Destination marketing organizations (DMOs) have spent significant energy the last few years in their efforts to attract more Chinese outbound travelers, especially as those travelers account for a larger portion of travel spending. Some DMOs have had more success than others with campaigns that range from improving local services, such as accepting Chinese mobile payment options, to social media marketing. But not all campaigns gain traction — what works for one destination may not work for another.

The South African Department of Tourism has taken an innovative approach to start the year, appointing Chinese actor Huang Bo (黄渤) as its brand ambassador. The announcement was officially made at the Beijing Fun event on March 16th to unveil a “Sound Museum” exhibition to bring an auditory experience to Chinese audiences.

The 44-year-old actor, known for his breakout role in the film “Crazy Stone” in 2006, spent time on a reality show in South Africa. During his time there, he recorded sounds around the country to showcase at the event in Beijing.

Among destinations featured in the Sound Museum are the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA), Kruger National Park, and Cape Town, with audio that includes elephants eating, insect sounds, and other encounters on Huang’s journey. The soundscape, produced by Shenzhen-based home audio equipment maker Jasmine Audio, is also available for guests on a limited edition vinyl record.

The tourism department will also release two promotional films at the end of March, documenting Huang’s trip through the country. In reference to Zeitz MOCAA, the actor said, “I didn’t expect South Africa to have such an artistic, avant-garde, and younger side.”

Huang Bo posted photos announcing his position as tourism ambassador on his official Weibo account on March 18th, garnering almost 3,600 comments, 2,000 shares, and more than 58,000 likes in two days.

huang bo south africa

Huang Bo’s Weibo post attracted a lot of attention from fans

Huang Bo was likely chosen as the tourism ambassador to China because he has broad appeal among Chinese audiences. His roles in film and TV give him a sense of authenticity with older audiences who would have the resources to travel to long-haul destinations like South Africa, as well as younger ones who are seen as the future of the travel market.

Additionally, the South African Department of Tourism also previously announced a new collaboration with the Chinese lifestyle publication, Life Week, which the two sides will promote a 3D multimedia project titled, “New South Africa, New Experience.”

Last month, South African Minister of Tourism Derek Hanekom said that the country attracts about 100,000 Chinese tourists annually. The minister’s comments followed reports of increased Chinese tourism to the continent. And in 2018, the country simplified its visa process for Chinese nationals, state media Xinhua reported. South Africa hopes that counting a respected actor like Huang Bo among its supporters will help boost arrivals in the coming years.