Esteemed Vice Mayor of Beijing,
Dear Secretary-General of WTCF,
Dear WTCF members,
It is my honor and privilege to welcome you to Helsinki. I am especially proud to welcome new WTCF member cities and the host of the next Fragrant Hills Tourism Summit – the City of Beijing.
A mere year ago we celebrated together in Qingdao, where Helsinki took over the honor of the Host City. Since then, our close collaboration with the WTCF Secretariat has produced – what I already dare to name – a successful summit. As the first European city to host the WTCF summit our team in Helsinki was eager to create a meaningful platform for exchange and reflection. But also a cultural program that reflects the values and aspirations of the WTCF organization.
Coming together is especially meaningful at a time when travel and tourism is reaching unprecedented heights and global megatrends shape the industry at a speed that has never been experienced before. Climate chance, digitalization and urbanization have major impact on the travel industry and the way we are able to develop cities and urban life of the future. Travelers are more concerned about sustainability, locality and flow of digital services than ever before. Our ability to meet these demands in a rapid but sustainable way is a key to a successful future. Only in collaboration are we able to champion in this new world of constant change.
Helsinki has been a forerunner in the Asian travel market. Our geographical position and historic roots in collaboration have made us a gateway to Europe for the Asian travelers. The first ever commercial flight from China to Europe took place between Beijing and Helsinki. This position also gives us great responsibility. Our collaboration with the City of Beijing has only strengthened our ability to react to change, create new possibilities and make way to new digital futures.
As the globe is becoming smaller and the ability and willingness to travel has spread, we also encounter challenges that demand urgent responses. Knowledge sharing and pre-planning have become essential. I am especially pleased that we have been able to establish such a fruitful collaboration with Tencent. The WeChat Helsinki Mini Program does not only give digital access to Helsinki for millions of Chinese, but it also equips them with the ability to create their own local experience beforehand. As a new feature we have also added a sustainability program that enables travelers to take charge of their choices from sustainability perspective. These new digital frontiers help us offer better services – and ultimately also better travelling experience – but also address the constant need for more sustainable travel possibilities.
The global future of travel is the future of the individual. Cities are at the core of this development. Cities are the platforms that will either champion the new wave to tourism, or fail. Only by sharing best practices, creating joint programs and taking advantages of the latest innovations in technology we are able to stay ahead. The theme for the Helsinki Summit is “Smart Tourism — Road to City Innovation and Development” couldn’t be more fitting. Also, with this year’s theme we live true the vision of the WTCF organization itself – Better City Life Through Tourism.
Our first and foremost aim as city leaders is to provide the best possible conditions of urban life for our citizens and visitors. I’m sure my fellow city leaders in this room will agree when I say that collaboration between cities, corporations and organizations provides the best support for this goal. I look forward to a lively exchange and fruitful new collaborations and friendships formed.
Welcome to Helsinki – the most functional city in the world.