Approved Destination Status (ADS) policy

146 destinations around the world  signed the bilateral tourism agreement with China, called ADS as of 2013. The list of destinations that have actively begun to implement the agreement and promote tourism to the Chinese is below. 

ADS was first introduced in the early nineties for destinations in Southeast Asia such as Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia. Prior to ADS, travelling abroad was only allowed for business purpose and official visits with government approval needed for every single visit. ADS policy was created to account for the growing interest of Chinese citizens in foreign travel and the fast increase in disposable income.

ADS is granted to overseas destinations through a bilateral government agreement. The ADS only concerns tourism groups handled by assigned Chinese local travel agencies. Business and official travel to overseas destinations are not included in ADS agreements. The purpose of ADS is to have a control mechanism on the organising parties on both sides (local travel agencies and international tour operators) in order to guarantee safe and reliable tourism services for the Chinese customers.

An important issue within ADS is to avoid possible illegal immigration through tourism channels. All tourism groups travelling within the ADS framework are supposed to be monitored by both Chinese and foreign authorities to ensure they return to China. Embassies and consulates apply different methods to monitor the return of the Chinese tourists. Whenever a tourism group member does not return to China, the local travel agency is held responsible and sanctions are applied.

Only certified ADS travel agencies are allowed to promote and organise tourist groups including visa application and payment of foreign currency to foreign parties. Each of the certified travel agencies must assign special couriers to handle the visa application procedure. Countries without an ADS agreement are not allowed to receive tourism groups from China or to promote their destination in China for tourism and are restricted to business and official travel groups only.

Excerpt from the China Outbound Travel Handbook 2008