Chinese star Fan Bingbing becomes Malaysia’s social media ambassador for Melaka

KUALA LUMPUR – Chinese celebrity Fan Bingbing has been creating a buzz both online and on the historic streets of Malaysia’s capital city since her debut as Melaka state’s new tourism ambassador in June.

The popular actress recently visited Melaka’s tourist sites and historical heritage sites, strolling along Jonker Walk in the city’s Chinatown and sampling local cuisine, attracting throngs of star-struck fans and sparking a frenzy that saw searches for “Malacca” skyrocket on Chinese social media.

Melaka is banking on Fan’s star power, Chinese consumers’ love of durian and Malaysia’s visa-free entry policy to lure more Chinese tourists to the southwestern state. State executive councillor for tourism, heritage, arts and culture Abdul Razak Abdul Rahman said in May that Melaka Tourism 2024 has a target of 1 million Chinese tourists.

In 2023, Malaysia will welcome around 20 million tourists, of which around 1.5 million were from China. Of the 8.63 million tourists who visited Melaka in 2023, only 204,818 were from China, most of whom were day trippers.

Fan is a household name in China, with 63 million followers on the microblogging platform Weibo. She is known for her roles in the Chinese TV blockbuster “The Last Emperor” and the film “X-Men: Days of Future Past.”

The actress was named the highest-paid celebrity on Forbes’ China Celebrity 100 list from 2013 to 2017, and also appeared on Time’s list of the 100 most influential people in 2017.

She disappeared from public view for several months in 2018 amid a tax evasion scandal that saw her fined more than 800 million yuan (S$150 million), but reemerged later that year to publicly apologise for her actions.

“For me, it is truly an honour to be appointed as the Melaka Tourism Ambassador for 2024. After the Covid-19 pandemic (2020-2022), my mind was very unstable and I had not travelled overseas,” said the 42-year-old actress.

“But tourism will pick up again post-pandemic and people will certainly choose to visit places they have not visited before,” she told the New Straits Times on June 16.

On his first visit to Melaka, Fan was busy living like a tourist, visiting famous landmarks and sampling local specialities such as chicken rice balls, cendol and durian.

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