Approved Destination Status (ADS) scheme

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 32 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.

The ADS unit recently produced a number of informative videos about the ADS scheme. Please take a look at our three minute video on the ADS scheme.

Chinese version

What are the benefits of the ADS scheme?

China is Australia’s fastest growing and highest spending inbound tourism market. In the year ending September 2016, Chinese visitors spent $9.1 billion in Australia, an increase of 18 per cent from the previous year. Tourism forecasts estimate the Chinese inbound market will be worth over $18 billion by 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 to market directly to Chinese consumers.

The success of the ADS scheme has also helped to strengthen the 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. The MOU was renewed by the two governments in April 2016 during Australia Week in China.

What is Austrade’s role?

Austrade manages Australia’s ADS scheme in conjunction with the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) and Tourism Australia. 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.

Tourism Australia 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.

ADS Advisory Panel

The ADS Advisory Panel meets twice a year to discuss the administration of the ADS scheme and initiatives to improve the scheme. Membership includes representatives from federal and state governments, industry associations and ITOs.

The last ADS Advisory Panel meeting was on 7 December 2016. Download a copy of the communiqué (PDF).

If you have any questions about the ADS Advisory Panel or the communiqué please contact the ADS unit.

Annual Inbound Tour Operator Training Forum

Austrade holds an annual training forum for ADS approved inbound tour operators (ITOs) to discuss key issues and updates related to the scheme and the ADS Code of Business Standards and Ethics.

The last forum was held on 1 December 2016 in Canberra. Attendees heard from the ADS unit, the compliance monitoring agency (Ernst & Young), Tourism Australia and the DIBP on a range of topics. Download a copy of the presentation (PDF).

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 during business hours (8:30am to 5pm, Monday to Friday).
Phone: 1800 048 155