Finnair expects to extend Chinese market: CEO
07 Jun 2018, 22:00
You would think the hometown of Santa Claus is busy just once a year -- but it's humming all year round thanks to an influx of Chinese travelers.
Rovaniemi, Arctic Circle in Lapland, is getting a tourism boost from Chinese visitors arriving from Helsinki on Finnair flights.
"People need a reason to travel. Finnair wants to be a part of that, making their flight more meaningful," the outgoing Finnair president and CEO Pekka Vauramo told Xinhua in an exclusive interview.
In his idea, travelling is human nature -- to meet interesting people and explore other cultures.
Vauramo, who has been appointed as the President and CEO of Metso Corporation last month, came to Beijing to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Finnair's Helsinki-Beijing non-stop service, which started in June 1988. The Metso group appointed Vauramo as CEO on May 21 effective as of November 2018 at the latest
Finnair has since carried more than 2.65 million passengers on the Helsinki-Beijing air route.
Vauramo launched his career at a time when the Helsinki-Beijing route took at least 20 hours.
"There used to be many roundabout routes, but none was direct. And one of them was Helsinki-Zurich-Bombay-Beijing -- Bombay in India," he recalled.
"China had just opened up then, and Finnair has been flying with its growth. It takes only seven and a half hours now."
Now, Finnair has 38 weekly flights to Beijing, Shanghai, Chongqing, Xi'an, Nanjing, Guangzhou and Hong Kong.
It has flown the fuel-efficient, wide-body Airbus A350 aircraft to China since 2015.
It was a pioneer in sustainable flying and the first airline listed on the Leadership Index of the worldwide Carbon Disclosure Project, which supports companies and cities to disclose environmental impacts.
Finnair was also the first airline worldwide to launch the Alipay online payment service on long-haul flights to China in 2017. The airline has doubled its onboard duty-free goods sales.
"Our expanding network in the surging Chinese civil aviation market ties Finland and other European countries closer to China," Vauramo said.
Key to Finnair's future strategy, Finnair is extending its network and strengthening capacity in the Chinese market.
In the early days, people in Finland and other European countries came to China to sell things. Now, it has turned round as more Chinese travel to Europe to export and promote goods, and make investments, Vauramo said.
He noticed more Chinese investment in industries like gaming, medicine, bio-technology and other high-tech fields.
"China's opening-up is continuing, and opening makes growth happen," said Vauramo.
"People come to visit Santa, and immerse themselves in nature with the blue skies, northern lights and clean air. I am proud that our flights make their dreams come true," he said.