Following previous partnerships with Chinese companies, including JD.com and Alipay, Finland’s national carrier, Finnair, has taken to connecting with independent Chinese travelers via Tencent’s WeChat. The airline previously offered flight ticket sales through the app via WeChat Pay in November 2017.
Finland has long been a trailblazer in terms of adopting digital technology to cater to Chinese tourists. Last year it claimed to be the first country to offer a fully-cashless travel experience via Alipay. Moreover, Finnair already has an official WeChat account for customers to communicate with and a mini-program that helps travelers identify their food by uploading images. And now, Helsinki recently launched its own mini-program to aid travelers visiting the city. Helsinki Marketing, Tencent, and Finnair signed a cooperation agreement on September 5 to develop “intelligent travel solutions” for Chinese travelers through the WeChat platform.
The MyHelsinki mini-program is designed for independent Chinese travelers who want to know more about Finland’s capital. The highly-functional mini-program offers almost an entire guidebook on tourists’ phones. The mini-program features information like current weather conditions, a list of holidays and festivals, and suggestions for spur-of-the-moment travel when tourists are already in the city.
For independent travelers, the mini-program offers a brief introduction of each museum in the city, including links and opening hours. The same goes for the app’s list of restaurants that can be sorted by type (although the category for restaurants with Chinese-language menus is currently empty). And no travel app would be complete without a listing of high-end shopping centers to entice Chinese travelers to spend a little more money in the city.
Helsinki Airport already began offering Chinese-language services for visitors in 2016. The airport also accepts Chinese mobile payments and UnionPay.
Helsinki has seen the number of Chinese overnight stays increase from 108,000 in 2014, to 221,000 in 2017. China became the fifth-largest source of tourists for Finland last year. And more and more of those visitors are independent travelers who may need assistance and information to navigate the city.
Helsinki is not the first overseas destination to launch a city guide on WeChat, however. In April, Seattle launched its own mini-program, becoming the second U.S. city to do so.
Where Seattle outpaces Helsinki in the mini-program is with an interactive map that highlights destinations of interest. The lack of a map, however, doesn’t mean MyHelsinki is inferior—the mini-program has more features and an easy-to-navigate interface. However, MyHelsinki is only in Chinese, while the Seattle mini-program has destination info in Chinese and English.
The Helsinki app offers travelers more than just information on museums and places of interest; it also offers example self-guided tours of the city. Chinese tourists can also request tax refunds on purchases through the mini-program and have the money deposited in their WeChat Pay account. There’s even a list of Chinese-speaking tour guides and companies, some of which have WeChat accounts to connect with. The mini-program, however, does not currently have a feature that allows users to purchase museum tickets directly through the app.
Finnair was the first international carrier to set up shop on JD Travel at the end of 2017. Earlier the same year, the airline began accepting Alipay for in-flight services and shopping. The airline also began offering Chinese food options for business and economy-class passengers on its China routes. Finnair began direct flights between Helsinki and China in 1988 and now operates 40 flights per week between the countries with seven destinations in China.