Finland Finland Finland Finland

Tourism Finland

Tourism in numbers - Europe

Europe is the most important tourist region in the world. According to UNWTO, in 2006 nearly 55% of all international tourist arrivals (461 million) were on the “old continent”.Southern Europe and the Mediterranean region are the favourite holiday destinations in Europe. According to UNWTO, in 2006 about 165 million tourists visited these regions (5).

At present, the predominant summer tourist flows in Europe are from north to south, to the coastal zone. However, coastal and mountain tourism are the segments that are most vulnerable to climate change, and the Mediterranean region is the world's most popular holiday region: it attracts some 120 million visitors from northern Europe each year, the largest international flow of tourists on the globe, and their spending is in excess of EUR 100 billion (3).

Tourism in numbers - Finland

The economic significance of tourism is best characterised by its contribution to the gross domestic product, amounting to 2.4% in 1999 (1). Tourism employs about 120,000 people in Finland, mainly in small and medium-size enterprises. In 2003, the number of foreign visitors was 4.6 million, over 90% of them from Europe (2). Others report that tourism in Finland generates 8% of GDP (5).

Tourism has been the focus of development in Finnish Lapland since the 1980s (8). In 2011, direct tourism-based employment in Lapland was 7.7% of Lapland’s employment (9). In comparison, tourism employment in the whole of Finland was just 4.2% of total employment (10).

The Nordic countries are good examples of destinations with highly diversified nature-based tourism industry. The decline of traditional economies such as reindeer husbandry and agriculture has increased the importance of nature-based tourism as a source of income. Emerging winter tourist activities are snowmobiling and dog sledding. Indigenous tourism in the form of reindeer activities is also growing in importance. At present, these new activities constitute the basis of the nature-based tourism industry in the Nordic countries, together with the more traditional activities such as crosscountry skiing and fishing (7).

Vulnerabilities – In general

There are four broad categories of climate change impacts that will affect tourism destinations, their competitiveness and sustainability (4):

  • Direct climatic impacts
  • Indirect environmental change impacts. Changes in water availability, biodiversity loss, reduced landscape aesthetic, altered agricultural production (e.g., wine tourism), increased natural hazards, coastal erosion and inundation, damage to infrastructure and the increasing incidence of vector-borne diseases will all impact tourism to varying degrees.
  • Impacts of mitigation policies on tourist mobility. Policies that seek to reduce GHG emissions will lead to an increase in transport costs and may foster environmental attitudes that lead tourists to change their travel patterns.
  • Indirect societal change impacts. Climate change is thought to pose a risk to future economic growth and to the political stability of some nations. Climate change is considered a national and international security risk that will steadily intensify, particularly under greater warming scenarios. Tourists, particularly international tourists, are averse to political instability and social unrest.

Vulnerabilities – Winter tourism

Increased uncertainty of snow conditions has already been a problem for winter tourism and recreation, particularly in southern Finland. This has led to the construction of several underground facilities for cross-country skiing. Even in Lapland the important Christmas tourism has suffered from late arrival of snow cover. However, internationally the skiing resorts of northern Finland may benefit in future if snow conditions in central Europe decline as expected (2).

With regard to winter tourism, Finland’s largest ski resorts are located in the provinces of Lapland and Oulu. The coverage of artificial snow equipment at Finnish ski resorts is one of the most extensive in the world; an estimated 80% of the total slope area is covered with artificial snow (1).

Climate change in Finland is not predicted to shorten the length of the snow season below the critical length as expressed by the tourism entrepreneurs. Considering this, the future of winter tourism in Finland and similar areas may be more sensitive to the changes in the frequency and severity of weather extremes than to the changes in the season lengths (7).

Benefits – Summer tourism

Potential conditions for outdoor, non-winter rural tourism activity have been assessed for the Nordic region (Denmark, Finland, Greenland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden) (13). This has been done for three future time periods compared with the reference period 1961–1990: 2010–2039 (the 2020s), 2040–2069 (the 2050s), 2070–2099 (the 2080s). The assessment is based on one Global Circulation Model and two climate change scenarios that span a plausible range of speeds and intensities of climate change (medium scenario B1A and high-end scenario A1F). By the 2020s, the main beneficiary of the warming climate appears to be Finland, where the number of good months is projected to rise by one month across most of the country. By the 2050s, the length of good conditions across Denmark, southern Sweden, the Swedish coastline, and southern Finland is projected to visibly increase, up to four or five months of good conditions possible according to the high-end A1F scenario. The same trend prevails into the 2080s. According to this assessment, good conditions fail to materialise for any extended period across Greenland, Iceland or Norway (13).

