Finland must invest in developing its tourism infrastructure if it is to fulfil its potential as a tourism destination, states Paavo Virkkunen, the head of Finpro’s Visit Finland. The country is witnessing an increase in interest from international tourists after featuring on the lists of recommended tourist destinations for 2017 by Lonely Planet and National Geographic.
“The Finnish tourism industry must now convert the global interest to euros and growth. Bold and quick investments will be required to accomplish this,” he states.
Virkkunen acknowledges that last year, and especially its second half, was great for the industry.
Visit Finland has reported that foreign visitors made 3.1 million day trips and 4.6 million overnight trips to the country in 2016, with the total number of trips, 7.7 million, representing an increase of roughly two per cent from the previous year.
Chinese visitors’ overnight stays surged by almost 30%
Statistics Finland, in turn, has reported that the number of overnight stays by foreign visitors crept up by 4.6 per cent year-on-year to 5.8 million in 2016, partly as a consequence of a surge of 28.8 per cent in the number of overnight stays by visitors from China and Hong Kong.
“The most notable feature of the accommodation statistics is the continuing, breakneck growth in the number of overnight stays by Asians,” views Virkkunen. “China, including Hong Kong, was 15th in the list of visitors’ countries of residence as recently as in 2010, but last year it was as high as 5th.”
Another positive development was the recovery of the rouble in the second half of the year: it not only halted the protracted slide in the number of overnight visitors but also boosted the purchasing power of visitors from Russia.
“If the trend in Asian and Russian tourism to Finland continues, 2017 will be an excellent year for the Finnish tourism industry,” predicts Virkkunen.
Visitors spent 5% more on shopping and services
Visit Finland has also revealed that foreign visitors spent €2.5 billion, five per cent more than in the year before, on shopping and services in Finland in 2016. The total export revenue from tourism, including the €1.4 billion foreign visitors spent on travel costs, stood at €3.9 billion.
The average visitor spending per trip was €320, according to Visit Finland.
“A lot of unfulfilled potential”
Helsinki and Lapland, for the present, remain the most popular tourist destinations, but global travel trends, such as nature and wellness tourism, are expected to boost tourism also in other parts of Finland.
The country’s vibrant but as-yet largely unheralded urban culture is similarly expected to attract new groups of foreign visitors to the country.
“The entire tourism industry must now courageously break down old barriers and increase co-operation to make sure it can reach its full potential,” states Virkkunen. “Foreign visitors contribute some €4 billion a year to the national economy and the industry employs 140,000 people. There is, however, a lot of unfulfilled potential, and now is an opportune time to seize that potential.”
Picure credits: Harri Tarvainen