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The Ultimate Manual for Setting up a Tourism Business in Dubai

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Dubai’s skyline serves not just as an emblem of architectural prowess but as an invitation to entrepreneurs aiming to carve a niche in the tourism industry. With the emirate’s travel and tourism sector poised to contribute an astounding AED 280 billion to its economy by 2028, there’s no question that starting a tourism business in Dubai holds lucrative promise. Prior to the pandemic, the city welcomed close to 17 million visitors a year, with expenditures soaring over AED 143 billion, underscoring the immense potential that awaits new businesses. As we tailor this guide to demystify what is tourism business in the context of Dubai’s bustling market, let’s embark on an excursion into the prospects that could redefine your entrepreneurial journey.

Navigating the waters of a business setup in Dubai may seem daunting, however, with a well-charted course and the right insights, the process becomes surmountable. In this manual, we will unravel how to start a tourism business in Dubai, enlightening you on the various tourism licenses Dubai offers, and the intricacies involved in securing them. Whether it’s an Inbound Tour Operator License or a Travel Agent License you’re seeking, each permit flings open doors to an array of services in the tourism spectrum. Our mission is to ease your journey, providing a step-by-step guide on how to set up a tourism business that not only meets legal standards but thrives amidst Dubai’s investor-friendly environment and growing tourist footfall. Let’s explore together the avenues to transform your vision for a flourishing tourism business in Dubai into a vivid reality.

Understanding Dubai’s Tourism Market

Understanding the vibrancy of Dubai’s tourism market is pivotal for anyone looking to establish a tourism business in Dubai. In the first stretch of 2023, the city’s allure as a global destination has been more evident than ever:

  • Visitor Statistics:
    • In the initial four months alone, Dubai welcomed a staggering 6.02 million overnight visitors, with a significant contribution from India, accounting for 806,000 guests, solidifying its position as a top source market (Dubai Tourism).
    • The year witnessed an impressive 17.15 million overnight visitors, marking a 19% increase from the previous year, showcasing the industry’s robust recovery and growth (Dubai Statistics Center).
    • By October, the number had reached 13.90 million, with India again leading the international guest numbers with 2.0 million visitors (Global Media Insight).
  • Accommodation and Visitor Origins:
    • Dubai boasts 821 operational hotels, offering an extensive range of 150,291 rooms, with an average daily rate of 536 AED, catering to the diverse needs of travelers.
    • The top five visitor origins for 2023 included India (2.20 million), Oman (1.57 million), Saudi Arabia (1.45 million), the United Kingdom (1.25 million), and Russia (0.91 million), highlighting the global appeal of Dubai’s tourism offerings.
    • The distribution of visitors by region reveals a cosmopolitan mix, with Western Europe leading at 19%, followed closely by South Asia (18%) and the GCC (16%), among others, illustrating the city’s international magnetism.
  • Tourism Drivers and Future Outlook:
    • The tourism sector’s contribution to Dubai’s growth is undeniable, with continuous efforts to diversify the economy and enhance the city’s appeal as a premier destination.
    • Dubai’s commendation as the number one destination in the ‘Tripadvisor Travellers’ Choice Awards’ in 2023 is a testament to its excellence in hospitality and tourism (XRealty).
    • With 8.55 million international visitors across the first three quarters, and attractions like iconic landmarks, major events, Expo 2020’s legacy, and cultural attractions, Dubai’s tourism landscape is poised for further expansion.

      For entrepreneurs pondering how to start a tourism business in Dubai, these statistics are not just numbers but narratives of success waiting to be joined. As we delve into the essentials of a business setup in Dubai, understanding these trends is crucial for aligning your tourism business in Dubai with the market’s trajectory.

Types of Tourism Businesses You Can Start in Dubai

Embarking on the journey of establishing a tourism business in Dubai, you have three main business structures to choose from: Mainland, Free Zone, and Offshore. Each offers unique benefits tailored to different business needs and objectives. We’ll guide you through the types of tourism businesses you can start and the steps to make your entrepreneurial dreams a reality in the heart of the UAE’s tourism hub.

Types of Tourism Businesses in Dubai

  • Mainland Business: This structure allows you to operate locally and internationally without limitations. It’s ideal for those who wish to have a physical presence in Dubai and engage directly with the city’s bustling tourism market.
  • Free Zone Business: Opting for a Free Zone business setup provides tax exemptions, full ownership, and the benefit of repatriating profits and capital. This is a compelling option for foreign investors.
  • Offshore Company: For those looking to expand their existing tourism enterprise or manage business from abroad, an offshore company offers privacy, asset protection, and the ease of international operations.

