Helsinki Design Museum: development of services for Chinese tourists

Submitted by KA9021 on
Zoom meeting with the partners

The Museum of Fine Arts of Karelia continues the implementation of the project “Museums in focus: the development of cultural services for Chinese tourists” KA9021 as a part of the Karelia Cross-border Cooperation Program (financed by the European Union, the Russian Federation and the Republic of Finland).

The project teams from the Museum of Fine Arts of Karelia and Joensuu Museums planned to make a study trip to Helsinki in April and visit a number of institutions that already have an experience in developing services and infrastructure for Chinese tourists. The quarantine brought some changes to the project implementation schedule, but thanks to the online services and the Zoom platform we managed to organize a meeting for experience exchange. Pia Lehtinen, Head of the Development Department of Helsinki Design Museum, agreed to share her best practices in this sphere.

The Design Museum is located in the center of Helsinki and the share of foreign tourists there is about 40% of the total number of guests. 7 years ago, a Chinese tourist was a rare guest in the Museum of Design, but now this trend is developing. 2-3 years ago, a great increase in number of Chinese tourists became significant. First Chinese tourists traveled as a part of organized groups with their own guides and translators; and there was no need to adapt the museum to such guests. Now this trend is changing, and there are more and more “FITs” (Free Individual Traveler is an international term for an independent individual tourist) in the museum. As a rule, such categories plan their own trips and get acquainted with the places to visit via the Internet. It is very important for them to get up-to-date and complete information in their native language and through convenient social media.

The Design Museum decided not to invent a new strategy of presence in the Chinese Internet segment, but took advantage of the existing program. The administration of Helsinki made an agreement with “Tencent” (one of the largest investment companies in China) to develop tourism and strengthen the image of the capital of Finland among potential Chinese tourists. As a result the web-application “Helsinki”  appeared in the most popular Chinese social network WeChat. The application includes various information about tourists attractions in Helsinki, a.o. the Design Museum.  This approach again proves the effectiveness of tourism development at all levels – from a state and a municipal to institutions. Promoting the territory as a whole, offering a package of services is always more profitable.

But why do Chinese tourists choose the Design Museum? First of all, the Finnish design and architecture is already a brand, and people want to know the secret of its success. Then, in April 2017, the first lady of China paid an official visit to the Design Museum in Helsinki, this visit was actively covered in mass media, as a result the place became very popular among Chinese tourists.

Pia Lehtinen said that they do not have a Chinese-speaking specialist, so the question of preparing information for the museum’s Chinese website is still very difficult. There is a practice of attracting students or exchange specialists.

Also there was an experience in the Museum of inviting a Chinese guest who tested the entire museum for accessibility to a potential Chinese tourist. It was noticed that universal graphic images in navigation, infographics and signs of attracting attention are intuitively clear, which means that additional information using hieroglyphs is not required. Such analysis helped to get a feedback and see the strengths and weaknesses of the museum space.

Our Finnish colleague also mentioned the fact that creative workshops are very popular with Chinese tourists.

Despite the fact that a Chinese tourist comes to Helsinki all the year round (except for the situation with pandemic), the colleagues from the Museum of Design usually give special attention to the Chinese New Year and invite Chinese people living or studying in Finland.

Because of a great increase in the number of Chinese tourists in Finland, many cultural institutions that are in the focus of Chinese tourism are looking for their own ways to develop and adapt to new guests. It’s great that the team of the project has an opportunity to exchange experience and get acquainted with the best practices! And our special thanks to Pia Lehtinen for her participation and help!