From Australia, with love: Celebrity drama aims to lure Chinese tourists
In today's worldwide tug-of-war to win the hearts and wallets of Chinese tourists, Australia is pulling well above its weight.
Tourism Australia doubled its marketing budget for Chinese travelers last year (though no specific figure was revealed) and, according to some industry experts, the agency's Shanghai office is the largest in its global network.
And there's more.
Australia is now making a big bet on China's video-sharing sites and celebrities to attract more attention.
Love drama on Tudou and YouTube
Tourism Australia invited Taiwanese pop stars Show Lo (罗志祥) and Rainie Yang (杨丞琳) to shoot an Internet mini drama, promoting the country's scenery to more than 500 million Chinese netizens.
The drama, which is billed as "a modern love story with a little bit of suspense," is spread over five 10-minute episodes.
The drama is currently being filmed in Victoria, New South Wales and Tasmania and is due to hit YouTube and Chinese video site Tudou (土豆网) in April.
"Tourism Australia sees the potential and high engagement of online video portals and platforms in reaching Chinese consumers nationally in China and across the region," a spokesperson from the agency told us.
Meanwhile, five extra destination videos are being produced. And they will follow each of the drama's episodes to introduce the regions and attractions that appeared in the story.
According to Tourism Australia, "influential celebrities generate word-of-mouth recommendations, not only for the China market but also amongst the Greater China region."
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The new campaign cost AU$940,000, split between AU$370,000 on production and AU$570,000 for public relations activities and promotional support.
"Friends of Australia" advocacy network
This is not the first time that Show Lo has promoted Australia to mainland Chinese fans.
The 33-year-old star filmed 10 five-minute travel-themed promos last year in Queensland, which reached 400 million viewers through China’s Travel Channel and online video platforms.
This has become part of the reason for Tourism Australia to enlist the multi-talented actor, singer and dancer again this year.
Lo is also a member of "Friends of Australia," a global network of more than 100 opinion leaders and celebrities who promote Down Under to visitors.
The other Chinese members of the network include Hong Kong celebrity Karen Mok (莫文蔚), and travel writer Zhang Jinpeng (张金鹏).
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Rainie Yang has yet to join "Friends of Australia." The 28-year-old singer and actress was voted "Best Actress" in the 2010 Golden Bell Awards in Taiwan and is regarded a perfect screen partner with Lo.
Tourism Australia's ambition
China is now Australia's third largest source of inbound visitors, after New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
Last year, more than 540,000 mainland Chinese tourists spent AU$3.6 billion in Oz.
Tourism Australia estimates in its "China 2020 Strategic Plan" that 860,000 Chinese tourists would fork out approximately AU$8 billion annually in the country by 2020.
And their main target is big-city "affluent couples" from mainland China, who are envisaged as experienced travelers between the age of 30 and 49.