The Chinese online travel agency and user-generated review site Mafengwo has joined the ranks of Chinese companies betting that young celebrity “influencers” will help it grab the attention of younger generations of online consumers.  The site recently partnered with the Chinese boy band ONER — an idol group that debuted last April and has a mostly Generation-Z fan base.

Mafengwo invited the group of four young celebs, all of whom are between the ages of 18 and 26, to share their travel stories on its platform while also encouraging their younger users to do the same. As a way to get some fresh stories, the company sent the band to New Zealand so they could explore the country and generate interest among site followers.

And initial returns are showing that Mafengwo’s plan may be working. Over the span of 20 days, the Weibo topic “Bring ONER to travel” (#带上ONER去旅行#) generated 210 million views and more than 6.6 million posts on the popular social media site. Mafengwo’s original post on January 7th announcing the campaign was shared over 6 million times and received more than 56,000 likes.

mafengwo new zealand

Mafengwo’s Weibo post promoting the ONER campaign was shared more than 6 million times

On top of that, interest in New Zealand on that platform jumped 80 percent on the day Mafengwo posted the campaign. The company reported that users specifically searched for skydiving and country houses — both featured elements in Mafengwo’s campaign.

While the company’s ONER marketing plan is generating lots of travel interest in New Zealand, it’s unlikely to alter anyone’s Lunar New Year travel plans this year. That’s why the team of Mafengwo and New Zealand tourism feel they need to hold the interest of younger travelers — who’ve become known as fickle consumers — for a bit longer.

According to Feng Rao, Mafengwo’s travel research center head, the collaboration with ONER should be viewed as a way of planting seeds to grow user interest. “The travel stories of idols are more representative of the way young people travel,” said Feng, “and they also match Mafengwo’s brand image and user demographic.”

Although more Chinese outbound travelers prefer traveling to nearby Australia, New Zealand still attracts its share of tourists from China. The country welcomed 31,440 Chinese travelers in October 2018, an increase of 9.7 percent year-on-year to 451,344 over the 12 months ending on October 31, according to Tourism New Zealand. China was also the second-largest source market for New Zealand, with a hefty average length of stay during that 12-month period: 17.7 days.

This influencer campaign is a good test for Mafengwo — a company that gets overshadowed in the Chinese online travel market by bigger players International and Alibaba’s Fliggy. The fast and strong response to the ONER campaign has forced it to look into more influencer collaborations that will keep attracting younger users to its platform in the future.