The giant has awoken, declares the Finnish Hospitality Association (MaRa).
MaRa highlights in its member magazine, Vitriini, that the number of overnight stays by visitors from China and Hong Kong in Kuusamo and Finnish Lapland surged by 92 per cent year-on-year between the January and November of 2016.
“Lapland may be crowded during the peak tourism season, but Finland is far from full. Regional and seasonal fluctuations in demand remain notable,” reminds Jussi Rasimus, a journalist at MaRa.
The growth rate was impressive also in the entire country: the number of overnight stays by visitors from China and Hong Kong increased by an estimated 20–30 per cent over the eleven-month period, but nonetheless fell a minimum of ten percentage points short of the growth rate recorded in corresponding period one year earlier.
The growth potential stemming from the expansion of the Chinese middle class is substantial, acknowledges MaRa. Whether or not the local tourism industry will be able to fully realise the potential, however, remains to some extent in question.
- Finnair to increase direct services from Europe and Helsinki to Lapland (19 January, 2017)
- Alitrip makes Finland its gateway to Europe (01 November, 2016)
MaRa points out that the current accommodation capacity in Lapland would suffice for an even greater number of visitors from China and Hong Kong, as long as most of them visited the region outside the peak tourism season. The annual occupancy rate of accommodation establishments in Lapland, it notes, is currently 30 per cent.
Finnair is presently operating daily flights to Helsinki from Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai, and four flights week from Chongqing. During the summer months, the state-owned carrier operates an additional four flights a week from Chongqing and three flights a week from Xi'an.
Its total annual passenger capacity on routes between the two countries is thereby 500,000–1,000,000, with roughly half of the tickets being sold in China.
“Air passenger capacity can be regarded as a measure of visits by the Chinese,” comments Paavo Virkkunen, the head of Visit Finland. “But if we want to make sure visits from China to Finland keep pace with the growing demand, we'll need more capacity for air services between the two countries.”
Finnair has recognised the booming demand. The airline is set to add four Airbus A350s to its fleet operating between Finland and China, but also reminds that the two countries do not have a so-called open skies agreement.
“Finnair is interested in increasing flights especially to Beijing and Shanghai, as soon as the air transport agreements and airport capacities allow it. China's main airports are very much full,” Juha Järvinen, the chief commercial officer at the national carrier, says to Vitriini.
Ilkka Länkinen, the managing director of Santa Park in Rovaniemi, is doubtful that the national carrier alone can resolve the challenges related to the accessibility of Finnish Lapland. Länkinen consequently hopes that also other European airlines will add direct services to the region to their portfolio.
Finnair announced earlier this year that it will increase direct services from Helsinki and four other European cities to Lapland for the winter season of 2017–2018.
Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Photo: Vesa Moilanen – Lehtikuva
Source: Uusi Suomi