Passengers boarding a cruise ship in Kotka, Southern Finland, on 29 July 2021. (Roni Rekomaa – Lehtikuva)


THIS SUMMER has not been quite as grand for the domestic tourism industry as media reports from the last couple of days suggest, indicates a survey commissioned by the Finnish Hospitality Association (Mara).

Timo Lappi, the managing director of Mara, on Thursday clarified to Helsingin Sanomat that the survey results do not contradict the data released by Statistics Finland.

Statistics Finland reported that Finns used 27.4 per cent more accommodation services in July 2021 than in July 2019. The growth was driven by a surge in domestic travel that was more than enough to offset the 77-per-cent drop registered in the number of overnight stays by non-resident visitors. The total number of overnight stays stood at 3.34 million in July, representing a two-per-cent jump from 2019.

The use of accommodation services was at its highest level since the statistics were first compiled in 1995.

“If you look at the whole summer’s situation, the value of sales by accommodation service providers dropped by 19.4 per cent between June and July. And revenue dropped even more,” told Lappi.

July nonetheless provided the pandemic-ravaged industry with some much-needed respite, he acknowledged.

“July was definitely good and surprising, except for the capital region and Rovaniemi. I’m sure it saved a number of companies by enabling them to bring back employees and pay their bills,” he stated.

While the sales of accommodation service providers crept up by 0.3 per cent from pre-pandemic levels in July, they fell well short of the levels in June, highlighted Lappi. In June, the sales of accommodation service providers were 40.7 per cent lower and the number of overnight stays 24.9 per cent lower than in 2019.

Messages from the field also indicate that the positive development has ended in August.

Ossi Nurmi, a senior statistician at Statistics Finland, similarly cautioned against drawing too far-reaching conclusions based on the data from July, reminding that the month is typically the most popular summer holiday month in Finland. The focus should thus begin to gradually shift toward business travel, a segment that has been hit even harder by the pandemic than leisure travel.

“One of the big questions faced by the travel industry is whether business travel will ever return to the same level,” he stated to Helsingin Sanomat. “I wouldn’t declare yet that the coronavirus crisis is over and the plight of the travel industry is behind us.”

Lappi added to the newspaper that he is nevertheless optimistic for the future, reminding that the coronavirus epidemic halted what was on pace to become a record-breaking year for travel in March 2019. Mara is presently focused on lobbying for the removal of restrictions to ensure the budding recovery can shift to high gear.

He also estimated that although some of the restrictions have been needlessly debilitating, the country has coped well in the face of the pandemic.

“We should get to take advantage of this also for travel. Finland is a safe country. We don’t have over-tourism, we have good services, high-quality infrastructure and hygiene questions well taken care of,” he said to Helsingin Sanomat.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT