Finding what you need in an airport can be difficult — knowing what shops and restaurants are available and how far they are from your gate is important when you have limited time before your flight. Tongcheng-Elong, a market leader in China’s online travel industry and backed by Ctrip.com International and Tencent Holdings (the parent company of WeChat), has launched a WeChat mini-program called Tongcheng-Elong Hotel Flight Train (同程艺龙酒店机票火车) to help tourists who find navigating international airports overwhelming. And just in time for China’s busiest travel period, the Lunar New Year.
The WeChat mini-program, which allows users to book flights, train tickets, and hotels (in both Chinese and English), also offers an airport guide feature. Though currently only available at Wuxi Sunan Shuofang International Airport (and only in Chinese), it provides users with a 3D visual tour of the terminal.
By tapping on the VR link attached to each destination within the airport, users can take a walk through locations and then continue on to other parts of the airport by tapping on arrows for navigation. Also, through the app, it is possible to purchase entrance to available lounges, which are used as starting points for the virtual tour.
While it may not be the perfect virtual experience (it does take a bit of time to load, which isn’t great when you have limited time), it still offers a better guide experience than what was previously available, and can easily aid travelers in their search for specific duty-free shops and restaurants and their locations in relation to the departure gate.
A Tongcheng-Elong representative told Chinese travel publication Pinchain that the mini-program will be upgraded following user feedback, and the company is looking at offering more airport services for purchase beyond the lounges. The company may be able to leverage the mini-program to attract vendors to sell products or advertise on the platform. The company, however, has not mentioned where it will expand following the launch at the pilot airport in Wuxi.