Tourism has changed dramatically in Rovaniemi, located on the Arctic Circle in Finland’s Lapland, where the extended Christmas period is still the most popular season for visitors. In 2006 almost 140,000 visitors flew into the city during the Christmas season mainly on charter flights, with most staying just a single day or spending one night. By 2009 the number of air passengers arriving in Rovaniemi during the Christmas season was only 84,500 and the daily visits had changed into longer stays. This transformation has helped to make tourism more profitable in Rovaniemi, according to Sanna Kortelainen, managing director of Rovaniemi Tourism & Marketing Ltd.
In 2010, almost 470,000 tourists stayed in overnight accommodation in Rovaniemi. The majority were international tourists and Rovaniemi actually recorded the second most overnight stays by international visitors in Finland after Helsinki. The total number of visitors increased by 6.6% compared to 2009, with the number of domestic tourists growing by about 5% and of international tourists by almost 8%.
There has been a major structural change in tourism, where the power is now with individual travellers who are more demanding in their needs and discuss their destinations on many different channels, according to Kortelainen. People are looking for more personal travel experiences, which also increases the workload for tourism companies. Email exchanges with visitors can continue for months but Kortelainen believes that the extra work is compensated by more spending when the tourists arrive in Rovaniemi.
“For international tourists a journey to Rovaniemi is a unique experience and a major investment. Once here they loosen the purse strings. For example, one family recently purchased 3000 euros worth of recreation services,” says Kortelainen.