• News
  • People
  • Long Read
  • Opinion
  • Weekend Wrap

Breaking News

Finnish tourism industry takes off

15.3 million passengers travelled via Helsinki Airport in 2023. 

Duotone/ Helsinki Airport

Tourism in Finland gets a boost from new venues and flight connections after the country saw half a million foreign visits in December 2023 alone.

On average, travellers spent four nights and 935 euros in Finland, according to a survey detailing the state of travel in December. In total, they left behind 432 million euros, and over 80 per cent were on a leisure trip. 

Those looking for new experiences have plenty to choose from in Finland, such as Hotel Maria, a new luxury arrival in Helsinki. American media giant CNN recently picked it among the “sexiest new hotels for 2024”. In particular, the site highlighted Maria’s in-room soaking tubs, private saunas and modern classic style, which was achieved by tastefully renovating four protected buildings dating back to 1885.

Another headline-making venue is Villa Stenberg, an idyllic six-bedroom farmhouse-turned-villa nestled by Lake Lohjanjärvi. It was named by Trip101 as the number one Airbnb wedding venue in Europe. Located a 50-minute drive from Helsinki, the venue boasts a pergola, an orangery and a party tent, as well as scenic views and, of course, a private sauna. 

The villa’s international appeal has pleasantly surprised its owners, Hanna and André Noël Chaker, who acquired the property 10 years ago and have since renovated it. What was meant to be a side project is now a year-round operation, and the owners have hosted guests from as far as Australia and India.

"I believe one of our strengths is that Villa Stenberg offers a unique combination of luxury and relaxation,” Hanna Chaker said in an interview with Yrittäjät. 

Hotel Maria’s spa features an atrium lounge.

Facebook / Hotel Maria

The high visitor volumes are also reflected in traffic at Finnish airports. In 2023, 18.3 million passengers flew via the 20 airports operated by Finavia in Finland, a 19 per cent increase from the year before. Most travellers flew via the main gateway, Helsinki Airport, but growth was also strong in Lapland, which saw a record-breaking winter season at the Kittilä and Rovaniemi airports. 

“During this winter season, up to 20 direct routes connected Lapland to Europe,” said Petri Vuori, senior vice president at Finavia. “Regular, scheduled flights are very important for the attractiveness of the region and serve not only local residents but also the business community.”

Airlines seem to agree. A newcomer in Finland, Discover Airlines announced it will start operating weekly scheduled flights from Frankfurt to Kittilä in December 2024. Lufthansa followed by stating it will continue direct flights from Munich to Oulu, Northern Finland, over the summer and make the route a year-round one.

Elsewhere in Finland, SAS announced it will double its flights between Vaasa and Stockholm, and Air Baltic opened four new routes from Tampere, including its first domestic route in Finland. The new destinations are Kittilä, Tallinn, Gran Canaria and Tenerife.

Villa Stenberg has become a popular wedding venue.

Facebook/ Villa Stenberg

World-first “digital passport”

Since September 2023, Finns travelling to and from the UK on selected Finnair flights have been able to take part in a digital travel document (DTC) trial. The pilot project enables passengers to use a digital credential instead of a conventional passport at Helsinki Airport and pass through a separate border control checkpoint without queuing. 

Taking part in the pilot requires users to register their digital credentials at a police service point. 

The pilot, led by the Finnish Border Guard, is believed to be the first in the world to test a digital travel document in real border control. The document is also being trialled in Zagreb, Croatia.

The project is part of a wider digital identity policy overhaul by the European Commission and EU member states.

By: Eeva Haaramo