Before the pandemic, tourism was an important sector of the Finnish economy. In 2017-19, international tourism demand increased faster than other sectors at an annual rate of approximately 8%. In 2019, the sector directly provided 133 200 jobs (5.8% of total employment), and supported 28 500 businesses.

In 2019 tourism directly contributed 2.7% of GDP, which decreased to 1.7% in 2020. The number of people employed in tourism decreased by 29 000 people in 2020, with tourism’s direct share of employment falling to 4.9%. At the same time, the number of hours worked decreased by 22%.

In 2020, international tourists arrivals fell 72.8% to 895 577 tourists. This contributed to a 41% decline in total tourism expenditure to EUR 9.7 billion. According to 2021 estimates, total tourism expenditure recovered to EUR 11.2 billion due to the growth of domestic tourism. The share of domestic spending increased from 63% in 2019 to almost 84% in 2021. This occurred as domestic tourists returned to pre-pandemic levels, and international tourism declined further in 2021.

Russia’s war in Ukraine, along with the uncertainty related to COVID-19, has created new concerns over the recovery and growth of the Finnish tourism sector. According to the latest forecast, the 2019 level of international arrivals is predicted to be reached in 2024.

The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment is responsible for tourism policy development and support. It participates in drafting legislation on tourism and maintains international relations regarding tourism. In developing the sector, the Ministry collaborates closely with other ministries.

To focus on recovery and resilience, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment established a High-Level Working Group on Tourism in 2021. It is composed of ministries that are of key importance to the tourism sector, including regional councils, state administrations, regional tourism organisations, travel companies, and research and educational institutions and organisations.

Business Finland gathers together all the services related to the promotion of innovation funding, exports, investments and tourism. The Team Finland network brings together all state-funded internationalisation services, from advice to funding. Business Finland is part of this network. Visit Finland is a unit of Business Finland and receives its funding from the state budget. Visit Finland is the national expert organisation responsible for promoting Finland as a destination, supporting Finnish travel companies to internationalise and develop and sell and market high-quality travel products. Visit Finland and the tourism industry conduct joint product campaigns and arrange familiarisation trips for foreign tour operators and the media.

Regional Councils provide support for tourism development projects, general marketing, advisory services, training and research in Finland’s 19 regions. Finland has a total of 15 Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment (ELY Centres), which are tasked with promoting regional competitiveness, well-being and sustainable development and curbing climate change. They offer financial, advisory, consulting and training services to tourism businesses and grant investment support. They also manage matters related to the local infrastructure in their areas.

Finland has allocated funding for developing tourism as part of ministries’ own budgets. The budget allocated for Visit Finland’s tourism development actions was EUR 9.8 million in 2021-22. In addition to this, EUR 4.7 million was allocated from the Government Programme for 2021. During the years 2021-24, Business Finland (and, as a part of it, Visit Finland) will be allocated funding of approximately EUR 12 million from Finland´s national Recovery and Resilience Plan, as the organisation has been given responsibility for implementing the tourism-specific investment included in this Plan.

In 2020-21, the Ministry of Education and Culture awarded a total of EUR 3.95 million in discretionary government grants to cultural tourism development projects through a one-time appropriation from the Government Programme.

A total of EUR 38.1 million was directed to Metsähallitus by the Ministry of the Environment and Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry in 2021. Metsähallitus is a state-owned enterprise that plays a key role in the management of Finland’s physical environment and related outdoor and nature-based tourism.

Finland’s national tourism policy is implemented under the Achieving More Together - Sustainable Growth and Renewal in Finnish Tourism Strategy for the period 2022-28. This Strategy includes an Action Plan for the years 2022-23. In 2022, Finland updated the Strategy and Action Plan drawn up in 2019, to better reflect the changing operational environment, including the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia's aggression against Ukraine. The focus of the update was on the future outlook and measures to be taken in accordance with the new situation.

The key mission of Finland’s national tourism policy is to ensure that tourism is developed as a responsible and growing sector that generates well-being and employment throughout the year. The Strategy's main objective is to make Finland the most sustainable tourism destination in the Nordic countries. The strategy identifies four priorities to facilitate the sustainable growth and renewal of the tourism sector: i) supporting sustainable development; ii) responding to the digital transformation; iii) improving accessibility; and iv) ensuring an operating environment that supports competitiveness.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, a variety of government organisations provided financing through direct support for the companies and industries most affected. In 2020, EUR 263 million was granted to the tourism sector as COVID-19 funding. A significant part of the financing was allocated to hotels and other accommodation services, as well as the activities of tour operators and reservation services. Finland also granted a state guarantee of approximately EUR 600 million to support the national airline, Finnair.

Other priorities aimed at tackling the consequences of the crisis include raising the resilience and competitiveness of the tourism sector, utilising knowledge-based decision making and ensuring that up-to-date data and information on global trends are available. Overarching these aims is the encouragement and support for the tourism sector to shift towards a more sustainable way of operating.

Russia’s war in Ukraine brought up new insecurities for the tourism sector and is slowing down its recovery from the pandemic. The absence of Finland’s biggest tourism export market, Russia, along with severely weakened accessibility from Asian markets due to the flight ban over Russia, is creating annual losses of more than EUR 1 billion for Finland. In Q3 2022, as part of its goal to increase the vitality of eastern Finland due to the economic effects of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, the Finnish government proposed that tourism be promoted by EUR 7.5 million by strengthening tourism marketing and improving the conditions and services for nature tourism, for example.

Finland is supporting the recovery and ensuring the prerequisites for the sector’s long-term development by paying attention to all dimensions of sustainability – economic, ecological, social and cultural – along with supporting digitalisation initiatives and management by data (Box 2.11).

Visit Finland has been developing national sustainable tourism indicators as part of the national Sustainable Travel Finland Programme, targeted at tourism companies and destinations to support their efforts in sustainable development (Box 3.13). The development of indicators is done in close co-operation with the Finnish tourism sector.

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