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Chinese travellers are fast becoming if not are already, one of the world’s most significant and powerful markets within the travel industry today. The China Outbound Tourism Research Institute (COTRI) predicts that overseas trips by the country’s residents will increase from 145m in 2017 to more than 400m by 2030.

With such huge potential for future growth, and continuing to grow at a rapid pace, Helsinki has been at the centre of tapping into this highly influential market, developing a digital service never done before. Helsinki aims to be the most functional city in the world, a place that attracts people and companies that work together towards a better world, and digitalisation is at the core of the city's strategy.

Imagine visiting an unfamiliar city, where you don’t know what to do or how to get around, and you don’t understand the language. In situations like that, wouldn’t you wish you had a local friend – who knows exactly what you like – to show you around? If you are one of the over a billion WeChat users, now there’s an app for that.

Following an astronomical rise in Chinese travellers over the years, Helsinki has partnered with the internet service giant Tencent and its popular Chinese mega platform WeChat, to launch the revolutionary WeChat Helsinki Mini program. With one billion monthly users, WeChat serves as China’s biggest social network and an integral part of daily life for most of China’s residents. What initially began as a Chinese messaging app much like WhatsApp, WeChat has since evolved into a fully comprehensive application where users can coordinate every aspect of their lives from booking a doctor’s appointment to ordering food online. Almost everything can be done via WeChat!

As forerunners in technology and innovators in the travel scene, it did not take Helsinki long to seize the opportunity of tapping into the biggest growing market in the world. Together with Tencent, Helsinki Marketing has pioneered a digital program in WeChat which includes API integration and utilising open data, to leverage opportunities of the Chinese visitor by providing digital services to better equip the city in communicating and supporting these visitors. The mini program’s user interface brings together all the information you need – from tips, maps, transport routes, tickets and taxis, places and activities, and even weather – to create an ultimate guide to the city. 

Helsinki is an excellent platform for innovations. Helsinki provides open data that can be freely used, re-used and distributed by anyone or any organization. Data drives modern business, innovation and creates new opportunities. MyHelsinki miniprogram co-created with Tencent is a great example,” - Tia Hallanoro, Helsinki Marketing’s Digital Development and Marketing Lead

Chinese travellers initially travelled in large groups, however, this is now rapidly shifting to FIT dominating the market. This independent traveller market is more interested in the local experience and tailor-made tours. As a result, MyHelsinki works closely with Tencent, data and trends to support this and provide all-inclusive travel information about the city, with personal recommendations and exclusive insights into the lesser known experiences highly sought after by the visitor. There is also a strong community of Chinese locals helping out, with a list of Chinese speaking companies and tour guides on the app. In the future, the MyHelsinki mini program will even create a curated, personalised travel day schedule complete with activities and transportation based on the user’s profile. 

MyHelsinki mini program combines the city’s open data about locations, events and activities with 100-percent genuine tips from locals. It’s easy to use, always up to date and gives you the real local experience. The city’s open data is distributed via MyHelsinki Open API, that ables all companies and organizations to easily connect their digital services to Helsinki databases in order to create new kind of customer value. Helsinki Marketing makes sure that the data is up-to-date, comprehensive and properly curated. WeChat MyHelsinki mini program has served as a pilot and now the API has been opened to other commercial partners and software developers.

MyHelsinki API is not the only API used in the mini-program, but also Whim, the app on which any mode of travel in Finland can be booked and paid, has integrated its own API into the WeChat Mini Programme. Upon arrival in Helsinki, visitors are able to book and pay for their transport straight away with little to no disruption at all as information is in Chinese and visitors can pay with WeChat Pay. 

Helsinki and Tencent are continually developing this program, looking to join forces with more partners and service providers in the future. Find out more about how they work together and what’s in store for the future on Friday 30th of November at DTTT Global.

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