Alipay has launched a new program to expand its footprint throughout Europe, Middle East, and Africa region, starting with the land of the midnight sun. The Smart Travel program lets Chinese tourists in Finland enjoy a cash-free travel experience from departure to return, with Finnair, Helsinki taxi company, Lähitaksi, and a large number of merchants hopping on board.
The Smart Travel program was brought about through a partnership between Alipay, local payments partner ePassi, and the national tourism board, Visit Finland.
So why choose Finland as the first destination for the program? According to Alipay’s head of strategic development in EMEA, Sikander Hauser, “The cashless experience is already ubiquitous in China. What we’re now looking at is bringing that abroad to Europe and other regions, so Chinese consumers can travel with just their mobile phone, just as they do at home in China.”
The launch of the program involved an Alipay sponsored trip of eight Chinese tourists to Finland to show the ropes to those to come. Displaying the broad reach of the Alipay initiative, the traveled from Helsinki, the capital, to Rovaniemi, a city in the Arctic Circle, for a six-day trip, all without a trip to the ATM. Chinese tourists can also access experiences such as Arctic Circle certificates, sleigh rides, and Northern Lights excursions with Alipay, and rest up in participating hotels, including Nova Skyland Group and IHG’s Holiday Inn.
Smart Travel was a lucrative opportunity for both Alipay the Scandinavian travel destination. Finland is a popular destination for Chinese tourists, accounting for the fifth-highest number of foreign visitors to the country in 2017. Helsinki Airport reports that every 90 seconds, a plane from the Dragon touches down.
“We are excited to see the successful launch of Finland as the first country to embrace cashless China abroad,” Hauser said. “We see this as the first launch of more to come.”