In spring 2016, Finland opened 13 new visa application centres in key Chinese cities: Changsha, Chengdu, Chongqing, Fuzhou, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Jinan, Kunming, Nanjing, Shenyang, Shenzhen, Wuhan and Xi’an to improve service and tourist flow; it also has centres in Beijing and Shanghai. There are also plans to simplify the process for Chinese business travelers who visit Finland often.
Finnish tourism initiatives
In April 2016, Visit Finland launched the StopOver Finland program, which offers passengers who travel between Asia and Europe with Finnair, the option of a stopover in Helsinki for up to five nights for the same fare. With over 12 million people travelling between China and Europe every year, many could be tempted to add a short-stay package in Helsinki – which can easily be booked online – to their itinerary.
Every week there are 25 direct flights between Helsinki and five cities in mainland China: Beijing, Shanghai, Chongqing, Guangzhou and Xi’an. According to a recent report from Airports Council International, the number of flights transiting Helsinki airport increased by over 75% in the past decade. Finnish airport statistics show that over 300,000 Chinese passengers used Helsinki airport in 2015, a 50% increase compared to the previous year. Starting from summer 2016, Helsinki airport has launched a series of initiatives aimed at Chinese tourists, including translating signage into Chinese, establishing Chinese information desks, and debuting an official Weibo account.
In August, Global Blue saw a +11% year-on-year (YoY) spike in Tax Free Shopping sales by Chinese visiting Finland, which was the first positive sales-in-store figure the nationality posted in Finland since impressive growth of +30% and +39% (YoY), in January and February 2016 respectively.
Promoting Finnish culture to Chinese
Finnfacts, part of Finpro, publishes business news about the Finnish economy as well as tourism information. The Chinese edition of its This is Finland website is the main channel for Chinese travelers wanting to learn more about the country. In July 2016, Finnfacts published news about Finnair’s long-term strategic partnership with Alibaba’s Alitrip to encourage Chinese tourists to visit Finland in the winter season. In mid October, 10 Finnish fashion brands and designers presented their products at Mode Shanghai under the aegis of Finpro’s Finnish Lifestyle Asia program.
In early November, two Chinese sports companies – Bewin Sports and Beijing Gangtiexia Sports – organized the ‘Charming Finland, Winter Sports, Sino-Finland Sports Resources promotion media event, reported Tencent Sports, presenting their cooperation with Finnish hockey, skiing, ice-skating and other sports teams in preparation for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. The event was attended by the mayors of five Finnish cities, as well as Finnish diplomats in China, Finnish snow sports experts, and Finnish entrepreneurs in the winter-sports manufacturing arena. As part of this cooperation, it was announced that Chinese sporting celebrities would be invited to attend sporting events in Finland and work with TV stations to produce programs about travel to the country.