Steps to Starting Your Tourism Business

  1. Register Your Business: Start by registering with theDepartment of Economic Development and theDubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, ensuring you meet all the legal requirements for your chosen structure.
  2. Choose Your License Type: Depending on your business activities, select from various licenses such as the Inbound Tour Operator License, Outbound Tour Operator License, or Travel Agent License. Each license caters to specific services within the tourism sector.
  3. Prepare the Necessary Documents: Submit a detailed list of documents, including a completed Tourism License Application form and certification of qualifications, to obtain your tourism business license in Dubai.

Licensing Conditions and Financial Considerations

  • LLC Requirements: For a travel agency, an LLC formation is required where 49% of shares are owned by a foreign national and 51% by a Local Sponsor. The manager must possess at least 3 years of experience in managing travel, tourism, or hospitality businesses.
  • Financial Commitments: A deposit is mandatory with the DTCM: 100,000 Dirhams for a Travel Agency or Inbound Travel Operator License and 200,000 Dirhams for an Outbound Travel Operator License.
  • Estimated Costs: The overall cost tostart a tourism business in Dubai includes registration fees, trade and tourism license fees, visa costs for employees, office rental, and marketing expenses.

    By understanding these types and steps, you’re better equipped to determine the best path forward for your tourism business in Dubai. Whether you’re considering how to start a tourism business in Dubai or looking to expand an existing one, the city’s infrastructure and business-friendly environment offer a fertile ground for your entrepreneurial ambitions. With the right guidance, such as fromShuraa Business Setup orMSZ Consultancy, navigating the complexities of business setup Dubai becomes a smooth and efficient process.

Step-by-Step Guide to Starting Your Tourism Business in Dubai

Embarking on the entrepreneurial journey to establish a tourism business in Dubai is an exciting venture. To ensure a smooth setup process, follow these essential steps:

  1. Company Name Registration and Pre-Approval:
    • Start with registering your company name and securing pre-approval from the Department of Economic Development (DED).
    • Engage with a business consultant to understand the latest rules and regulations, which could influence your business setup Dubai decisions.
  2. Tourism License Registration:
    • Choose the appropriate tourism license for your business activities: Inbound Tour Operator License, Outbound Tour Operator License, or Travel Agent License. Each license has specific services and requirements, so it’s crucial to select the one that aligns with your business model.
    • Gather the necessary documents, including the Tourism License Application form, passport copies, manager’s qualifications, and a No Objection letter from the Civil Aviation Authority, and submit them to the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) for approval.
    • Ensure you have a minimum office space of 30 square meters for each activity to comply with local regulations.
  3. Legal and Financial Formalities:
    • With the recent change effective June 1, 2021, foreign nationals can now enjoy 100% ownership of their tourism company in Dubai, eliminating the need for a UAE national partner.
    • Form an LLC if required, where traditionally 49% of shares would be foreign-owned, and 51% by a Local Emirati national, although full foreign ownership is now possible.
    • Sign the Memorandum of Association (MOA) or Local Service Agent (LSA) agreement at a Notary public or DED, and secure liability insurance up to 2 million Dirhams.
    • Rent your office or shop premises and register your tourism license with Dubai Chamber to obtain the ‘Dubai Chamber Certificate,’ a prerequisite for business registration with various government departments and expansion to other emirates.

      By following these steps and collaborating with reputable business consultancy firms likeShuraa Business Setup orKiltons Business Setup Services, you can navigate the complexities of how to start a tourism business in Dubai with confidence. Additionally, consider the unique services and support provided byMeydan Free Zone for new businesses, which include financial strategies optimization and dedicated assistance. With Dubai’s status as a global tourism hub, the right approach to business setup Dubai can lead to a prosperous future in this dynamic industry.

Navigating Legal Requirements and Regulations

Embarking on the journey of setting up atourism business in Dubai requires a keen understanding of the legal landscape. As your guide, I am here to walk you through the legal requirements and regulations that will ensure your business is compliant and poised for success:

Legal Steps for Tourism License Registration

  • Initial Registration: Begin by registering your business with theDepartment of Economic Development and obtaining pre-approval. This is a crucial first step in ensuring that your business is recognized by local authorities.
  • Choosing the Right License: Select from the three categories of tourism licenses available in Dubai:
    • Inbound Tour Operator License
    • Outbound Tour Operator License
    • Travel Agent License
      Each license is designed for specific tourism-related activities, so it’s important to choose the one that fits your business model best.
  • Documentation: Prepare a set of required documents, including a completedTourism License Application form, copies of valid passports, and a detailed project report to demonstrate the economic and technical feasibility of your tourism project.

