When people travel, they usually have a list of apps installed to navigate a new city, find restaurants, book transit tickets and more. China’s top chat app WeChat has designs on claiming that spot with a new strategy that lumps all these functions into a collection of destination-specific apps.
Operated by Tencent, Asia’s second most valuable tech giant, WeChat is a so-called “super app” defined by the myriad of services it hosts ranging from ride-hailing and food delivery to e-commerce and payments. Its efforts to dominate China received a huge boost back in 2017 when it launched “mini programs”, easily-downloadable apps that provide stripped-down but essential functionality. Millions of these lite apps are serving WeChat’s one billion users today, and WeChat is now adding travel to the list of needs it addresses.
One of WeChat’s first attempts at aiding tourism is a mini app called “MyHelsinki”, a collaboration between Tencent, mobility startup Whim, the city of Helsinki and other partners. In effect, the WeChat-powered app is a hybrid of Lonely Planet, Yelp, Google Translator, Uber and an e-wallet for Chinese tourists who visit the Finnish capital, and it has plans to replicate the system elsewhere in the world.