Paavo Virkkunen, Executive Director, Business Finland Oy & Head of Visit Finland numbers the key assets of this extraordinary destination
In 2017, international travel to Finland hit a new record with overnight stays of foreign visitors as high as 6.7 million, and the number of foreign overnights increased by 972,000, achieving 17% growth compared to the previous year. We asked Paavo Virkkunen, Executive Director, Business Finland Oy & Head of Visit Finland to tell us how Chinese travellers fit into the picture.
China ranked No.5 among source markets after Russia, Germany, Sweden, & UK and has become the biggest long-haul source market for Finland. China is indeed one of Visit Finland’s primary markets. Nights spent by Chinese tourists reached 362,138 in 2017, +33.4% compared to 2016. Chinese Travel Income reached around €330m in 2017 and Chinese expenditure per trip was €1,200, the highest among all nationalities. To sum up, China is very important market for Visit Finland and that’s also one of the reasons for us to join ITB China for the second time.
FINLAND IS A SAFE & STABLE COUNTRY AND HAS THE WORLD’S CLEANEST AIR
What prompted you to partner with ITB China?
ITB is a leading trade fair in the world. That why we joined ITB in Germany, Singapore and also last year in Shanghai. With ITB China, our Finnish partners have the opportunity to meet important buyers from the Chinese travel trade, which will bring more business opportunities to the Finnish travel trade. Meanwhile, China has become more and more important and the fastest growing market for Finland. To become partner destination of ITB China, we strongly believe that it will bring us extra exposure and benefits during the fair among the travel trade, and also illustrates the importance of the Chinese market for Visit Finland.
What are the “key assets” of Finland as a destination – especially for Chinese travellers?
Finland has variety of offerings for Chinese travellers. In 2018, Finland is the Happiest Country in the world according to the UN’s ranking. Finland is a safe & stable country and has the world’s cleanest air. 70% of the lands are covered by forest and trees. Midnight sun in the summer and Aurora in the winter offers exotic experiences for travellers. Moreover, unique accommodation (cottages, glass igloo hotels, etc.) and lots of activities create a oncein- a-lifetime and unforgettable experience.
What extra moves are being made to prepare local receptive companies and hotel operators for Chinese visitors?
We started the cooperation with Alipay in 2016. Alipay has been implemented to many shops, hotels, taxi or other merchandises. Chinese people could use the familiar payment tool to pay bills and go shopping. Helsinki and Tencent launched the Helsinki Mini Program in WeChat during Chinese New Year of 2018. With the trendy Mini Program, travellers could find all the practical information about the city including attractions, transportation, and so on. Many destinations and hotel chains also have China-ready projects in order to meet the demands and habits of Chinese people.
What are your key goals at ITB China?
Winter season in Finland is very popular among Chinese tourists now. Through the efforts of our partners, we would like to maintain our good image and develop new products for Chinese travellers. However, our summer is also beautiful, with thousands of lakes and the midnight sun. We would like to promote Finnish Lakeland to Chinese people to give them a reason to stay longer in Finland in the summer season. Winter Sports are a hot topic now in China. Finland has a good infrastructure for winter sports activities and winter sports is in the Finns’ blood. We hope that through our further promotions, we will be able to attract more Chinese winter sports lovers to visit Finnish ski resorts or join other winter sports in Finland. Finnish Education also has its reputation around the world. Visit Finland has also been actively encouraging our Finnish partners to produce new educational travel products for the China market, such as student camps, real classroom experiences, and so on.
Photo: Paavo Virkkunen – Executive Director, Business Finland Oy & Head of Visit Finland