WeChat Lets Chinese Tourists in South Korea Exchange Spare Coins for Digital Red Envelopes

    New kiosks in South Korea let Chinese tourists seamlessly exchange their spare Korean currency for WeChat mobile payment balance.
    New kiosks in South Korea let Chinese tourists exchange spare coins for WeChat red envelopes before they return to China. (Freer/Shutterstock)
    Daniel MeesakAuthor
      Published   in Finance

    The list of ways in which travel companies are leveraging China’s foremost messaging platform to court Chinese travelers is growing longer by the day. Whether it’s used for marketing, sales, customer service, or just for providing features to surprise and delight Chinese visitors, WeChat is becoming a vital tool in the travel marketer’s China toolkit.

    The latest WeChat innovation to make the rounds is a kiosk money exchange service that the South Korean Incheon Port Authority has rolled out at Incheon Port, a major point of entry for Chinese tourists who visit South Korea by car. The ATM-sized kiosks let Chinese tourists exiting South Korea exchange their spare Korean currency for Chinese yuan in the form of WeChat “red envelopes”—digital transactions that top up users’ WeChat Pay account balance. By putting their spare Korean won into the machine as well as entering their WeChat account names, Chinese tourists can seamlessly exchange physical Korean currency into a WeChat account balance immediately ready to be spent on other purchases.

    Incheon Port, an increasingly important port of entry for Chinese tourists to South Korea, has begun by rolling out the WeChat exchange kiosks in one of its international passenger terminals as a pilot project, and plans to introduce them at the second passenger terminal if the pilot project proves successful with Chinese travelers. The kiosks leverage a customized WeChat’s mobile payment feature and could easily be replicated at other ports of entry, such as Incheon International Airport, the main airport that serves Seoul.

    The technology which the Incheon Port WeChat kiosks are based upon is freely available for organizations throughout the world, and the kiosks prove a good example of how WeChat’s various features can be integrated into customized solutions that help surprise and delight Chinese tourists with customer service beyond what is usually expected. While many tourism companies make sure to add a typical WeChat official account to their marketing mix in China, it is often overlooked as a tool to truly enrich Chinese tourists’ travel experiences during their travels abroad.

    Other examples of innovative WeChat travel integrations found in Jing Daily’s WeChat Report 2016 include Las Vegas’ LINQ hotel’s “Hotel Room of the Future,” which allows users to control in-room facilities such as lamps, curtains, and door locks, as well as Sanya Tourism Board’s WeChat-based VR platform that lets prospective tourists explore the destination and the sights it has to offer before booking their trips. While some of the more elaborate WeChat initiatives do come from the usual suspects—major tourism companies—many of the truly innovative WeChat integrations come from smaller players looking to out-innovate their larger competitors. Incheon Port, a much less significant port of entry for Chinese tourists than its neighboring Incheon International Airport, proves a good example of aggressive innovation on behalf of a smaller tourism player.

    To learn more about how tourism companies can leverage WeChat in their Chinese marketing and customer service efforts, click here to download Jing Daily’s WeChat Report 2016.

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