Photo by Leo Johnson

Helsinki becomes the most popular congress city in the Nordics

A record number of congresses chose Helsinki as their host city in 2018. According to the annual congress city statistics published by the Union of International Associations (UIA) this week, Helsinki is the most popular Nordic city for organising congresses.

Helsinki improved its position in the overall rankings to 14th, leaving behind it such cities as Stockholm, Copenhagen and Oslo. Last year, Helsinki hosted a total of 329 international association meetings. Work-related travel accounted for around a half of all visits to Helsinki, and a total of 4.17 million overnight stays were registered in Helsinki in 2018.

Helsinki is known as a reliable and functional congress city. Helsinki’s advantages include its efficient services and cooperation with local event organisers. “This is the result of close collaboration and a fine achievement for the entire industry. Helsinki is the world’s most functional city, also for congress organisers,” comments Leena Lassila, Director, Global Sales, at Helsinki Marketing.

Helsinki expects another busy year in 2019. Already three major international events have been organised in Helsinki at the start of the summer: the 29th Annual Meeting of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC Europe – 2000 delegates), the World Circular Economy Forum (WCEF – 1500 delegates) and the European Conference of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS & Health 2.0 – 3000 delegates). The peak season this year, however, is expected in the autumn. For example, Europe's largest international higher education conference, the 31st Annual EAIE Conference and Exhibition, will be held in Helsinki in September and is expected to attract an estimated 6000 delegates.

Congress activities in line with sustainable development

Helsinki is also a leader in the congress sector in terms of sustainable development. Each year, the Global Destination Sustainability (GDS) Index ranks congress destinations on the basis of their environmental deeds and social responsibility, as well as the commitment of service providers and the activities of convention bureaus – i.e. Helsinki Marketing’s Congress Bureau – from the perspective of sustainability. The purpose is to promote awareness of sustainable solutions among congress actors.

Helsinki ranked 5th in the GDS Index in 2018 and 6th in 2017. Responsibility is of growing importance among event organisers. “This year we are piloting a responsible congress organisation model that offers event organisers easy-to-use tools to organising even more responsible events,” Lassila explains.

Congresses are a significant source of income for Helsinki’s tourism industry

Congresses help enhance awareness and appeal for the host city. Helsinki’s advantages include not only a reliable reputation, the high quality of services, excellent connections and safety, but also the high standard of research in many scientific fields. Helsinki aims to attract a growing number of international association meetings, business conferences and related events. Helsinki’s position as a centre of leading expertise supports this aim.

Attracting major events to the city requires long-term work, but the rewards in terms of income are significant. The average congress visitor generates up to five times more tourism income than the average tourist. Congress visitors also stay in Helsinki for more nights, and many choose Helsinki as a future holiday destination.

Helsinki’s appeal as a congress city is also growing due to increased accommodation capacity. The Helsinki metropolitan area currently has approximately 19,000 rooms, and at least 5000 more rooms are expected in the near future. “Even though our accommodation capacity is quite a lot smaller than the other Nordic capitals, we are still the number one congress city in the Nordics,” Lassila points out.