China's biggest stars help bring Aussie hotspots to Asian screens

TWO of China's biggest heart-throbs have wandered around Federation Square, explored graffiti-filled city lanes and filmed in St Kilda over the past few days, barely raising an eyebrow.

But when their Taiwanese online drama series - a modern love story with a little bit of suspense - screens in China in April it will be seen by about 10 million people hanging on their every word and kiss.

Tourism authorities have funded the Australian visit of the celebrities Show Lo and Rainie Yang with more than $1 million and hope that many of their Chinese fans will want to copy them and visit here.

Tourism Australia managing director Andrew McEvoy said the two Taiwanese stars have a combined following of more than 25 million fans on online channels and microblogging sites that have exploded in popularity in China.

"Through the ages, tourism has generally been about word of mouth and in a digital age people like Show Lo and Rainie Yang are word of mouth personified," he said.

"The power of celebrity and the power of new channels to reach more people more often is huge. It creates a great platform for us to promote Australia."

China is Australia's fastest growing market for international visitors. Last year 540,000 Chinese visited, generating $3.6 billion in spending, a 20 per cent increase from 2010. Tourism Australia says the potential for growth is $9 billion by 2020.

Lo and Yang are filming five 10-minute episodes of the drama series in Victoria, Tasmania and NSW. Each episode will also include a five-minute vignette about the tourist attractions featured.

Additionally, Lo will shoot footage for a series of music videos with Australian backdrops to promote his new album. The music videos will screen on Asia's major TV channels.

"Creating relationships with international opinion leaders and celebrities like Show Lo who advocate Australia as a holiday destination has become a major part of our marketing and public relations strategy," Mr McEvoy said.

Previously, Tourism Australia has used Indian Bollywood stars as part of its advocacy program, opinion leaders such as Richard Branson and Oprah Winfrey, who visited in December 2010 to film four episodes of her show.

"Oprah Winfrey is a great example of advocacy," Mr McEvoy said. "The shows have been seen in 145 countries by 70 million people."

Tourism Australia recently surveyed 500 Americans holidaying in Australia and 63 per cent said they had been directly influenced to come here by Oprah Winfrey, Mr McEvoy said.

Another recent survey of 500 Americans who will holiday in Australia in the next 12 months revealed that 50 per cent were directly influenced by Winfrey.