Targeting Finnish travellers? They are interested in experiencing local culture and everyday life, and are happy to travel out of season

24 January, 2019

After rapid growth in international tourism in the 2000s the number of Finnish outbound travellers and has slowed somewhat in the 2010s. But an expanded schedule from national carrier Finnair, including recently announced new long-haul flights in winter 2019/2020 to Saporro, Japan and Punta Cana, Dominican Republic will allow local, as well as connecting passengers through its wider network, to travel even further afield.

Over a ten year period from 1997 until 2016 the value of outbound tourism from Finland grew from USD2,080 million in 1997 to USD5,168 million in 2016, growing at an average annual rate of 5.27%. Local markets dominate, most notably Estonia and Sweden, and German, Spain, Russia and to a growing extent Greece, are seeing strong flows, but the Asian market is also key.

The strong Asian flows are supported by Finland's geographical position making travel times into Asia via Polar routings the shortest across Europe. Finnair and Helsinki Airport also strongly market the value of this proposition to develop transfer traffic flows and complement the local traffic demand.

CHART - There has been a stepped growth in international seats in and out of Finland over the past two years with year-on-year rises of 12.8% in 2017 and 13.4% in 2018Source: CAPA - Centre for Aviation and OAG

Finland's economy faced problems in 2015 leading to new policies of fiscal tightening and structural reform and inbound tourism has increasingly become an important market. In recent years, tourism in Finland has grown more than other sectors. In 2017, the direct contribution of travel and tourism amounted to EUR4.3 billion, growing around 3.1% in 2018 and expected to rise by 2.6% per annum through to 2028 to EUR5.7 billion, according to World Travel & Tourism Council expectations.

The strengthening of Finland's economy has boosted outbound demand leading to a high volume of business trips in 2018, while also enticing people to leisure travel domestically (buoyed by good summer weather), locally as well as abroad. According to preliminary data gathered by the Association of Finnish Travel Agents (AFTA) mainly from its member companies, the travel industry's full turnover for 2018 (not including repeat sales) was up 4.3% versus 2017 to EUR2.0 billion. In the corporate market trip sales along with event, meeting, and group sales totalled EUR677.5 million, a rise of 3.4% versus 2017.

But how can destinations become an attractive proposition to Finnish travellers? A new survey has found that when travelling, Finns are interested in experiencing local culture and everyday life, rather than staying in and around their hotel.

CHART - National carrier Finnair is the largest international operator in Finland and accounts for more than half the international system seatsSource: CAPA - Centre for Aviation and OAG (data: w/c 21-Jan-2019)

According to the tourism survey conducted by the Matka Nordic Travel Fair, which took place in Helsinki earlier this month, travelling Finns are particularly interested in relaxing, and experiencing local culture and everyday life. When travelling, Finns are also responsible and follow instructions, and respect the customs of the destinations.

The survey shows Finns are interested in experiencing local culture and everyday life, rather than staying in and around their hotel. They also find local shops more interesting than large shopping centres or shopping opportunities at their hotels. Some 62% of the respondents said that they prefer to visit lesser-known places over popular tourist destinations, and 75% said they prefer to eat at street-food establishments rather than in famous restaurants.

People primarily travel for rest and relaxation, and more than 60% of the respondents said they prefer holiday trips that last for more than one week. Some 84% of the respondents prefer to keep their work and holiday trips separate, instead of combining them. The majority of Finns also favour local service providers, such as hotels and restaurants. Many also reduce the tourism load on destinations by travelling outside the busiest season.

The survey also shows that the travel decisions and travel inspiration of Finnish people are most influenced by the travel experiences of friends or acquaintances. The second most important inspiration for travel is the advertisements of tour operators, airlines and hotels.

Women in particular received inspiration from a variety of different sources. Young people under 25 years of age were inspired by their friends' updates and images on the social media, and one third of the respondents got their travel inspiration from content they saw on social media channels, such as Instagram photographs, blogs or YouTube videos.