time-share exchange services, which allow individuals to trade their vacation ownership interests for different destinations or time periods. In addition, this category facilitates the sale of tickets for a wide range of entertainment events, such as theatrical shows, sports, and other recreational activities.

Businesses covering this activity provide visitor assistance services, like providing travel information, escorting tourists to local landmarks, and tourism promotion to enrich visitors’ experiences. Other reservation services and related activities are essential to delivering delightful and hassle-free travel and entertainment experiences.

This category does not include the activities of travel agencies and tour operators or the organization and management of events such as meetings, conventions, and conferences. 

Third-party Approval: No third-party approvals are required for this business activity.

Filing of Economic Substance Return: Business activity 7990.00 is exempt from this requirement.

Anti-Money Laundering Compliance: Business activity 7990.00 is exempt from this requirement.

This category covers the provision of other travel-related reservation services that comprise a wide array of services designed to streamline and improve the travel experience for both individuals and organizations. This activity involves reservations for a multitude of critical travel elements, including hotel booking, restaurant reservations, transportation services, vehicle rentals, and managing reservations for entertainment, sports, and other leisure events.

This category does not include the activities of travel agencies and tour operators or the organization and management of events such as meetings, conventions, and conferences. 

Third-party Approval: No third-party approvals are required for this business activity.

Filing of Economic Substance Return: Business Activity 7990.01 is exempt from this requirement.

Anti-Money Laundering Compliance: Business Activity 7990.01 is exempt from this requirement.

7990.04 – Provision of visitor assistance services: • Provision of travel information to visitors • Activities of tourist guides

This category covers the provision of visitor assistance services, which is a critical component of the travel business. This activity ensures that visitors have the necessary information and support throughout their travel. This includes providing extensive travel information to travelers, which encompasses facts about local sites and landmarks as well as practical guidance on transportation alternatives, food suggestions, and cultural knowledge.

Additionally, this business activity includes the services of tourist guides who offer tailored tours, enlightening commentary, and historical background to enrich visitors’ experiences at different locations. Businesses operating with this activity provide knowledgeable assistance to tourists, allowing them to confidently navigate through the local environment, and develop a greater understanding and admiration for the destinations they explore.

This category does not include activities of travel agencies and tour operators or the organization and management of events such as meetings, conventions, and conferences.

Third-party Approval: No third-party approvals are required for this business activity.

Filing of Economic Substance Return: Business activity 7990.04 is exempt from this requirement.

Anti-Money Laundering Compliance: Business activity 7990.04 is exempt from this requirement.

7990.05 – Tourism promotion activities

This category primarily involves tourism promotion activities, which are an essential component of destination marketing strategies. The objective is to implement marketing efforts that stimulate a positive image of local attractions and entice visitors via well-planned marketing campaigns and promotional initiatives.

A variety of promotional strategies are employed, encompassing advertising online and offline and curating social media campaigns. The objective is to present prospective travelers with personalized information about distinctive landmarks, cultural attractions, and world-class leisure prospects. The aim of conducting tourism promotions is to rouse interest and motivation to visit and investigate. Promotional activities for tourism are crucial as they can create demand, generate interest, and ultimately propel economic development via increased traveler spending and investment by emphasizing the unique qualities and allure of a particular destination.

This category does not include activities of travel agencies and tour operators, organization and management of events such as meetings, conventions and conferences.

Third-party Approval: No third-party approvals are required for this business activity.

Filing of Economic Substance Return: Business activity 7990.05 is exempt from this requirement.

Anti-Money Laundering Compliance: Business activity 7990.05 is exempt from this requirement.

9000.14 – Event Organizing

This category of business covers activities for event organizing. This can include operating facilities and providing services based on cultural and entertainment initiatives appealing to customers. Conducting this type of business encapsulates production setups and promoting events such as art and music that are classified as live performances, events, or exhibitions intended for the public.

Given the rapid rise of this type of business, it is also seen as a tourism promotion for customers to flock to the UAE. The growing popularity of this type of activity has significantly contributed to the infrastructure of event organizing in the UAE, especially on a global scale.

The activities that are usually classified in this business include concerts, opera or dance productions, and other stage productions like theater presentations. Other activities include literature, such as hosting writers and independent journalists, and public exhibitions of art, such as paintings and sculptures, etc.

This category does not include activities such as designing and programming for web pages, providing architectural design, developing engineering design, i.e., applying physical laws and principles of engineering in the design of machines, materials, instruments, structures, processes, and systems, and providing theatrical stage-set design

Third-party Approval: No third-party approvals are required for this business activity.

Filing of Economic Substance Return: Business Activity 9000.14 is exempt from this requirement.

Anti-Money Laundering Compliance: Business Activity 9000.14 is exempt from this requirement.


Did you find what you were looking for? Explore the other guides in our Activity Hub for exploring unique business ideas in Dubai and navigate the essentials of business setup with ease.

You can also calculate your business setup costs easily using our handy cost calculator and choose from our customized company setup packages to find your perfect fit.

Get your business license in the UAE today and explore a world of opportunities waiting for you.

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