A popular Chinese actress' Kiwi wedding in Queenstown could turn New Zealand into the number one wedding destination for the Chinese, says an airline official.
The South Island wedding of 2010 Golden Eagle best actress Yao Chen to her photographer husband Cao Yu in the South Island town has been reported more than 2.4 million times on various Chinese news sites and portals, and more than 110,000 were also discussing it on Weibo, the Chinese equivalent to Twitter/Facebook.
The My Own Swordsman star, who is also Tourism New Zealand's brand ambassador for China, holds the record of having the highest number of followers on Weibo, with more than 26 million.
She posted photos of her wedding and activities she had done in and around Queenstown on Weibo, sparking wide interest and comments on New Zealand as a holiday destination.
The 33-year-old star is the third most followed micro-blogger in the world after Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber, and is ahead of President Barack Obama.
Chinese media reported that Yao Chen spent about 1 million yuan, or about $200,000, on her Queenstown wedding, to which she invited only a few dozen friends and relatives.
The first pictures were released on Saturday afternoon through her microblog, and the ceremony at St Peter's Church was described as simple, solemn and warm.
"Getting married overseas is becoming increasingly popular among the younger Chinese, and Yao Chen's posts show New Zealand as the perfect scenic place for them to do that," said Sarah Xu, of China Southern Airlines.
"Millions in China are talking about her wedding, and I am sure New Zealand could become the number one choice for many Chinese couples who want an overseas wedding."
The airline, China's largest, will be bringing between 250 and 300 travel agents to Auckland next month for its annual general meeting, where it will discuss ways to promote the region, including as a wedding destination. Destination Queenstown chief executive Graham Budd said the wedding sparked a media frenzy in China, and had boosted New Zealand's and Queenstown's profile significantly overnight.
"We're thrilled they chose to get married in Queenstown and enjoy some unique and memorable experiences here," Mr Budd said.
Tourism New Zealand spokeswoman Emma Carter said between 30,000 and 40,000 tourists came to New Zealand to get married or for a honeymoon last year, spending about $130 million.
"Their average expenditure is around $3800 each ... which is quite a high spend per person. The average tourist spends $2300," she said.
* 26m fans on Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter/Facebook
* 2.4m reports in China, including portals like Sina, Sohu and Ifeng about her wedding
* 110,000 talked about her wedding on Weibo.
Source: Chinese media, Tourism NZ