Tourists from Asian countries on package tours have for years complained of being taken to certain shopping outlets (sometimes linked in some way to the tour operators or agents organising their trips) to the exclusion of other shopping opportunities.
The Australian Government has tried to set that right by introducing some competition into shopping.
The Government has now announced that it has suspended Auga Travel Service Pty Ltd (Auga) from participating in the China: Approved Destination Status (ADS) scheme for a three-month period.
The ADS scheme provides streamlined travel opportunities for Chinese tour groups to Australia whilst ensuring that the integrity of Australia’s visitor visa program is maintained.
Australian travel agent, Auga, has been suspended for breaching the ADS scheme’s Code of Business Standards and Ethics by omitting a scheduled visit to a competitive shopping outlet. Under the Code, where a visit to a commission-linked shopping outlet is planned, the itinerary must also include a prior visit of at least the same duration to a competitive retail area.
There is no suggestion in the Australian Government statement that Auga is connected in any way with the outlet it took clients to.
Tourism Minister Martin Ferguson said it was important that ADS approved operators were held accountable to the Code to ensure professional, high quality service for Chinese visitors.
“It is disappointing that we have had to suspend a tourism operator, but I make no apologies for rigorously ensuring standards are met, and that our Chinese guests receive the best experience possible,” Ferguson said.
“The scheme has been enormously successfully, with more than 732,000 Chinese visitors enjoying Australia since the program began in August 1999, and all operators in the scheme, Australian or Chinese, are expected to maintain its integrity.”
Providing quality experiences for Chinese visitors is particularly important to the Australian tourism industry.
In 2011, Australia welcomed over 500,000 Chinese visitors, making China the third largest source of visitors to Australia. The independent Tourism Forecasting Committee estimates that arrivals from China will grow by 7.8 per cent per year on average, to reach 958,000 arrivals in 2020.
A number of initiatives, including T-QUAL Accreditation, the Strategic Tourism Investment Grant – Lifting Quality in the China Market and Tourism Australia’s Quality Experiences project, are also helping to raise the quality of tour experiences for Chinese tour groups and ensuring Australia is a competitive and appealing destination to Chinese visitors.
The ADS scheme is a bilateral tourism arrangement established in 1999 between the Chinese Government and the Australian Government – recognising the increasing interest in visiting Australia shown by Chinese people.
The ADS scheme is managed by the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism (RET) in conjunction with the Department of Immigration and Citizenship and Tourism Australia.
Fifty Australian agents have been approved by the Tourism Minister to participate in the scheme, the Department of Immigration and Citizenship website notes. Special safeguards are in place to ensure that visa holders comply with their visa conditions and that the Australian ADS agents help maintain the integrity of the scheme.
Edited by : Peter Needham