To some, spending a whole month on vacation in Finland may sound excessive for a country with few world-famous landmarks and a largely unknown cuisine. Spending a whole month stuck in an airport, however, sounds like a nightmare come true (or a lot like the plot of Tom Hanks’s The Terminal). For Chinese actor Ryan Zhu (朱晓辉) both scenarios are combined into what Helsinki Airport calls “Life in Hel” (stylized as #LIFEINHEL), a marketing campaign which has Zhu spending 30 days in Finland’s largest international airport.

The campaign is the latest example of innovative marketing targeted at attracting global Chinese travelers.

The campaign takes inspiration from The Terminal and The Truman Show. Photo: Finavia

Branded as a “mix of a reality show and a game show,” the campaign will feature rewards, challenges, as well as “intimate moments with the hero.” According to the campaign organizers, Zhu will be given an open return ticket to China, allowing him to leave the airport at any time. If he’s successful in spending the whole 30 days in Helsinki Airport, he’ll be rewarded a trip to Finnish Lapland—often promoted as the home of Santa Claus.

If successful, he’ll hopefully have the option to claim his reward only after recovering from his 30 days in “Hel” back home in China.

The purpose of the campaign is, of course, to promote Helsinki Airport as a good airport that passengers won’t mind spending their layovers in. “Helsinki Airport wants to prove that they are the best airport in the world and the fastest connection between Asia and Europe,” airport operator Finavia said in a press statement about the campaign.

Selecting a Chinese actor for the campaign also underlines the growing importance of Chinese travelers to Helsinki Airport and other industry stakeholders in Finland. In fact, the national tourism board has actively promoted Finland as a “stopover destination” to Chinese travelers, and the country’s flag carrier, Finnair, is expanding its network primarily to destinations in China. Finavia has also started branding itself as a “gateway to Asia” for Western travelers, as well as a “gateway to Europe” for Asian travelers.

“The entire airport personnel is waiting for Ryan Zhu’s arrival. We want to give him an unforgettable experience! The campaign’s feedback will be extremely valuable in making our services even better. We want our influencer to really feel at home at Helsinki Airport,” said Katja Siberg, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications at Finavia.

The campaigned can be followed on its official website, Chinese social media channels such as Wechat and Weibo, as well as on international social media networks. Zhu’s challenge officially starts on 10 October and will end on 12 November—assuming that he doesn’t use is his return ticket.

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