If you are looking to engage in tourism related business in Thailand, you should apply for a tourism license. This license can be obtained from the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT). Since tourism business is restricted to foreigners under the Foreign Business Act, a foreigner may only engage or invest in such business through a Thai limited company.
“Tourism business” is a business entity providing services for tourists, for example organizing or operating tours, sight seeing, guide services and more. What it does not include is leasing of vehicles, transportation of passengers or facilitating hotel bookings and reservations. Moreover, a tourism business operator cannot act as an agent, but must sell its services directly to the end users – tourists.
In order to be eligible for obtaining a tourism license, the applicant needs to meet the following requirements:
- The business must be registered in Thailand, with a majority of Thai shareholding (individuals) and majority of Thai directors on the board. Only a Thai director is permitted to sign in binding the company for matters concerning tourism business, whereby the representative powers of such director can be limited to everything that concerns the tourism business.
- The business must have an office in Thailand which is clearly separated from other offices, and have a clear signboard with the full company name and TAT license number at the entrance. Sufficient documents should be provided by the legal owner of the property including a consent letter to evidence permission to use the address for recruitment business. Do note, virtual or serviced offices are usually not considered sufficient to operate a tourism business. A lease agreement of not less than two years should be provided.
- The Thai managing director must be at least 20 years of age, residing in Thailand, credit-worthy, not incapacitated, should never have been imprisoned unless for a negligent or minor offence.
- The applicant should prepare a business plan, to include information about how frequently the company will organise tours.
- The applicant should arrange an insurance plan for tourists and tour guides. A copy of the insurance policy will be required for submission during the application for the tourism license.
Since tourism is essential to Thai economy and national reputation, authorities place a big importance on credibility of tour businesses. Those as such have to provide evidence of credibility of their operations, either by undergoing a screening at the police station or obtaining a reference from two licensed tour operators.
Last step after obtaining a tourism license from TAT is to pay official fees and security deposit. The applicant will be required to deposit a security fee in cash, cashiers cheque or bank guarantee of:
- 200,000 THB in case of outbound tourism
- 100,000 THB in case of inbound tourism
- 50,000 THB for domestic tourism activities
- 10,000 THB if the tourism activities will only be organised in a specific area
Tourism License Validity and Extension
Once issued, the tourism license is valid for two years from the date of issue. To continue operating the business, the license must be renewed within 120 days prior to the expiry date. In the event of company dissolution, the license needs to be handed over to TAT within the last 30 days of its validity.