It is difficult to predict international tourist flows, but if climate is considered a substantial pulling factor, Finland’s attractiveness as a country for summer tourism will probably increase at least in the eyes of domestic tourists (1). Short season is a major obstacle to the development of summer tourism in Finland (2). Scenarios of warmer and longer summers are thus welcomed by tourism operators and may affect their future plans. On the other hand, algal blooms may become a nuisance in warmer waters and lower the attraction of Finnish lakes and the Baltic Sea.

Overall, Norway, Sweden and Finland are very similar as tourist destinations. In the important summer months, the countries in northern Europe could enjoy growing incomes from tourism in future, due to the longer season. All in all, therefore, these countries are amongst the gainers (5).

Climate change may have a net positive effect on the overall European potential for tourism: up to 59 million bed nights more or some 8% of the total of 777 million nights registered for 2005 in a study on 29 countries (6). Additional potential revenues could be in the order of 4–18 billion euros.

The changes are likely to be unequally spread across Europe, however. The year-round potential for tourism increases most in the northern parts of Europe, including the UK, Germany, the Netherlands and Scandinavia, and in Austria. In the southern countries, there is evidence for a net loss of potential, although improvements in the spring and autumn seasons are likely to offset a significant share of the deteriorations in summer. In particular Austria and the UK enjoy significant gains in relative terms, whereas Italy and Spain face the largest losses (6).

Adaptation strategies – In general

Climate change is slowly entering into decision-making of a range of tourism stakeholders (e.g., investors, insurance companies, tourism enterprises, governments, and tourists); studies that have examined the climate change risk appraisal of local tourism officials and operators have consistently found relatively low levels of concern and little evidence of long-term strategic planning in anticipation of future changes in climate (4).

There is also some evidence that local tourism operators may be overestimating their adaptive capacity (e.g., capacity to make snow under the warmest scenarios). The incorporation of adaptation to climate change into the collective minds of private and public sector tourism decision-makers (‘mainstreaming’) remains several steps away (4).

The capacity of the tourism sector to adapt to climate change is thought to be relatively high due to its dynamic nature and therefore there will be important opportunities for tourism to reduce the vulnerability of communities to climate change (4).

Adaptation strategies in Finland – Winter tourism

Finland’s ski resorts are estimated to operate according to a ten-year planning span, which means that, in principle, it will be possible to take climate change into account in the planning of winter tourism. In recent years, 70–80% of the investments of ski resorts have been directed towards the improvement of slope conditions (1).

Internationally it has been estimated that most tourism entrepreneurs have limited information about climate change and limited potential for adaptation. The situation in Finland is likely to be similar. The knowledge base is not yet sufficient for defining specific adaptation measures for tourism and recreation in the short run (1). Tourism is currently considered to be among the least prepared economic sectors in terms of risks and opportunities posed by climate change. Tourism industry is only just beginning to develop the capacity to advance knowledge necessary to inform businesses, communities and government about adaptation issues and how to develop tourism in a more environmentally friendly way (11). This lack of preparedness can also be seen in Finnish tourism. The absence of different future scenarios in the strategies shows that risks are not taken into practical consideration (12).

The preconditions for winter tourism can be improved by investigating the possibilities for increasing the economic efficiency of artificial snow and by developing cooperation between tourism entrepreneurs. On the other hand, particularly in Southern Finland, other attractions besides those dependent on snow in the winter season should be developed, which would reduce the industry’s vulnerability to climate change. This is also important because of the ecological disadvantages related to artificial snow. However, there are no significant alternatives to snow-dependent winter tourism in view that could be widely adopted in Finland (1).


The references below are cited in full in a separate map 'References'. Please click here if you are looking for the full references for Finland.

  1. Marttila et al. (2005)
  2. Ministry of the Environment of Finland (2006)
  3. EEA, JRC and WHO (2008)
  4. UNWTO, UNEP and WHO (2008)
  5. Deutsche Bank Research (2008)
  6. Amelung and Moreno (2012)
  7. Tervo (2008)
  8. Hakkarainen and Tuulentie (2008), in: Kietäväinen and Tuulentie (2013)
  9. Regional Council of Lapland (2011a), in: Kietäväinen and Tuulentie (2013)
  10. Statistics Finland/Regional Council of Lapland (2011b), in: Kietäväinen and Tuulentie (2013)
  11. Scott (2011), in: Kietäväinen and Tuulentie (2013)
  12. Kietäväinen and Tuulentie (2013)
  13. Nicholls and Amelung (2015)