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Finnish merchants embrace Alipay, providing cashless travel experience to attract Chinese tourists

Just after Rovaniemi Taxi Service Company made a similar agreement, another Finnish taxi company, LähiTaksi, is now accepting payment via Alipay, the world's leading mobile and online payment platform. According to the new deal, Alipay will be available for Chinese passengers on all 1,250 LähiTaksi taxis in Finland by the 2018 Chinese Spring Festival holiday, which begins Feb. 14. This effectively makes Chinese mobile payment available across all major areas of Finland.

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Data show that traveling overseas is no longer a luxury for many Chinese. In 2017, Chinese made 129 million overseas trips. This is not lost on merchants in popular tourist destinations, who have begun catering to the growing numbers of Chinese tourists. Alipay, the mobile payment and lifestyle platform of 520 million Chinese, is rapidly becoming a must-have tool for businesses in tourist hotspots.

In Finland, Finnish businesses in industries from catering to accommodation, entertainment, and retail have followed suit. In some parts of the country, Chinese tourists are finding they no longer need to carry euros.

Walking on the streets of Helsinki, the capital city of Finland, it is not unusual to see merchants putting blue Alipay signs on their front door. Ms. Li, manager of Furuma Cuisine, said Chinese tourists are happy to use Alipay to pay for food in her store.

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Having noticed that more and more Chinese were traveling to Santa Claus Village to spend their Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) holiday, Zhang Shaowei, manager of Nova Skyland Hotel in Rovaniemi, moved quickly to connect his hotel to the Alipay network. He recalls that the first time the hotel staff said "Zhifubao" ("Alipay" in Chinese) to a Chinese traveler, the guest was pleasantly surprised.

To cater to the growing needs of Chinese travelers, IHG's Holiday Inn in Helsinki's city center not only accepts Alipay, but has also launched "China Ready," a special program for Chinese guests.

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"Alipay is boosting Finland's tourism by making payment more convenient," said Liu Hai, manager of Chinese restaurant Xiang Long in Rovaniemi. "Chinese tourists are able to find our restaurant via Alipay even before their trip starts." Liu's restaurant was among the first to adopt Alipay, followed by local Finnish restaurant Nili.

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Marika Aukeala, a women's fashion sales assistant at Stockmann, the biggest department store in Northern Europe, thinks an additional payment method means more sales. Alipay is the first digital payment system to be accepted in Stockmann's Helsinki city center store. According to 2017 data, the number of Chinese visitors to the store grew by 20%, yet sales from this same group increased nearly 30%.

"I am glad to see Alipay is widely accepted among Finnish merchants," said Paavo Virkkunen, executive vice president of Visit Finland. From Mr. Virkkunen's perspective, Finland's geographic location and convenience are two of its biggest advantages as a travel destination, and merchants' acceptance of Chinese mobile payments has added to that convenience. Indeed, China became Finland's fifth-largest source of tourists last year.

Risto Virkkala, CEO of ePassi, Alipay's partner in Finland, predicts more Finnish merchants will connect themselves to Alipay to attract and better serve Chinese tourists.

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