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China Approved Destination Status (ADS) scheme

About the China Approved Destination Status (ADS) scheme

The Approved Destination Status (ADS) scheme is a bilateral tourism arrangement between the Chinese Government and a destination whereby Chinese tourists are permitted to undertake leisure travel in groups to that destination.

Austrade manages the Australian scheme in conjunction with Tourism Australia (TA) and the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP).

Australia's China ADS scheme allows Australia to host group leisure tour groups from China and permits the Australian Government, through Tourism Australia, to promote Australia as a leisure travel destination in China. The China ADS scheme underpins the growing Chinese inbound tourism market.

The objectives of the ADS scheme arrangements are to:

  • restore integrity, competition and fair trading to the Chinese inbound group leisure market
  • empower Chinese inbound tourists with knowledge and choice to exercise effective consumer power in the inbound market

The Australian Government streamlined the administrative arrangements for the ADS scheme in 2010 with a range of reforms to ensure Chinese tourists receive a quality Australian tourism experience. Approved ADS inbound tour operators are required to comply with the ADS Code of Business Standards and Ethics (the Code) version 2 (English (PDF, 1.8MB) or Chinese (PDF, 1.1MB)). The Code is backed by a compliance monitoring regime which includes various checks such as financial and random checks. Penalties for breaches of the Code may include suspension or revocation of an operator's ADS approval. See the Guidance table for ADS suspension and revocation – Sanctions procedures (DOC, 28KB) for more information.

Review of ADS Code of Business Standards and Ethics

Austrade is undertaking a review of the ADS Code of Business Standards and Ethics (the Code) to take account of changes in the regulatory and operating environments.

The current Code has been in place since 1999 and there are now several factors driving redesign of the scheme. The growing and changing China market, along with regulatory changes such as the wind up of the Travel Compensation Fund and the introduction of a new tourism law in China are driving reform.

The redesign will ensure that the scheme remains relevant in managing the changing environment, while ensuring sustained growth in Chinese visitors is achieved, along with an increase in quality for Chinese tourists. It is Austrade’s intention to have a new version of the Code in place in the second half of 2014.

In April 2014 Austrade released a discussion paper (PDF, 400KB) outlining the driving factors and principles governing redesign of the scheme. The submissions will be used to assist with the redesign of the scheme.

The Australia-China tourism relationship

Currently Australia is one of over 140 countries with ADS status. During 2012-13, there were over 163,000 Chinese visitors under the ADS scheme. Australia was one of the first western countries (along with New Zealand) to be granted ADS status in 1999, and has since hosted over one million Chinese tourists undertaking leisure travel in tour groups.

China is Australia’s fastest growing and highest spending inbound tourism market. For the 12 months ended 31 March 2014, Chinese tourism expenditure grew 15 per cent to contribute $5.1 billion to the Australian economy. On current projections, China will grow to between $7.4 billion and $9 billion in total annual expenditure by 2020 and is key to achieving the industry’s potential under the Government’s Tourism 2020 objectives.

For more information about the place of ADS in the Australia-China tourism relationship, refer to A Tourism Success Story (PDF, 28KB).

Australia and China's commitment to fostering the growth of sustainable and quality tourism was reinforced through the signing, in August 2006, of a five-year Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Australian Government and the China National Tourism Administration on the ADS scheme. This commitment was reaffirmed through the signing, in Beijing on 26 April 2011, of a broader Memorandum of Understanding on Strengthening Tourism Cooperation.

Who can register under the ADS scheme?

Appropriately qualified tourism businesses can apply to be registered as approved inbound tour operators under the ADS scheme.

The ADS scheme currently has 67 approved Inbound Tour Operators as at September 2014. A list of these operators is available - Approved Inbound Tour Operators (PDF, 92.25KB).

A copy of approved Outbound Tour Operators is available on the Federal Register of Legislative Instruments (FRLI) website.

Timeline and funding

The Australian Government provided $10.1 million in the 2014-15 Budget to extend and enhance the China ADS Scheme for a further four years to 30 June 2018.

Related documents


For more information about the China ADS scheme contact the ADS Executive Officer:
Phone: 1800 048 155

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