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China Approved Destination Status (ADS) scheme

Approved Destination Status (ADS) scheme

Attention Tour Guide Applicants


Due to an overwhelming number of tour guides applying to join the ADS scheme, the ADS unit is taking longer than normal to process applications. If you have applied to join the schemeyou may commence working as an ADS tour guide using your application number and no penalties will apply if you are unable to produce your tour guide identification on request. If you have received an outcome email from the ADS unit stating that you are not approved, then you are not allowed to work as an ADS tour guide.

If your application has been approved, please allow four to six weeks for your tour guide ID card to be produced. The ADS unit will advise when the application backlog has been cleared and penalties may then be applied from that date.

The new ADS Code of Business Standards and Ethics is now available

On 8 December 2014 Austrade released the new ADS Code of Business Standards and Ethics. The new code sets out the responsibilities of inbound tour operators and tour guides operating within the ADS scheme. The new code took effect on 19 January 2015 and is available in English (PDF, 948KB) and Chinese (PDF, 743KB). Please note if there are differences between the English and Chinese code, the English code will prevail.

What is the ADS scheme?

The Approved Destination Status (ADS) scheme allows Chinese tourists to travel to Australia in guided groups. Tourist visas under the ADS scheme are only available to people travelling in tours organised by outbound tour operators (OTOs) approved by Australian and Chinese government authorities.

In 1999 Australia was one of the first western countries to be granted ADS status. Since then, Australia has hosted over one million ADS tourists. Currently, about 35 per cent of leisure tourists from China are ADS tourists.

The objectives of the scheme are to restore integrity, competition and fair trading to the Chinese inbound group market and to empower Chinese tourists with knowledge and choice so they can exercise their consumer power in the market.

To ensure ADS tourists receive a quality experience inbound tour operators (ITOs) and tour guides in Australia and OTOs in China are subject to a selection and monitoring process. For a list of ADS approved ITOs and tour guides see the key documents list below. For a list of the ADS approved OTOs in China please visit the ComLaw website.

What are the benefits of the ADS scheme?

China is Australia’s fastest growing and highest spending inbound tourism market. In 2013-14 Chinese visitors spent A$5.25 billion in Australia, an increase of 16.3 per cent from the previous year. Tourism forecasts estimate the Chinese inbound market will be worth A$8.48 billion in 2020.

Australia’s position as one the first western destinations to be granted ADS gave it a strong start in marketing its tourism product to China. Australia’s ADS status allows Tourism Australia (TA) to market directly to Chinese consumers.

The success of the ADS scheme has also helped to strengthen the whole Australia-China tourism relationship. Australia and China's commitment to fostering the growth of sustainable and quality tourism was reinforced through the signing of a five-year memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the Australian Government and the China National Tourism Administration on the ADS scheme in August 2006. This commitment was reaffirmed through the signing of a broader MOU on strengthening tourism cooperation in April 2011.

What is Austrade’s role?

Austrade manages Australia’s ADS scheme in conjunction with the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) and TA. Austrade’s main functions under the ADS scheme are:

  • Approving ITOs and tour guides to join the ADS scheme
  • Ensuring ITOs and tour guides comply with the ADS Code of Business Standards and Ethics
  • Working with DIBP and other Government agencies to address issues related to the ADS scheme such as tourism quality and the supply of Chinese speaking tour guides
  • Managing the ADS Advisory Panel which provides an interface between the Australian Government and the tourism industry on ADS matters.
  • Maintaining the Australia-China tourism relationship through an annual China Tourism Dialogue where senior Australian and Chinese government officials meet to discuss a range of topics including the ADS scheme, visas, marketing and research.

TA is responsible for marketing Australia to Chinese consumers and for working with OTOs to equip them with the knowledge and skills to create and sell high quality tour packages to Australia.

DIBP is responsible for the immigration aspects of the scheme. DIBP is responsible for granting ADS visas and in conjunction with the China National Tourism Administration they approve OTOs to sell ADS tour packages and apply for ADS visas on the tourists’ behalf. DIBP also assists Austrade to approve ITOs and tour guides to join the ADS scheme.

Apply to join the scheme

Austrade welcomes applications from ITOs and tour guides to join the scheme at any time. Please visit the ITO or tour guide pages to access the application form.

Key documents


If you have questions or would like more information on the ADS scheme contact Austrade’s ADS unit.
Phone: 1800 048 155

  • Tourism and Austrade integration

    On 3 October 2013, responsibility for tourism policy, programs and research transferred to Austrade from the former Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism.

    Tourism Australia remains a separate statutory authority with primary responsibility for the international marketing of Australian tourism, reporting to the Minister for Trade and Investment.

  • Tourism 2020 Newsletter

    The Tourism 2020 Newsletter brings you news on government activities to support the tourism industry.

    Contact to subscribe.

  • Contact Austrade

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