How to open a travel agency in the UAE

In the past two decades, the UAE has fast become a global tourism hotspot. Millions of business and leisure travellers visit every year for its world-class dining offering, eye-popping architecture, and brilliant beaches. The opportunities don’t only lie in inbound tourism either. With an expatriate population accounting for 89% of the population, there are – literally – millions of prospective holidaymakers looking to explore the next best destination.

If you’re considering opening a travel agency in the UAE, our guide to the process should help give you an idea of what to expect. We will explore the following topics:

  • Steps to opening a travel agency in the UAE
  • Cost of opening a travel agency in the UAE
  • Advantages of opening a travel agency in the UAE
  • Why choose SPC Free Zone?

Steps to opening a travel agency in the UAE

As with any other business in the UAE, you will need to obtain a travel agency licence to legally set up a company and operate your business. Getting hold of one is relatively straightforward, though it’s worth working with a partner on the ground who is familiar with local laws and regulations to avoid any bureaucratic holdups. We’ve broken the process down into three simple steps to give you an idea of how it works.

Step 1: Submit your application

The process kicks off with your licence application. This requires details such as your business activity and your company name. When it comes to choosing a name for your travel agency, make sure it hasn’t already been registered in the UAE as this will nullify your application. You should also make sure it complies with the UAE’s naming conventions. For instance, any blasphemous or potentially offensive names will immediately be rejected. Provided there aren’t any hiccups, you can receive your licence in as little as two hours in SPC Free Zone.

Step 2: Set up e-channel services

To speed up your application process and make it easier to manage each step, the UAE has introduced a handy e-channel service that eliminates unnecessary paperwork. Thanks to this system, you can apply for your entry permit online and manage your application. Once your entry permit is approved, you have 60 days to stay in the country and complete the setup process.

Step 3: Activate status change

After you’ve received your entry permit, you can activate your status change. Some citizens can do this in-country, others will need to exit and re-enter the emirate. It all depends on your country of citizenship. Once you have activated this, you can apply for your Emirates ID card. This involves a little more than an application document, as you’ll need to book yourself in for a series of medical and fitness tests. Once you have passed these and a medical professional has signed it off, you will receive your ID card. With this, you can rent properties, open bank accounts and take out a phone contract.

There’s no need to do it all alone, though. SPC Free Zone has helped countless travel agents set up their businesses in the UAE. We can help make the process as easy and affordable as possible.

Cost of opening a travel agency business in the UAE

You can open a travel agency business for as little as AED 5,750 in a free zone like SPC Free Zone. This price includes your business licence, Memorandum of Association (MOA), business activity certificate and a visa allocation of up to 100 quotas, alongside other benefits.

However, it’s worth keeping in mind that there will be additional costs along the way too. For example, will you need to rent premises to act as a physical ‘shop front’ for your business? You might find this gives your new travel agency extra credibility. You may also need to pay into a specific insurance policy. For a more accurate idea of how much it will cost you to open your travel agency in the UAE, get in touch with SPC Free Zone. Our knowledgeable business advisors will provide a bespoke quote tailored to your specific needs for free.

Advantages of opening a travel agency in the UAE

Setting up a travel agency in one of the world’s fastest-growing holiday destinations has its perks, including:

  • Tourism hotspot

The UAE offers something for everyone, from beaches and luxurious hotels to yachts and golf clubs. It attracts everyone from high net-worth individuals, including A-list celebrities and VIPs, to culture vultures. This diverse holiday offering is ripe with opportunities for savvy travel agents.

  • Strategic location

The UAE is well connected to Asia, Europe and North Africa. It’s home to one of the busiest airports in the world, as well as prestigious airlines such as Emirates Airlines and Etihad Airlines.

  • Government support for the tourism industry

Tourism contributes approximately 10% of the UAE’s GDP and around 317,400 jobs, so it follows that the government would do everything it can to keep numbers up. Tourism policies and legislations are constantly reviewed and updated to support tourism development.

  • Low oil prices

Fuel is significantly cheaper in the UAE than elsewhere, which helps make tours and travel more cost-effective.

  • Competitive tax regime

If you set up your travel agency in the UAE, you can push your profit margins even further. The government is committed to driving entrepreneurship and offers one of the most competitive tax regimes in the world. For instance, business owners pay zero personal income tax and only start paying corporate tax when earning more than AED 375,000 on the mainland.

  • Easy business setup

Foreign nationals can set up a travel agency in the UAE easily with the help of a company formation advisor like SPC Free Zone. What’s more, providing you set up in a free zone, expatriates can enjoy 100% ownership without a UAE sponsor.

Why choose SPC Free Zone?

SPC Free Zone is located in the heart of Sharjah, just 15 minutes from one of the world’s busiest international airports. We offer quick, flexible and competitive business setup in the UAE and some of the most affordable setup packages in the region. With immigration services onsite, you can have your tourism business licence issued in under two hours.

We also offer our customers a wide range of comprehensive benefits. You can choose from 1,500 business activities and opt for a dual licence that offers both mainland and free zone in one. Each licence incudes up to 20 visas, too. What’s more, you can benefit from competitive advantages that maximise your profits, including zero paid-up share capital, 0% corporate and personal income tax and 100% foreign ownership.

Interested in launching a travel agency in the heart of the UAE? Reach out to our friendly team to get started now.

Embark on your entrepreneurial journey.

SPC