Tourism Australia, a governmental agency responsible for promoting Australia as a destination for leisure and tourism, pored million dollars into a social media marketing campaign in 2018-2019, the local media outlet ABC reported.
Historically, China has been the most significant source of tourists for Australia; however, the agency passed over Chinese social media stars and the lion’s share of their budget went to Hins Cheung, a Hong Kong-based pop star of Chinese origin.
A Hong Kong singer, dubbed as a “secessionist mouse dropping” by a Chinese newspaper, is known for his sympathy for pro-democracy activists who organized the umbrella protest movement in Hong Kong in 2014.
The influencer reportedly received $112,500 from the Australian state agency to promote the country’s tourism.
The representatives of Tourism Australia explained that all influencer sponsorship deals were approved following internal procedures, though, apparently, it did not involve the assessment of political risk related to the potential conflict with mainland Chinese authorities.
“He was engaged on the basis that he is a popular Hong Kong singer and TV personality with a strong social media profile and would resonate with the target market of the campaign which was young, fashion-conscious Hong Kong travelers,” a spokesman said.
The official also added that the agency had not received any complaints regarding Cheung. Moreover, the agency is satisfied with the campaign’s outcome, which exceeded the initial targets in terms of media exposure and resulting in visitor arrivals.
According to Patrick L’Espoir Decosta, a senior lecturer in tourism at the ANU, the risks of the Chinese backlash are low because the campaign was focused mainly on the Hong Kong audience. However, brands and companies are always at risk when they deal with influencers as the created content is out of their control. The same applies to public response to the influencer’s behavior – a negative attitude can harm a brand’s reputation.
Hins Cheung filmed four videos featuring himself in Sydney and Port Stephens. The clips were broadcasted on lifestyle news platform HK01 and Hins Cheung’s social media platform.
Despite the fact that Tourism Australia had no social media campaigns targeting China, over 126,000 Chinese tourists took short trips to Australia in September, while Hong Kong residents took only 30,000 visits.