The number of visitors from the UAE to Finland rose over 20 percent in 2018 to nearly 12,000 tourists, partially as a result of a new direct daily Flydubai flight to Helsinki, Finnish tourism officials announced on Tuesday.
According to Visit Finland, the number of UAE visitors rose 20.6 percent from 9,906 in 2017 to 11,951 in 2018, while the number of overnight stays during the winter season doubled.
Finnish hotels has also seen a dramatic increase in visitors from the GCC, with luxury brand Kamp Collection Hotels recording a 20 percent increase in GCC visitors in 2018.
“In the first quarter of this year, we are seeing double-digit growth in stays,” Joonas Halla, Business Finland’s PR and media manager for the UK, USA, UAE and Benelux countries told Arabian Business on the sidelines of the Arabian Travel Market in Dubai. “We are very thankful for Flydubai.”
Looking to the future, Halla said Finland hopes for more UAE and Middle East visitors to visit the country as more airline connections become available.
“Turkish Airlines just announced a flight and will be starting flights from Istanbul from Rovaniemi in Finnish Lapland, I think from October of this year,” he said. “That’s a great opportunity for this region to have a hub from this region straight to Lapland.”
Additionally, national carrier Finnair is expected to restart a seasonal flight between Dubai and Helsinki in October, which will run through late March.
Halla said officials see the “biggest potential” for Lapland, in the country’s northernmost region.
Already, the number of UAE visitors to Lapland rose 36.1 percent to 2,791 between 2017 and 2017.
“The contrast [between the UAE and Lapland] is drawing people there. The Northern Lights are a beautiful phenomenon,” he said. “If you start with the September season, there is a chance to see double, with the Northern Lights in the sky and the reflection on the lakes.”
While Halla believes most UAE visitors will choose to travel to Finland in the winter months, he added that officials expect a large number of visitors to come in the summer as well.
“It’s really hot here in the summer and the Finnish summer is quite mild. Finland boasts the cleanest air in the world, we have the cleanest waters in Europe and the summer experiences are amazing,” he said.
Other attractions expected to woo UAE visitors include husky and reindeer sleigh rides, snowmobile safaris, ice driving experiences and a trip to see Santa Clause’s village in Korvatunturi.
Additionally, Halla said he expects that an increasing amount of UAE visitors will be attracted by Helsinki’s burgeoning culinary scene.
“Finland has a lot to offer…there’s six Michelin-starred restaurants in Helsinki, and any restaurant will cater to your needs, whether it be vegetarian, fish, or even Halal if you give them a heads up,” he said.