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Now this is the kind of story that appeals to me. Heck, it could even be me. As I prepare to set out on a near four-week road trip around the travel retail planet, an e-mail dropped into my in-box from Finavia, operator of Helsinki Airport, to my mind one of the world’s most innovative – and often delightfully quirky – airport companies. It concerned such a jaw-droppingly brilliant initiative that I’m tempted to reroute my flight this weekend to Bangkok through Helsinki.
“Dear Martin, ” it began, “What is the longest time you have ever spent in an airport?” That got me thinking. I’ve had several ultra-long layovers and more than my share of Groundhog day moments when delayed flights have forced me to return to my hotel for an unexpected (and unwelcome) extra night or two. I’ve been stuck in planes for up to six hours on runways, which, by definition, counts as an airport. Once I even arrived at my hotel after a long flight (I may have had a glass or two of Sauvignon Blanc onboard) and realised I hadn’t picked up my suitcase on arrival. That meant quite a long stay at the airport I can tell you.
But all my experiences pale into insignificance compared with those of a young gentleman called Ryan Zhu, who has now been living in Helsinki Airport for over two weeks.
How do I know that? Because Ryan has been telling hundreds of thousands of people, including me, about his experiences via social media.
Let me explain. Ryan Zhu is a prominent Chinese influencer, actor and TV personality. Helsinki Airport wants to prove that it is the best airport in the world with the fastest connection between Asia and Europe. When the airport was named the world’s best by Travellink, Finavia decided to put the claim to the ultimate test. So, it challenged Ryan to live in Helsinki Airport for 30 days. And it came up with an ingeniously zany disruptive content marketing campaign called #LIFEINHEL, which kicked off on 10 October.
Featuring the ‘World’s longest layover’, #LIFEINHEL is a mix of reality TV, game shows and social media. It relates how Ryan is living in a little cabin inside Helsinki Airport for 30 days. Each day he goes through various challenges, experiences different aspects of the airport (including, of course, its shopping and dining – watch the marvellous episodes 2 and 13) and becomes familiar with the Finnish way of life. Ryan’s adventures are being broadcast on social media daily.
If Ryan lasts the full 30 days, he wins a free trip to Lapland, Finland’s northernmost region and perhaps the most beautiful of all in a country not short of natural wonder. Given what a great facility Helsinki Airport is, I suspect he’ll make it. Take a look at the films below to see how he’s getting on.
This is a seriously good project. What a way to convey an airport’s attractions and services to a crucial target audience. What a way to promote a country. #Hel? Based on what I’ve seen from the films below, Ryan’s just landed in heaven.
#LIFEINHEL DAY 1: Welcome to Hel
#LIFEINHEL DAY 2: Airport survival kit: Ryan goes shopping
#LIFEINHEL DAY 3: How to make friends in a new country
#LIFEINHEL DAY 4: How can you entertain your kids at the airport?
#LIFEINHEL DAY 5: Ryan’s first week in Helsinki Airport
#LIFEINHEL DAY 6: 10 Activities to do in Lapland
#LIFEINHEL DAY 7: How do you shower and sleep at the airport?
#LIFEINHEL DAY 8: Can you transfer in less than 35 minutes at Helsinki Airport?
#LIFEINHEL DAY 9: Best ways to spend time during a layover
#LIFEINHEL Day 10: Ryan’s second week in Helsinki Airport
#LIFEINHEL DAY 11: The perfect workout routine between flights
#LIFEINHEL DAY 13: How to make coffee art