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The summer hit of Helsinki Airport: 20,000 Chinese receive personal service in their native language

Helsinki Airport Chinese speaking guide
Being met by a guide who can speak Chinese has been a pleasant surprise for Chinese travellers, as they often face a language barrier. The guides make it easier for travellers to navigate the airport and they also bring more sales for the airport businesses – Finnish products like berry powders and Iittala are especially popular.

Having started the guide service in early June, Finavia aims to make it easier for Chinese travellers to navigate Helsinki Airport, as well as encouraging them to use its commercial services and helping with airport shopping.

- Some 300,000 Chinese passed through Helsinki Airport last year, an increase of about 50 per cent over the previous year. For the first time ever, the Chinese eclipsed the Russians in number. For us, Chinese customers are an important group that we wish to serve to the best of our abilities, says Finavia Director Jukka Isomäki.

Between June and July, the guides have personally met nearly 20,000 travellers, most of whom have been Chinese. The number has been a positive surprise for Finavia. 

 - It has been great to see that the Chinese travellers have discovered our guide service. The commercial operators at the airport have also expressed their gratitude, as their sales have improved thanks to the Chinese travellers being helped by the service, says Isomäki.

High quality, clean ingredients and stories behind the product raise interest
The Chinese spend more money at the airport than any other nationality, and a lot of the guides’ work has to do with commercial services. Among other things, the guides can recommend souvenirs and gifts, assist with tax free matters and know which credit cards and payment methods can be used at the airport.

- Chinese travellers wish to buy Finnish products as souvenirs, but cannot tell which products are Finnish and are often unable to request assistance in English from the sales staff. Many questions are indeed about Finnish products and ideas for gifts. For travellers, the service in Chinese comes as a pleasant surprise, says Zhouyan Li, one of the guides at the airport.

According to Li, a popular Chinese actor brought her own Iittala tableware to one of the most watched tv series in China. Also other tc series started starring Iittala. As a result the brand became very popular in China, and now everyone is after Iittala products.

- Finnish health products, like berry powders and fish oils, are also popular, as the Chinese appreciate the clean air and nature of Finland, Li continues.

Besides working as a Chinese-speaking service guide at the airport, Li is also the founder and CEO of Lenoni Oy, a company that specialises in Chinese culture and consumers. The guide service is a joint venture between Finavia and Lenoni.

For now, the service will continue at Helsinki Airport until the end of 2016, after which its future need will be reviewed.

- Wishes for even more personal service have been expressed. If we continue the service, we might expand it to include Personal Shopping Assistant style service and also other languages, says Isomäki.

Growth from China 
Finavia's future growth is heavily oriented towards Asia. The number of Chinese travellers in particular is expected to grow rapidly.

In early 2016, Finavia signed a co-operation agreement with Capital Airports Holding Company (CAH), China's largest airport operator. The agreement is aimed at developing the connections between Finland and China, in particular the connection between the Helsinki and Beijing airports. In addition to the guides, Chinese-speaking personnel are available at the information and parking service points. More signage in Chinese has also been added. The Helsinki airport website and mobile application are available in Chinese. In May 2016, Finavia opened an account for Helsinki Airport on Weibo, the Chinese social media site.

Helsinki Airport ranks as the fifth largest in Europe by the number of Asian connections. In 2016, Helsinki Airport services 17 direct destinations in Asia. Five of them are in China.

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