Finland's Tourism Industry

Finland promotes itself as the home of Santa Clause, the sauna and crafty design. The Nordic country offers visitors unspoiled wilderness and distinctive cultures. With long summer days, Finland is a popular destination to enjoy the outdoors. Fishing, canoeing and experiencing the country's approximately 200,000 lakes attract millions of visitors to the country. Culture is also a popular draw. During winter months, Finland hosts winter sports enthusiasts thanks to excellent ski resorts and vast cross-country trails.

Tourism Industry Facts

An estimated 7.6 million foreign visitors travelled to Finland in 2012, according to Statistics Finland and the Finnish Tourist Board. This represented an increase of 5 percent from 2011. During their stay in Finland, foreign visitors spent approximately €2.3 billion. According to the most recent available data from Statistics Finland, €11 billion was spent on tourism in 2007 by foreign and domestic tourists. Foreign travellers accounted for €3.1 billion of this amount, or 29 percent. In 2007, the tourism sector accounted for 2.3 percent of the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) or €3.6 billion. The sector employed 63,944 people in 2007, according to Statistics Finland.

In 2012, there was a record 20.3 million overnight stays in Finland. According to Statistics Finland, domestic tourists accounted for 14.5 million, while there were 5.8 million overnight stays by foreign tourists. The largest markets for visitors to Finland include neighbouring Russia and Sweden, as well as Germany and the United Kingdom. By far, Russia is the source for most foreign tourists with 1.5 million overnight stays in 2012. Sweden followed in second, with 537,000 overnight stays.

Most tourists visit Southern Finland and the archipelago off the southern coast, including the Aland Islands. Approximately 57 percent of tourists to Finland visited these regions in 2012, according to Statistics Finland. The vast Finnish Lakeland area attracted 24 percent of overnight stays, and is increasingly a popular destination for tourists. Lapland in northern Finland is also a popular destination, accounting for 19 percent of overnight stays in 2012.

Main Destinations and Attractions

Overlooking the Baltic Sea, Helsinki is a major destination for visitors to Finland. The capital is home to a range of attractions, including the Suomenlinna naval fortress. With its roots traced back to the middle of the 18th century, the fortress is built on six islands and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Other top attractions include Seurasaari Island, Hietaniemi Beach, Market Square and Uspenski Cathedral, the Lutheran Cathedral and Senate Square, and the Ateneum Art Museum. Served by Helsinki-Vantaa Airport, the city is also well connected by sea to ports in Sweden and Estonia.

Outside Helsinki, major cities include Jyväskylä. The urban centre is a popular destination thanks in part to its architecture, including several buildings designed by Alvar Aalto. Located in the Finish Lakeland, the university town is also the home of the Museum of Central Finland, the Alvar Aalto Museum, and the UNESCO World Heritage Site Petäjävesi Old Church. Also located in the Lakeland region is Kuopio, home to beaches and a gateway for nearby lakes. In the south, Turku features medieval sites while Tampere offers a wealth of cultural experiences from music to art.

Finland's beautiful natural setting is a main draw for tourists in Finland. In winter, ice fishing is a popular activity on most frozen lakes in the country. Ski resorts at Saariselkä and Levi attract ski and snowboard enthusiasts, and cross-country skiing trails can be found throughout the north. Most resorts are north of the Arctic Circle, although Kuusamo and Himos are exceptions. Winter is also the ideal time of the year to experience the striking Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis. Other activities in the north include reindeer sleigh rides. Experiencing the Sami culture of northern Finland draws tourists throughout the year. The Semi people of northern Finland are best known as semi-nomadic reindeer herders.

During summer months, Finland's lakes are destinations of choice for domestic and foreign tourists. Camping or relaxing in a cottage surrounded by lakes and forests are unforgettable experiences, as well as swimming or cycling in the Finnish wilderness. Cottages and cabins are also the ultimate way to relax during colder months thanks to saunas, an essential part of Finnish life. Festivals are also popular pastimes during the spring and summer months.

The western coast and the archipelago off the southwest coast are also major destinations in Finland. The coast is home to trading towns, including the former fur trading centre of Oulu. The unofficial capital of the north, Oulu hosts a range of cultural events throughout the year such as the Air Guitar World Championships in August. The region also boasts UNESCO World Heritage Sites including the Kvarken Archipelago near Vaasa, old wooden villages and towns such as Raum and Neristan, and historic cities including Turku. Off the southwestern coast is Åland, a region that covers over 6,500 islands. The archipelago offers a rugged playground for outdoor recreation or island-hopping and sightseeing.