China International Travel Service (CITS), a state-owned Chinese travel agency, has opened a visa center in downtown Helsinki to help Finnish travellers apply and obtain their Chinese visas more efficiently. The center employs a staff of seven. Helsinki Business Hub and its wide network of partners offered their services to help the new center.
As more and more Chinese travellers choose Helsinki and Finland for their travel destination, increasing numbers of Finns are also travelling to China – some for pleasure, others for business. Reasons behind this increase include general globalization and the fact that China has been quickly opening up to the world in the recent years.
“There has been a fast growth in the people-to-people exchange between China and other countries, and the Chinese Embassy in Helsinki also noticed the growing demand for Chinese visas,” says Lu Fang, General Manager of the new CITS V Service (Finland) Oy.
This increase has driven the Chinese Embassy to set up a separate visa center in order to improve the quality and speed of its visa services. The same trend is seen in several countries around the globe. CITS, China International Travel Service, is a large state-owned company that operates 20 visa centers worldwide and was also chosen to run the visa center in Helsinki.
“Helsinki is a convenient location for the center because it is so well-connected. The new visa center has just opened in Kamppi – a central location very easy to find and access. We really intend to streamline the visa services: make them smoother, more efficient and more customer-oriented,” Lu says.
Supporting business and pleasure travel
As CITS now handles all Chinese visas in Finland, the application process has also changed. CITS is a service provider, concentrating on customer-oriented service and offering ample space for customer interaction. The new center provides online, telephone and on-site visa services. It acts as a connecting link between the applicants and the Chinese Embassy, collecting regulated visa fees and delivering visas to applicants on its behalf.
“The center will benefit visa applicants in many ways. In addition to our excellent location in Kamppi, we make optimal use of network technology with online information, consultation, form completion and status queries. In order to reduce waiting times, we use an online appointment system. Our on-site staff is always available to help and guide applicants, and we provide specialized services for travel agencies and physically challenged applicants. Furthermore, we have invested in rapid technical support and service quality monitoring,” Lu Fang explains.
The streamlined visa services will make travelling easier for both business and pleasure travellers, supporting the relations between China and Finland and making business interaction smoother.
Help from Finnish organizations
Helsinki Business Hub was very pleased to collaborate with CITS, Business Finland and the Chinese Embassy to help set up the new visa center.
“We got great support from Business Finland and the Finnish Embassy in Beijing, including company setup information and help with our team’s visa applications. Helsinki Business Hub helped us find a location and an interior designer and provided an integrated service with its network of partners, for example, law firms and consultants. We are very grateful to all of them,” Lu says.
One challenge along the way was finding employees with the right language skills, that is, Finnish, English and Chinese. Helsinki Business Hub was able to connect CITS with Sino Talent Finland to help find employees with the desired set of languages.
“We now employ a staff seven and will make future recruitment plans according to our business needs,” says Lu.
As to setting up visa centers in other Finnish cities, the future is still open. But it looks like increasing numbers of Finnish and Chinese people are very keen to visit each other’s countries.
Text: Anu Jussila