Consumers from China Want Familiar Digital Services, Even When Abroad

Consumers from China Want Familiar Digital Services, Even When Abroad

Why Finnair and Finavia got on board with Alipay

Henrik Balk
Head of PMO, Transformation and IT
Elena Stenholm
Vice President, Commercial Services

Outbound tourism is booming among China's consumers, but where are they going? One popular destination is Finland, thanks partly to adoption of the mobile payments platform that most visitors from China already use.

According to research by TAK Oy for the country's national tourism agency Visit Finland, the number of Chinese travelers to visit the country rose by 63% between 2016 and 2017, to 432,000. What's even more impressive is how much China's travelers in Finland spent—roughly €1,186 ($1,337) per visitor. That's more than triple the average spend of €363 ($409) per international traveler last year.

Much of this success can be attributed to Finland's commitment to cater to China's travelers by offering them familiar digital services such as Alipay. National airline Finnair and Finavia, Finland's Civil Aviation Administration, have led the charge, but today, retailers across the country have also adopted the Alibaba-affiliated mobile payment app.

eMarketer's Jasmine Enberg spoke with Henrik Balk, head of PMO, transformation and IT at Finnair, and Elena Stenholm, vice president of commercial services at Finavia, about why they decided to adopt Alipay as a payment method and how it's affected their businesses. (Finavia is responsible for maintaining and developing the country's 21 airports, including Helsinki Airport).


Why did you decide to offer Alipay as a payment method?

Henrik Balk:

It was a natural choice for us. Finnair has been very active in the Chinese market for decades. We started flying to Beijing in 1988 and we now have seven destinations throughout the country. Alipay is one of the most common payment options in China, and we wanted to be able to serve our Chinese customer base as well as possible.

The value of in-flight purchases made with Alipay are triple the average in-flight purchase value.

Henrik balk
head of pmo, transformation and it, finnair
Elena Stenholm:

Finavia has a close connection to the Chinese market, and their travelers are a very important market for us. So far this year, the number of passengers from Asia has grown more than 20%.

But we also want to be a leader in digital solutions and development in general. Offering Alipay is one part of the bigger picture of digitalizing the entire customer experience at Helsinki Airport, from the commercial side to operational practices.

Interview conducted on August 22, 2018

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