Tourism is recognised as an important growth sector and contributor to the Finnish economy. In 2017, tourism amounted to 2.6% of Finland’s GDP and tourism consumption reached EUR 15 billion. Tourism exports have grown steadily and amounted to 18% of service exports in 2017 – the third largest service export. Tourism industries directly employed 123 500 people in 2017, equivalent to 5.5% of total employment, and it is estimated that this will reach 164 000 by 2028. Around 28 500 tourism-related businesses, many of which are micro in size, recorded a turnover of EUR 9.7 billion.

International visitor numbers have doubled since 2000, and these spent EUR 4.6 billion in 2017 in Finland. In 2018, 5.6 million tourists visited Finland, up 12.4% over 2017, and nights in all means of accommodation reached 6.8 million (+1.5%). The Russian Federation continued to be the largest inbound market (826 000 nights), followed by Germany (628 000 nights) and the United Kingdom (593 000 nights), which replaced Sweden in third place. High growth markets include the Netherlands (up 8.4% on 2017), Spain (up 8.3%) and the United States (up 7.5%). Domestic leisure trips reached 38 million.

In 2018, accommodation establishments in Finland recorded over 22 million overnight stays, up 1.5% on the previous year, of which domestic tourists accounted for around 15.4 million and international tourists 6.8 million. In 2018, 8.7 million domestic tourists were recorded, up 1.5% over 2017.

The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment is responsible for tourism policy. It takes part in drafting legislation on tourism, maintains international relations and works closely with other ministries. Visit Finland is tasked with promoting Finland as a tourist destination, and is responsible for promoting inbound tourism and helping Finnish travel companies to internationalise, develop and market high-quality travel products. It is part of Business Finland, an umbrella body responsible for promoting innovation funding, exports, investment and tourism.

An Inter-Ministerial Working Group on Tourism, chaired by Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, acts as a monitoring body for the implementation of tourism policy. It facilitates the effective exchange information on tourism and the preparation of tourism-related matters for decision-makers. It meets several times a year and includes the ministries of Transport and Communication, Environment, Agriculture and Forestry, Foreign Affairs, and Education and Culture, together with organisations under the remit of the participating ministries. These include Business Finland, Visit Finland, Metsähallitus, a state-owned enterprise that plays a key role in the management of Finland’s physical environment and related outdoor and nature based tourism, Finnish National Agency for Education, Finnish Food Authority, and the Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency.

A Working Group to discuss tourism statistical issues meets twice a year, chaired by Statistics Finland.

Collaboration with the private sector is facilitated through the Business Finland Tourism Advisory Board, which guides the work of Visit Finland and consists of industry leaders from different branches of tourism, and other tourism organisations and representative bodies. Private sector collaboration also takes place in regular bilateral meetings between the Ministry and trade and labour market organisations.

At regional level, the Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment (ELY Centres) provide financial, advisory, consulting and training services to tourism businesses, as part of their remit to promote regional competitiveness, well-being and sustainable development. Regional Councils also provide support for tourism development projects, general marketing, advisory services, training and research. There are also some 70 regional tourism organisations, which have varied objectives, tasks and ownership structures. Locally, tourism issues are handled by municipalities and local tourist information offices. The amount of funding provided by public sources varies from year to year. Visit Finland is funded from the State budget, receiving EUR 11.9 million in 2017. In 2018-19, the budget was increased to EUR 16 million in order to deliver the Tourism 4.0 Action Programme. In addition, in 2018 tourism-related projects received around EUR 25 million from Finland’s Structural Funds Programme 2014-20, and EUR 12.3 million from the Rural Development Programme for Mainland Finland 2014-20.

Recognised trends affecting inbound tourism are sustainability and its impact on tourism and travel behaviour, digitalisation, new potential tourist markets as well as increased international interest in some of Finland’s key strengths: nature, security, cleanliness and authenticity. A major challenge faced by tourism in Finland is its price competitiveness, with high taxes and labour costs as contributing factors. Other challenges include seasonality, difficulties in finding skilled workers, connectivity issues and relatively few travel businesses to support tourism growth.

Under the new Tourism Strategy 2019-28 and Action Plan 2019-23, Achieving More Together - Sustainable Growth and Renewal in Finnish Tourism, Finland aims to double tourism exports and be the most sustainable destination in the Nordic region. The Strategy identifies four key priorities to promote growth and renewal in the sector: support activities that foster sustainable development, respond to digital change, improve accessibility, and ensure an operating environment that supports competitiveness. Co-operation with relevant stakeholders also plays a major role. A range of recent cross-cutting policy initiatives are aligned with the Strategy. The Finnish Food Policy, Food 2030, includes an objective to strengthen food tourism. Strategies to protect high value natural environments and resources, including the Strategy for the Arctic Region, the Baltic Sea Strategy, the updated National Forest Strategy 2025, and the new Maritime Policy Guidelines, closely align to the 2030 Agenda goals, embed sustainability as a core component, and seek to develop new market opportunities, such as nature tourism.

The importance of tourism for the growth of Finland’s economy is recognised by the Finnish Government. Government support for tourism was strengthened with the allocation of additional funding support for the Tourism 4.0 Action Programme for period 2018-19. This initiative supported the implementation of the national tourism strategy, and aimed to continue recent growth with investment in marketing, enhancing digitalisation, measures to tackle seasonality, and steps to enhance the sustainability of tourism businesses. The latter goal is supported by the Sustainable Arctic Travel Destination programme implemented by Business Finland/Visit Finland. One of the principal measures is to create the Sustainable Travel Finland label for both businesses and destinations. The concept has three aims: to be a low threshold sustainable development tool for tourism destinations and businesses; a marketing communication tool for Visit Finland; and a label to identify sustainable travel businesses and destinations to both travel trade and consumers.

In January 2018, the Ministry launched a two-year programme Matkailudiili to ease the shortage of skilled workers in the tourism sector, with measures to improve awareness and perceptions of employment opportunities in tourism, strengthen co-operation between tourism actors, and pilot tourism employment projects (Box 1.14). A Roadmap for the Digitalisation of the Finnish Tourism Sector originally launched in 2018 sets out the vision to make Finland a smart, pioneering tourism destination that provides the best customer journey (see box).

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