Managerial and Operational Considerations

  • Experience Matters: The manager of your tourism business must have a minimum of three years of experience in managing travel, tourism, or hospitality businesses. This ensures that your business is led by someone who understands the intricacies of the industry.
  • Office Space Requirements: A physical office space in Dubai is mandatory to comply with local regulations. This space should be conducive to the activities you will be conducting and reflect the professional image of your business.

Compliance and Financial Regulations

  • AML Regulations: Align with anti-money laundering regulations by registering with the UAE Financial Intelligence Unit’sgoAML service. This is essential for financial companies and Designated Non-Financial Businesses and Professions (DNFBP).
  • Annual Audits: Keep meticulous financial records and obtain an annual audit report. Mainland and free zone companies are required to appoint an auditor to inspect their books annually, ensuring transparency and accountability.
  • Dubai Chamber Registration: Once your tourism license is in hand, register with theDubai Chamber to facilitate registration with various government departments and to aid in business expansion to other emirates.

    By adhering to these legal requisites, you lay a solid foundation for yourtourism business in Dubai. The Department of Economy & Tourism in Dubai oversees legislations related to tourism businesses, and for any registration inquiries, you can reach out to Rashid through their innovativeAI technology. With these steps, yourbusiness setup Dubai will not only meet the required standards but also be well-positioned to thrive in the vibrant tourism sector of Dubai.


As we draw this comprehensive guide to a close, we reflect on the vibrant opportunities that Dubai presents for those eager to dive into the tourism sector. Establishing a tourism business in this thriving city is not just about tapping into a booming economy; it’s about joining a narrative of innovation and growth. The critical steps and legal insights provided herein are designed to streamline your journey from a nascent idea to a full-fledged venture resonating with Dubai’s dynamic tourism heartbeat.

In leaving this exploration, remember that your aspirations align with the city’s forward-moving spirit. Dubai’s robust infrastructure, cosmopolitan clientele, and supportive business ecosystem are pillars that will uphold your business ambitions. It is this environment that assures us that the tourism businesses nurtured here are well-poised for a future as bright and enduring as the city’s famed skyline.


Embarking on the path of setting up a tourism business in Dubai can raise several questions. To help you navigate through this process, here are some frequently asked questions that entrepreneurs like you commonly encounter:

  • What are the initial steps to set up a travel agency in Dubai?
    • Decide on a legal structure for your business, whether mainland or free zone.
    • If you’re a foreign entrepreneur, appoint a local agent to assist with the setup.
    • Choose the type of travel agency you wish to establish.
    • Prepare the required documents, such as passport copies, company name choices, and an office lease agreement.IBG Consulting
  • What are the financial requirements for obtaining a tourism license in Dubai?
    • A deposit of 100,000 AED is needed for a Travel Agency or Inbound Travel Operator license.
    • For an Outbound Travel Operator license, a deposit of 200,000 AED is required.
    • You must have a physical office, with a minimum space of 30 square meters.Visit Dubai
  • How can I ensure compliance with Dubai’s tourism regulations?
    • Engage with company setup consultants to facilitate the process and ensure adherence to regulations.
    • Keep in mind that Dubai offers four types of tourism licenses: Travel Agency License, Travel Company License, Inbound Travel Operator License, and Outbound Travel Operator License.Business Link UAE

      In addition to these queries, it’s essential to focus on creating a tourism business in Dubai that stands out through a unique selling point and excellent customer service. As you consider how to start a tourism business in Dubai, remember that the city’s business-friendly environment, tax exemptions, and cultural diversity are significant benefits that you can leverage.SPC Free Zone

      When it comes to visas for investors and employees, the requirements will vary based on the company type. Generally, a residence visa is required for living and working in Dubai, which is an important consideration during your business setup Dubai process.How to Start a Business in Dubai

      Lastly, it’s worth noting that Dubai boasts over 40 Free Zones, with each offering different advantages such as no income or corporate tax, 100% foreign ownership, and no duties on imports or exports. These zones also provide excellent support services to businesses, making them an attractive option for setting up your tourism business in Dubai.Kiltons Business Setup Services

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