Finland's growing appeal as a travel destination is creating new business opportunities for international companies.
Alitrip, one of the largest online travel agencies in China, has announced its plan to bring 50,000 visitors to Finland during the course of 2017 and as many as 6–8,000,000 visitors, primarily via Helsinki, to Europe in 2020.
“We plan to send 50,000 Chinese tourists to Finland during the course of next year,” Li Shaohua, the general manager of Alitrip, stated at a publicity event organised in Rovaniemi on 27 October, 2016.
“The question is: are you ready?”
“Yes, absolutely,” replies Paavo Virkkunen, the head of Finpro's Visit Finland.
The expected number of visitors per week, he explains, is equivalent to the seat capacity of three wide-body aircraft, whereas the current supply of services between Finland and China is five to eight wide-body aircraft per day, depending on season.
Virkkunen admits that there are both qualitative and quantitative issues – such as how to transport visitors from Helsinki to other parts of Finland – that must be addressed to satisfy the needs of the growing number of the increasingly quality-conscious Chinese.
This will create business opportunities.
“You can't build accommodation capacity or really anything based on demand peaks, but you have to think about the capacity utilisation rate. Perhaps our greatest challenge is how to extend the tourism season and make sure that the demand doesn't taper off too much at any time of the year,” he says.
Invest in Finland and Visit Finland have identified development needs in the tourism industry and are providing concrete assistance to foreign companies interested in investing or participating in investing in developing the tourism infrastructure in Finland.
“We also have to develop more high-quality services and upgrade our offering to meet the needs of quality-conscious target groups. I see great potential also for international tourism service providers and encourage them to explore the Finnish market,” Virkkunen adds.
The Chinese are particularly interested in experiencing the unique the nature of Finland: the clean air, clean water and – of course – the northern lights. Certain nature experiences that are ordinary for many Finns, such as picking berries or walking in the forest, are extraordinary for the Chinese, reminds Virkkunen.
The Chinese are currently the fifth largest nationality among foreign visitors in Finland, following a 41 per cent year-on-year increase in the number of overnight stays in 2015, according to Statistics Finland. The growth has also continued at a blistering rate, with the latest data indicating that the number of overnight stays by Chinese tourists rose by almost 41 per cent year-on-year in October, 2016.
“We're very excited because of the enormous growth potential,” says Virkkunen.
The number of overnight stays by all foreign visitors is similarly on the up-tick after decreasing moderately over the past couple of years due to a drop in the number of overnight stays by visitors from Russia.