Visit California has fielded offices in Beijing and Shanghai since 2008, but this month it launched its first consumer campaign in China, and it enlisted Chinese film star Gao Yuanyuan to help push its localized social media drive.

2. Billboard Map

For starters, a dozen LED billboard screens in Shanghai and online banner ads pointed potential California tourists to Visit California’s Weibo social media page and detail the “I want to go to California” campaign.

Actress Gao’s appointment as Visit California’s “first tourism ambassador from mainland China” was central to the social media and online campaign, which California Governor Jerry Brown kicked off during a trade mission to China last week.

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“She embodies the California brand and spirit and will share her authentic passion for California with the Chinsese public, inspiring their California dreams,” said Visit California CEO Caroline Beteta.

3. Daily Q&A

Visit California partnered with WE Marketing Group, based in China, to conduct the campaign.

Visitors to Visit California’s Weibo page are invited to take a  quiz, illustrated with Gao’s image, that qualifies them for a VIP Grand Prize to the Golden State.

All of the questions at right relate to Disneyland. One asks whether the first Disneyland theme park in California was built in San Francisco or Los Angeles, for example.

Visit California plans to spend $1.6 million — a $1 million increase — on marketing to Chinese visitors in 2013.

The tourism board forecasts that 1.1 million visitors from China will set foot in California by 2015, making Chinese visitors California’s largest overseas market. About a half million Chinese visited the state in 2011.

China is California’s fastest growing overseas market, although in 2011 visitors to California from the U.K., Australia and Japan came in greater numbers.

Photo Credit: Visit California's social media homepage in China entices visits with promises of open-minded, relaxing fun. Visit California