Why travel is essential for Finland
The Finnish travel industry has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. The 2020 season was supposed to be the busiest ever in Lapland, until Covid-19 struck. According to current estimates, it’s going to take from four to five years before travel in Lapland resumes back to the 2019 figures.
The travel industry accounts for 2,6% of Finland’s GDP, so it’s bigger than forestry. The total tourism demand was 16 billion euros in 2019. The share of inbound tourism demand accounted for 5 billion euros. The tourism cluster employs 142,000 people in Finland.
Export companies need travel connections
“You can’t build trust with customers through the computer screen,” says Johanna Ikäheimo, Chairman of Board at Lappset Group, a company that provides play and sport experiences and street furniture. “Maintenance, assembly and quality checks require people to be present in person. You can’t provide holistic solutions that require specialized knowledge remotely. Our employees also need to travel to learn and network.”
“Covid-19 is not about to disappear anytime soon. We need to learn to live with it. We also need long-term guidelines for business travel, taking into account health and safety at every step,” Ikäheimo says.
Lapland is looking for guidelines to arrange safe travel
Sanna Kärkkäinen, CEO of Visit Rovaniemi, is also waiting for clear travel guidelines.
”It’s great that we’ve been able to gradually start opening Finland for travel, but there are still a lot of open questions about quarantine requirements and testing. Health and safety are our first priority. In Lapland, we’re used to solving difficult challenges and working together with the local health authorities to build a safe environment that still enables tourism.”
Travel is crucial for Lapland. Without travel, it might be difficult to find employment in many areas. The travel industry brings 1,5 million euros annually to the local economy.
Collaboration with health tech could provide solutions
Visit Finland Executive Director Paavo Virkkunen would like to see common travel guidelines for the EU. The European Travel Commission has recently been advocating this as well. Virkkunen also suspects we need to learn to live with Covid-19 in the long term.
”I hope for solutions instead of restrictions. I believe that we can find a solution for the travel industry by working together across industries and looking at the situation holistically. There are solutions for living with the virus, and we need to execute them to protect the travel industry and our economy.”