Domestic travel to Helsinki increased significantly in 2022 since the pandemic. The number of domestic visitors has also remained at roughly the same good level, which proves that people in Finland want to visit the capital and find new experiences in the city. The number of international visitors increased by over 15% in June–August, compared to 2022.
“From an international perspective, the capital of Finland is an exotic destination that is not too hot in the summer and where you don’t see the same kind of mass tourism as in Southern Europe. Finland joining NATO also put Finland and Helsinki on the world map, so to speak,” says Nina Vesterinen, Tourism Director of the City of Helsinki.
Summer visits to Helsinki grew by almost 5%
From June to August, Helsinki attracted 1.36 million overnight stays. Of the stays, 52% were by visitors from Finland and 48% by international visitors. The occupancy rate of hospitality businesses was 66%, two per cent higher than the previous summer. Visitors also stayed outside of hospitality businesses, such as in private homes, for example. Their estimated proportion is about 15% of all stays. Helsinki also saw many visitors who stayed for a day, such as people on international cruises. Helsinki Tourist Information assisted over 85,000 visitors from June to August. Of the customers of the tourist information services, 96% considered the information received especially helpful or very helpful.
Most companies in the Helsinki tourism network also saw the summer as a success.
Most international visitors came to Helsinki from the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom and Sweden. Especially surprising growth was seen from Australia. There were also significantly more visitors from Italy compared to the previous year. International tourists seemed unbothered by the rain in Helsinki, compared to the disastrous heatwaves in Southern Europe that caused trouble for visitors there. Due to changing weather conditions, Finland will stand out positively in the future, and the number of international visitors in Helsinki will likely increase. However, this development is not solely positive in terms of sustainable tourism, and Helsinki recognises the issue. This is why Helsinki’s primary goal is to focus on the quality of tourism, not its quantity.
Helsinki is a responsible, beautiful and sustainable destination
Helsinki aims to be a pioneer in sustainable tourism. Some visitors stay in Helsinki for a longer time, and Helsinki Helpers – the travel guides assisting visitors on the streets – get more and more questions about activities that would span several days. Longer stays is one of Helsinki’s tourism goals and also proof of people wanting to invest in sustainable travel. Instead of rushed visits to a city, tourists are increasingly focusing on spending quality time at the destination.
Helsinki also wants to focus on sustainable and responsible tourism in various ways. In addition to prolonging stays, the main goals are attracting business events and congresses and the related tourism, which allows for the combination of business and leisure, and appealing to a visitor demographic whose values will develop Helsinki as a responsible city for sustainable tourism.
“We have really invested in developing sustainable tourism in Helsinki, with the support of international and national programmes. The feedback we have received shows that visitors have taken note of this. Our tourist information services highlight companies that offer sustainable products and services. As a City organisation, we also want to support local tourism companies in developing their sustainability,” Vesterinen states.
Almost 60 tourism businesses in Helsinki have the national Sustainable Travel Finland certificate, and the number of these businesses is constantly growing. Helsinki is also using various carbon footprint metrics, the newest of which is a carbon footprint calculator designed for events. The data collected helps us see where the emissions related to tourism are coming from and how they can be reduced through various measures.
Events are the thing attracting visitors to Helsinki in the summer. Helsinki offers a lively selection of events that is a little different each year. New events for summer 2023 included the electronic dance music festival U Nation in Kansalaistori Square and the musical Mamma Mia! in Kaivopuisto Park. In addition to these, Flow Festival, Helsinki Samba Carneval, Helsinki Pride, Tuska Festival, Helsinki Cup and Sideways Festival gathered an impressive number of visitors. The city was also full of smaller events throughout the summer.
Helsinki to develop the visitor experience
In July, Helsinki also launched a systematic and goal-oriented way of measuring and managing the visitor experience in the city. The aim is to offer a positive experience to tourists and event visitors coming to Helsinki. The City will see results from the data collected in late autumn.
“Many visitors appreciate being heard, things going smoothly, and services being functional. The polite and mild-mannered service in Finnish establishments pleases many visitors, compared to a more animated manner that may even feel intrusive,” Tourism Director Vesterinen says.
Then what would a perfect tourism summer and visitor experience be like?
“Not too hot, and not too rainy. I hope that visitors would discover Helsinki in a way that would make them want to stay for a long time and visit our various wonderful attractions. Helsinki offers so much to see and experience, and our accommodation capacity is at a very high level. If we focus on sustainability, we can strive towards an increasingly interesting and unique tourism city,” Tourism Director Nina Vesterinen sums up the City’s goals.