Photo: Eliel Kilkki & Ben Daley

Helsinki tourism enjoys record growth in 2017

Last year the number of overnight stays (bednights) in Helsinki broke the four-million barrier for the first time ever. Tourism in Helsinki on the whole is doing well, with faster growth than in neighbouring capital cities. Helsinki is also the most popular congress city in the entire Nordic region, and it has the busiest passenger port in Europe.

Helsinki enjoyed a record year for tourism in 2017. Over four million overnight stays were registered inside Helsinki, representing year-on-year growth of 13 percent. The number of overnight stays in Helsinki Region as a whole was 5.3 million. As the nation’s capital, Helsinki is the driving force of tourism in Finland, as reflected especially in the high proportion of overnight stays by foreign visitors compared to the rest of Finland. The number of overnight stays in Helsinki by foreign visitors grew by 15 percent, while the number of overnight stays by domestic visitors increased by 10 percent.

“Tourism in Helsinki is doing really well right now. Most of our visitors last year came from Russia, Germany, Great Britain, the USA, Sweden and Japan. The biggest relative increases in the number of visitors came from Russia, by 37 percent, and China, by 31 percent, and we also saw growth in many other markets. The positive economic situation in many of our key markets has benefitted the global tourism industry and enabled both Helsinki and Finland to post record tourism figures,” comments Laura Aalto, CEO of Helsinki Marketing.

Helsinki’s main attraction in the tourism markets is its proximity to nature combined with the intriguing urban culture and event offerings. Tourists are increasingly interested in truly experiencing and gaining a genuine feel for the destination, as the most popular city destinations in Europe suffer from excessive tourism. Smaller cities like Helsinki are well positioned to respond to the growing demand for experiential tourism.

Helsinki growing faster than competitors

Tourism in Helsinki is currently growing faster than in neighbouring capital cities. Last year the number of overnight stays increased by just 2 percent in Copenhagen, 3 percent in Oslo and 3 percent in Tallinn. According to preliminary statistics, Stockholm also had growth of around three percent in 2017. In order to maintain its impressive growth, Helsinki must continue to focus on increasing accommodation capacity and on visitor services.

“To ensure sustainable growth, it is important that tourism reinforces the vitality of the entire city. We must see that Helsinki’s accommodation capacity continues to grow, that we continue to improve our visitor services, and that we make sure these services meet the needs of visitors, also digitally. Tourism has moved very rapidly into the digital age, which is creating new demands for tourist destinations,” Aalto continues.

Helsinki is working hard to stand out from the competition by developing digital tourism services. A new website,, was launched last summer with contents based on genuine recommendations by locals. The website now serves visitors in six languages. In addition, a new mini program was launched for Chinese visitors as part of the Chinese New Year celebrations on Thursday 15 February 2018. The new service provides visitor information to the mobile devices of almost a billion WeChat users. Helsinki will continue to work closely with Chinese internet service giant Tencent to further develop the application.

Helsinki tourism growing on a healthy basis

The strength of Helsinki’s tourism sector is the broad diversity of nationalities visiting the Finnish capital. It also benefits from an even distribution between leisure travel and business travel, the latter of which accounted for 47 percent of registered overnight stays in Helsinki last year. International association meetings in particular attract many business travellers. Helsinki is currently the most popular congress city in the Nordic region and 15th in the UIA global rankings.

Helsinki’s international status is also boosted by its excellent transportation connections. The national airline Finnair offers many flights to and from Asia, giving Helsinki a big advantage over other European cities. In addition, the Port of Helsinki became the busiest passenger port in Europe and possibly the whole world last year, serving an impressive 12.3 million passengers. A total of 266 international cruise ships visited Helsinki in 2017, bringing with them almost half a million cruise passengers.

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