A woman fished in a hiking area in Rovaniemi, Finnish Lapland, in July 2020. Sebastian Ebel, the CEO of TUI, has revealed that the global tourism group is mulling over building two resort hotels in Finnish Lapland, a development local tourism operators hope will kick-start summer tourism in the region. (Jussi Nukari – Lehtikuva)

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A PLAN by TUI, one of the largest travel groups in the world, has generated excitement in Finnish Lapland.

CEO Sebastian Ebel revealed to Kauppalehti in June that the company is considering building two resort hotels in the region, one in Kittilä and one in Rovaniemi. The hotels, he added, could welcome their first guests in three to four years.

Laura Aaltonen, the director of communication at TUI Finland, declined to disclose further details about the nature and location of the hotels in an interview with YLE in June.

“We’re constantly scanning plots and vacant properties all around the world. We have nothing concrete to reveal, but we’re really interested in investing in Finland,” she commented to the public broadcasting company.

Despite the lack of details, the plan has been received with excitement by tourism industry operators in Finnish Lapland. The operators believe the development could jump-start international summer tourism to the region, which could offer visitors respite from the scorching summer temperatures in large parts of Europe.

“This is wonderful news. When tourism industry giants mull over investing in Lapland, it tells that we’ve taken a step forward in terms of the feasibility of tourism [in Lapland],” Sanna Kärkkäinen, the CEO of Visit Rovaniemi, said to YLE.

TUI brought more than 50,000 visitors to Finland between December 2023 and January 2024. The tourism group has increased its flight capacity to the country year after year, a development that will continue next winter with the opening of a direct route between Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and Ivalo, Finnish Lapland.

Aaltonen told YLE that about 80 per cent of the trips for next winter have already been sold, representing an improvement on the situation in June 2023.

TUI was looking for sites in Finnish Lapland also in the 2010s, reminded Jyrki Oksanen, a regional director at Visit Finland. “The market probably hadn’t matured enough then, but now tourism has grown manifold and the situation is completely different,” he stated to the public broadcaster.

He estimated that announcing the plans may be a way for the tourism group to gauge interest among domestic investors to participate in the development project. The project, he also argued, does not signal a shift toward mass tourism in Finnish Lapland.

“TUI is a top-drawer brand that works with controlled masses. They have a sustainable tourism programme, and they try to engage in dialogue with the local population. I wouldn’t be too concerned about that,” he said.

On the contrary, he appeared delighted with the plan.

“This is tremendously wonderful news. Christmas came early,” Oksanen stated to YLE.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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