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Photo by: Lapland Material Bank | Antti Pietikäinen
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Nature, Ideas and Skills Fueling Lapland’s Tourism Growth

Tourism has for long been Lapland’s number-one growth sector. In recent years, this has been attested by its effects on many parts of Lapland, particularly in the Arctic Circle and Saariselkä. A number of investment projects in tourism are well under way and many more are being planned. This article is the first part of  article series Behind Lapland’s growth numbers. Read the second part about the industry growth.

Rich natural endowments, quality and successful pairing of brisk, bold ideas with expertise are the key factors driving the economic growth of Finnish Lapland, observed a report presented by the Regional Council of Lapland to an EU workshop back in 2013.

The presentation titled “Region of Lapland, Finland: Towards a RIS3 strategy of Northernmost Europe” by a team in Regional Council of Lapland to an EU Workshop, led by the regional council’s senior advisor Kristiina Jokelainen emphasized the contribution of Lapland’s rich nature and culture behind its emergence as a creative, internationally recognized region of growing investments.

– Nature is very important for Lapland. Lapland is one of the most beautiful places in the world. We have the Midnight Sun, Northern Lights and and in February to April we have snow and a lot of sunshine. Crucially, Santa Claus lives here and it shows how important he is when the president of China visits him, confirmed Lapland Chamber of Commerce CEO Timo Rautajoki.

– We have lots of wildlife, clean air, four seasons, interesting things to do throughout the year and, of course, the Northern Lights, said Pirkka Salo, the managing director of the Regional Organisation of Enterprises in Lapland. He also pointed out that Lapland’s good transport links, high-quality accommodations and safety are the reasons for the ongoing tourism boom. Here in Lapland we have strong growth potential in tourism and related services.

Positive domino effect

– We have many new projects, for example four to five new hotels are under construction, and tourism has been growing by approximately 20 per cent a year, said Pohjolan Osuuspankki Senior Vice President Markku Härkönen, adding, – Tourism is a sector where demand must coincide with supply. So, if there is no demand, there will be no supply.

Härkönen said tourism growth creates a positive ripple effect on other industries. In his words,

– When tourism grows it creates other needs. For example, municipalities have to invest in infrastructure and social services.

The latest economic outlook by sub-regions released by the ELY Centers (Centers for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment) supports the topmost position of tourism in Lapland’s growth dynamics. The report mentions the ongoing residential constructions in Lapland cities and new ventures in tourist centers, saying bigger tourism investments are expected to be launched in those places within a year.

International growth

According to the ELY Centres’ forecast in this autumn, snow is not the most important factor for many Asian tourists. They are interested in Santa Claus, sauna and wellness tourism, which all are accessible throughout the year. Although the growth rate of Chinese tourists is clearly the highest, a large section of the increased number of tourists to Lapland comes from Europe and the thanks goes to the newly scheduled flights from Central Europe and UK.

In the Lapland city of Rovaniemi, the number of registered overnight stays by foreign tourists has clearly been on a rise in the recent years. That demand the expansion of accommodation and hospitality services, among others. The city this summer saw a huge rise in Asian tourists, in spite of the uncharacteristic mild weather. – In July the growth in tourists from Asia was 40 per cent, said Rautajoki.