Travel in Finland is currently growing at a record-setting double-digit rate, but the industry needs to keep pace with the digital revolution and boldly seek out new ideas. Right now, Finland has all the potential to become a travel industry leader in digital services. Business Finland’s competition for digital travel innovations helped find several new ideas that could lead the way.
A new study** by Business Finland’s Visit Finland unit shows that most travellers are already using online services while planning and booking their holidays – and more and more are using mobile devices. Independent travel is on the rise, and travellers around the world are becoming more homogenous: they research, book and even experience their trips the same way. They also want all the necessary information and services to be available instantly. The digital revolution has clearly shaped travellers’ behaviour, and this affords enormous opportunities for new services.
“There is a demand for new ideas and innovative digital services, and Finland has all the makings to become a global leader in the field, even a sort of living lab for the industry”, says Digital Development Manager Kaisa Kosonen from Business Finland’s Visit Finland unit.
A new competition for digital services and products was announced at the D.Day for Travel Industry event in October in order to find novel, innovative ideas for Finnish tourism. The competition was also designed to encourage the travel industry to seek new digital opportunities.
A total of 47 businesses entered the competition, which called for ideas that solve an existing problem or tend to an upcoming need. The winning idea also needed to have potential for international expansion. The winner was promised a development path and support, all the way from brainstorming to sales.
“There was a clear notion that users still struggle to find our travel services online. Most of the proposals dealt with this challenge, and we received some fantastic ideas that could solve the issue”, Kosonen explains.
Business Finland’s panel of experts from travel, finance, global trade and digital industries fielded pitches from the competitors and chose Virtual Guide AR/VR’s TourGuideFox service as the winner. The panel valued the product’s clear concept, genuine demand, scalability and potential for cross-industry cooperation.
TourGuideFox offers digital sightseeing tours, complete with virtual guides, navigation, entry to destinations, food or drinks and special discounts. A dash of augmented reality and game-like features spice things up. The service will be available in several different languages, such as Chinese and Japanese.
“This is fantastic news for us. We can’t wait to see how we can use the concepts of service design to push our product even further. Once we publish the full version of TourGuideFox, Visit Finland’s channels will be crucial in helping travellers find our service. We also believe that the acknowledgement will benefit us in negotiations with potential partners”, CEO Heini Niklas-Salminen from Virtual Guide AR/VR says.
In addition to the winning pitch, the panel of experts also wanted to acknowledge the highly praised Doerz sharing economy app and the Tripsteri mobile app. Doerz offers travellers the opportunity to see a destination with a local guide. The Tripsteri app relies on curated content from professional journalist in order to provide planned walks and tips, while also keeping sustainability in mind. Some fascinating AR elements are also included.
“Many of the ideas and teams were truly excellent, and all the companies and ideas that reached the pitching stage will be kept keep in mind and in the loop with Business Finland. Our Japan Gateway project, for instance, focuses on taking Finnish travel-related digital products to Japan”, Kosonen expands.
*) Overnight stays by foreign visitors increased by 14.5% from January to October in 2017. Source: Statistics Finland, Accommodation statistics.
**) Optimizing Digital Channels in Sales and Promotions in Travel Industry, ORC International 10/2017.