The number of Chinese tourists is on the rise. In the region of Kotka-Hamina and Eastern Uusimaa, the plan is to attract them through nature experiences, luxury holidays and organic food.
Last year, around 389,000 Chinese tourists visited Finland, and the number is expected to grow rapidly in the next few years. The delights of Lapland (Santa Claus and Northern Lights) are already well known, but how could the tourist stream be directed to southern Finland – particularly outside the Helsinki metropolitan area?
The goal of UKAMAKI – New Growth for Tourism from China – a joint project of Posintra and Cursor – is to produce easy and attractive packages for Chinese tourists in the Porvoo and Kotka-Hamina Porvoo regions, as well as to open new sales channels to China.
“The competition for Chinese tourists is tough, but this area has good potential due to its location. The western fringe is just 30 minutes from Helsinki and the easternmost reaches are within 90 minutes from St. Petersburg,” explains the project’s China expert Martti Mustila from Cursor.
The region’s growth-oriented tourism and service companies that meet Visit Finland’s internationalisation criteria were invited to take part in the project.
“The entrepreneurs were interested in the project and the groups were filled up quickly,” says Jenni Juuvinmaa, a project expert at Ukamaki.
Chinese travel agencies are after unique travel destinations
In Finland, Chinese tourists are particularly interested in nature experiences. They prefer to purchase their trips online as customised packages, from Chinese travel agencies.
“Chinese tourists will only buy holidays from Chinese travel agents,” Mustila emphasises. “Selling travel packages to China is a challenge. You must know the language, have contacts and understand the local market. Chinese consumers are not easily able to access Finnish websites due to stringent firewalls.”
The Chinese travel market is dominated by the country’s largest and world’s second largest online travel agency, Ctrip, with a market share of 70 percent. Smaller travel agencies are seeking a competitive advantage by offering unique products.
“Travel services are offered to the Chinese market on a massive scale! We offer travel agencies something new and unique to enable them to stand out from their competitors,” explains Mustila.
The Ukamaki project was designed to cater for educated middle class Chinese tourists who look for tailor-made travel products that contain organised activities. “Most of them have perhaps been to Paris, London and other European destinations. Finland is a new and interesting destination for them.”
Interest in countryside, nature and luxury activities
During the autumn and winter, the services of the companies involved in the Ukamaki project have been collated into nine customised packages for Chinese tourists. Most packages offer accommodation, nature activities, dining and shopping for 2 nights and 3 days.
The Chinese tourists can try living like Vikings, rent their own island or calm down in Deep Forest yoga, in the forests of Porvoo.
The aim is to produce a total of 10-15 experience packages by the end of the project.
All sites will offer materials that are of interest to Chinese tourists: videos, brochures and high-quality image packages that the Chinese travel agents can use in their marketing.
“The Chinese are very visual. The pictures must show exotic experiences, fun activities and feature Chinese tourists. When buying a trip, the Chinese tourist trusts a travel product if he sees that his compatriots have also visited here,” Mustila explains.
When putting the packages together, local stories and company-related anecdotes were used.
“The Chinese, like all other tourists, want authentic experiences and stories. Finns are often too modest. We cannot compete with what we do not have, but we can offer pristine nature and cultural experiences that the Chinese cannot find anywhere else. Experience packages are available at: www.orientalbeat.net. The site is intended for travel agencies.
The first Ukamaki tourists are expected
The opening of new sales channels has been accelerated by participating in the China Road Show, organised by Visit Finland. On the sales tour, Mustila, who represented Ukamaki, was able to test the attractiveness of the Kotka-Hamina and Porvoo products.
“The feedback from the tour was positive. In addition to the new experience packages, travel agencies liked the fact that we gave them free-to-use images and videos of our travel packages,” Mustila explains.
In Finland, tourism services are being made more attractive to Chinese tourists by organising training courses for participating travel companies to make them familiar with the needs of Chinese tourists.
The next step is attracting travel agents to the area to get to know the experience packages, as buyers usually want to test the products before they sell them to consumers.
The Ukamaki project will continue until the end of 2020.