The MyHelsinki tourism app will give local recommendations and help Chinese visitors plan and pay for travel to attractions in the Finland capital
Tourism in Helsinki has been given a boost after the launch of a new app aimed at giving Chinese visitors a personalised experience.
WeChat MyHelsinki is claimed to be the first city app in the world to combine preferred personal recommendations, mobility planning and purchase options for travellers.
What does Helsinki tourism app offer?
It uses WeChat, the popular Chinese messaging and payment platform, to offer reviews and recommendations for the best restaurants, shopping destinations, events and sights in the Finnish capital.
The service, launched this week, also helps independent travellers from the Far East nation to plan how they will get from their hotel to particular attractions and pay for transportation in a single service.
Chinese tech conglomerate Tencent – owner of WeChat – has jointly developed the app with the City of Helsinki and mobility-as-a-service pioneer MaaS Global, the start-up behind the transportation app Whim.
Tia Hallanoro, director of brand communications and digital development at Helsinki Marketing, said: “By collaborating with Tencent and the world’s leading mobility-as-a-service (MaaS) provider Whim, we have been able to develop an innovative user-based service that is the first of its kind in the world.
“The mobile service will help us ensure that visitors gain easy access to the best locally recommended experiences our city has to offer.
“It’s like having a personal guide but in a digital format. The experience is the same – in Helsinki you can be sure that everything will go smoothly and that you will enjoy your stay.”
Helsinki tourism app aims to encourage flight stop-overs in Finland
The MyHelsinki project is said to be a scalable service for providing “more balanced tourism in cities”.
Based on the content and user interface of the City of Helsinki’s website, it includes a “live like a local” feature that its developers say makes it easy for Chinese tourists to discover neighbourhoods beyond the most obvious attractions and offer access to local businesses off the beaten path.
With the shortest flight connections to Asia in Europe – it takes about eight hours from the Finland city to Beijing – Helsinki is aiming to establish itself as a natural hub between China and Europe.
MyHelsinki has been designed with the transfer traveller in mind, encouraging them to stop over and spend time between flights to Western Europe in the city.
What is the MyHelsinki mini-programme on WeChat?
Mini-programmes like MyHelsinki are web-based apps on WeChat that enable purchases within the service.
The app does not have to be downloaded separately as it is included within WeChat, an all-in-one application with more than a billion users.
In China, there are more than one billon internet users and 97.5% of those people use a mobile device for browsing – with 35% of the 26.5 hours per week spent online spent on WeChat, according to Tencent.
WeChat mini-programmes have taken off over the past year and now represent between 20% and 30% of total online traffic on the app.
It means the new service will enable Chinese consumers to use their preferred digital services throughout they visit – with destination websites said to be of little importance to Chinese visitors when searching for information.
Over the next ten years, China’s outbound tourism is estimated to grow to 400 million overseas trips by its residents – accounting for nearly a quarter of global tourism.
They are expected to spend $453bn overseas over the next five years.
Zhan Shu, general manager of the Tencent governmental affairs and tourism centre department, said: “The number of Chinese visitors travelling overseas is growing rapidly and travel patterns are in real transition.
“Among those travellers, in-depth traveling has become a trend. With the Helsinki mini-programme – a comprehensive and reliable one-stop service – Tencent wants to serve them as well as possible.”
Whim’s role in the Helsinki tourism app
Whim’s mobile service enables Chinese visitors to purchase all the travel tickets they need using a single app.
This function will be launched in two phases. The first phase consists of Helsinki region public transportation system, including local and airport trains, trams, buses and ferries to the nearby islands.
The second phase, available later this year, expands the service to include taxis, rental cars and city bikes.
Kaj Pyyhtiä, co-founder and chief strategic partnerships officer at Whim owner MaaS Global, said: “From the perspective of independent travellers, simply getting about in an unfamiliar city is always one of the key factors that can hamper enjoying the full experience.
“When all available modes of transport and the most reliable service providers can be reviewed and paid for in your native language using a single app, there is no more need for separate tickets, apps and payment methods.
“A growing trend of independent travelling increases the demand for easy-to-use local transportation services.
“For MaaS Global, working together with Helsinki Marketing and Tencent provides an exciting pilot for spreading our mobility-as-a-service offering to potentially hundreds of cities worldwide.”