In China, digital tools are bringing gentle warm “breezes” to its booming outbound tourism market. With the Lunar New Year approaching, Chinese visitors are off to a good start as several mini programs within WeChat ecosystem have been launched, putting them at ease by providing efficient online services.
As WeChat celebrates its eighth anniversary since public debut, two pieces of news as well came and surprised the millions of Chinese who travel abroad each year.
On Jan. 15, multinational insurance firm AXA launched the mini program “AXA Go” to offer end-to-end travel insurance services to Chinese visitors. “AXA Go” provides Chinese travelers with exclusive on-demand access to travel insurance, assistance, and other key travel services before, during and after their trips easily within WeChat.
Earlier on Jan. 11, the Global Joint Visa Application Center and WeChat inaugurated the mini program “Breeze Visa” ，allowing users to complete and submit their visa application virtually and pay the fees via WeChat Pay.
WeChat Global said that artificial intelligence technology will help identify and integrate users’ documents, ideal for those who don’t bother to manually fill forms; the officially direct access to visa center back-end data will ensure a real-time feedback of the entire process after the visa application is submitted via “Breeze Visa”.
These moves, expected to further kindle Chinese affluent middle class’ enthusiasm for traveling abroad, came two weeks ahead of the week-long Lunar New Year holiday.
“AXA Go” and “Breeze Visa” stand the part of tech giant Tencent’s global campaign “WeChat Go”. WeChat, nearly omnipresent in China, has long grown from a social messaging app to an open platform connecting over 1 billion monthly active users, tons of devices, industries and businesses.
As overseas traveling becomes trendy among the emerging Chinese middle class, WeChat Go is keeping pace by building partnerships with telecom operators, tourist attraction operators, hotel groups, airlines, and other organizations around the world, in a bid to provide Chinese consumers with fast and easy access to information and services that can enhance their travel experience.
In Europe, the campaign has given birth to WeGoEU – joint-venture between Dutch telecom operator KPN and Chinese Internet company Sunway- which holds a combination of providing connectivity to Chinese travelers – WeChat Go sim-card (微信乐游卡), to serving as a full-fledged virtual travel companion for Chinese free independent travelers- WeChat Go Europe Mini program (乐游欧洲Go). Through the mini program, users are enabled to easily navigate among the best tourist spots, explore the best shopping destinations, as well as the most convenient local transportation options and the best local restaurants, booking for services and purchasing products with all convenience within the social media application they are most familiar with.
在欧洲，微信的全球推广活动诞生了“乐游欧洲“——一家荷兰皇家电信与中国互联网公司森威传媒的合资企业。“乐游欧洲“ 为中国游客提供一个大体验包：有“乐游sim卡”， 为自由行旅客充当“全能伴侣”；有“乐游欧洲GO”小程序，用户可轻松浏览最佳旅游景点，探索最佳购物目的地，享受当地最便捷的交通和最好的餐馆，人们可以通过他们最熟悉的微信来预订或购物。
Launched on 28 March 2018, WeChat Go Europe today is active in 14 cities across 6 countries – The Netherlands, Italy, France, UK, Spain and Germany- and has integrated over 3,000 content, half of which is today bookable directly through WeChat Pay online. WeGoEU also offers restaurants and retailers the possibility to integrate WeChat Pay offline in their shops, adding great convenience to Chinese travelers who can opt to pay with the same easiness and security as they are used to in their home market.
“乐游欧洲”是2018年3月28日推出的，目前活跃于欧洲14个城市，来自6大国家： 荷兰，意大利，法国，英国，西班牙和德国。它整合了3000多项内容，其中有一半现可通过微信在线预订。 “乐游欧洲”还促使合作餐馆和零售商提供微信支付，为中国游客提供了极大便利，他们可以选择像在国内一样简单安全地付款。
All these mini applications are linked with one other, creating a truly WeChat-branded ecosystem serving Chinese outbound travelers, an overall population that exceeded 140 million in 2018. Europe is their second favorite destination, but the numbers are today still below 10 million annual visits. Much could be done to promote Chinese tourism in Europe, including very importantly the review and reform of the visa policy.
In recent months, institutions and organizations have been pledging efforts in this direction. A report of the European Travel Commission showed that a full visa liberalization scenario between China and the EU is likely to generate additional inbound spending of €12.5bn per annum and contribute to an increase of Europe’s GDP by 1%.
Over 400 million Chinese will travel during the upcoming Chinese Lunar New Year which begins on Feb. 5, among them nearly 7 million will travel abroad, according to a report released by Chinese online travel agency Ctrip.
“We hope more ‘breezes’ will blow, we need more joint efforts and digital innovations to bridge Europe and China in what is one of the fastest growing economic sectors of both regions,” said Claudia Vernotti, Director of ChinaEU.