With 2017 officially named the China-Australia Year of Tourism, the Approved Destination Status (ADS) scheme and its role in ensuring quality experiences for Chinese group tours travelling to Australia, has never been more important or in such demand.
Almost two decades ago, Australia became one of the first western countries to receive organised tour groups from China under the ADS scheme.
It highlights the strong tourism partnership between the two nations which is set to strengthen following the launch of the 2017 China-Australia Year of Tourism over the weekend by Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Steven Ciobo and the Chairman of the China National Tourism Administration (CNTA), Dr Li Jinzao.
China is Australia’s most valuable inbound tourism market with 1.2 million Chinese tourists visiting Australia in the 12 months to November 2016, and by 2019-20 is forecast to be worth $18 billion in nominal terms.
Dan Williams, Austrade’s Assistant General Manager Tourism Policy, said about 32 per cent of leisure tourists from China currently enter Australia under the ADS visa stream.
‘To ensure ADS tourists receive a quality experience, inbound tour operators (ITOs) and tour guides in Australia and outbound tour operators in China are subject to a selection and monitoring process,’ said Williams.
‘Over the past 12 months Austrade has implemented a series of initiatives to improve this process and the overall quality of the ADS scheme.
‘From 1 July 2016, all ADS-approved tour guides must have one of the following: one years’ experience guiding inbound tours, a qualification in tourism or a membership with a professional tour guiding association,’ added Williams.
Currently, there are over 1700 tour guides who meet the skills requirements and are approved to operate in the ADS scheme.
Last year, Austrade also entered into a new contract with Ernst & Young to provide compliance monitoring services.
Compliance monitoring officers are responsible for conducting a variety of checks to ensure that ADS approved ITOs and tour guides comply with the requirements of the ADS Code of Business Standards and Ethics.
Williams said the code sets out the minimum quality standards and requirements for ADS tours and is an integral component of the ADS scheme.
'Compliance monitoring officers are set to intercept over 700 ADS tours across Australia over the next 12 months and will run a series of mystery shopper checks monitoring tours from start to finish.
‘Implementing these checks will not only help provide greater security for visitors to Australia by ensuring tourists are treated ethically and respectfully, but also assist in developing the tourism relationship with China,’ noted Williams.
Since being granted ADS status in 1999, Australia has hosted over one million ADS tourists. The Australia-China ADS scheme is also acknowledged as best practice by the CNTA which now maintains more than 140 similar arrangements.
Williams said with the outbound China market predicted to double to over 200 million travellers annually by 2020, Australia’s robust ADS scheme will ensure it receives a share of this important market, creating more Australian jobs and assisting economic growth.