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Foreign Tourists Return to Finland, but More Slowly Than Elsewhere in Europe

The number of foreign tourists in Finland is gradually on the rise, as can be seen on the streets of Helsinki this month.

Mariya Ismailova from Kazakhstan, who is studying in Italy, is heading to the broad steps of the 1852 Lutheran Cathedral with a friend. She told Yle that she particularly appreciates Finland’s nature and climate.

“It’s a bit chillier here than in Italy, where I came from, but I like it. The air is so fresh and clean,” said Ismailova.

Mila Tuger, who lives in the US, stopped off in Helsinki for a day while on a Baltic Sea cruise before continuing on to Stockholm. She praised the Finnish capital’s cleanliness, plentiful parks and friendly people.

“I’ve long dreamed of seeing the Baltic Sea and its beautiful cities, including Helsinki of course. I’m really happy that I can spend even one day here,” said Tuger.

In 2019, before the pandemic, there were about seven million overnight stays by foreign tourists in Finland. While the volume has not yet returned to that level, the numbers are increasing, with growth accelerating during the first half of this year.

“This year, for example, tourism from Asia has slowly started to take off. In general, tourism has picked up from other markets as well,” said Kristiina Hietasaari, Senior Director of Visit Finland.

More interest among Belgian, Dutch and French travellers

Most foreign tourists this summer are from Europe. Compared to the past, Finland now lacks Russian tourists, while there are also fewer tourists from Asia.

In addition to the effects of the pandemic, Asian tourism has declined due to longer flights and higher air fares as most airlines can no longer fly over Russia.

According to Hietasaari, foreign tourists have returned to Finland more slowly than in the rest of Europe.

“That is because of our geographical location and the fact that we were so heavily dependent on Russian tourists. On the other hand, it’s also because we had a significantly stronger foothold in the Asian market compared to, for example, other Nordic countries,” she explained.

She predicts international tourism to Finland will not recover to its previous level until 2025.

However, to some extent new groups of tourists have been attracted to replace those who left. These include visitors from the US and from various parts of Europe.

“Germany is our most important target market, but there is very strong growth from Belgium, the Netherlands and France. Italy and Spain are also really important to us,” said Hietasaari. “The situation now looks good compared to previous years. We’re moving in the right direction.”

Since the pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, fewer international cruise ships have been visiting Finland. Around 90 cruise ships are expected in Helsinki this summer, bringing some 120,000 visitors – but most just for a few hours or a day.

Strong potential for August

On the other hand, according to Hietasaari, the number of flights reserved to Finland for the rest of the summer looks quite positive.

By late June, more than a quarter-million passengers had booked flights to Finland for overnight stays during the three summer months. That is down by about 25 percent compared to the summer of 2019.

On average, trips to Finland are booked nearly two months in advance. However, many tourists still make their travel decisions during the summer.

“I believe that we still have a lot of potential for August, which is the main holiday season for Central Europeans,” said Hietasaari.

Source : YLE

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