Finland’s beautiful coastline makes for a very popular summer holiday destination, especially for the Finns themselves. In 2019, 80% of the overnights in the region were registered by domestic travelers, which implies that the international travelers have not quite found this wonderful travel destination yet, says Hanna Lankinen, Head of Health and Travel Industry, Business Finland.
"This untapped market offers international tourism operators new, unique business opportunities to explore," Lankinen believes. What kind of treasures does the coastline hold then? This calls for a road trip!
Less than a couple of hours west from Helsinki, you'll find a unique piece of history and artisanship: Mathildedal ironworks village, located in Salo on the shore of the Archipelago Sea. There are old ironworks buildings, long oak alleys and charming little artisan shops here – along with cafés and restaurants.
Practically located in the lap of the great Teijo National Park, Mathildedal is a secret jewel indeed. Tracing its origins to the 17th century, the ironworks village is one of those places where you can feel history.
Still, there's something missing, says Maija Pirvola from Yrityssalo, the local business development company. "We need commercial lodgings in the Mathildedal village," she says. Presently, there are talks about a 70-room hotel to be built in the area, but the need is already much greater.
Located by the beautiful Lake Matildanjärvi, the old ironworks village has a lot to offer in the way of water activities, such as swimming, fishing, paddling and rowing – in addition's to being a real 'biker & hiker' paradise.
"We see nature travel as a powerful rising trend and know that Mathildedal can deliver the goods," says Pirvola, adding that the vivid seasons hold plenty of year-round appeal, too.
According to Pirvola, Mathildedal is very much about "natural luxury": you're immersed in beautiful nature while you have access to a range of services and activities (e.g. Christmas-time markets, concerts, theatre and musical performances). However, presently the visitors come mostly on one-day trips because there's not enough local hotel accommodation.
"We have a genuine piece of authentic Finnish history that the visitors really appreciate – now it's just a matter of finding the right concepts to introduce hotel operators into the village," Pirvola believes.
Continuing west from Mathildedal and Salo for half an hour or so, one finds Finland's original capital, Turku. Natural values are held in high regards here, as well, and a new project, by the name of Kultaranta Green Village, is in the works by the sea, mere minutes from Turku downtown.
The emerging Kultaranta Resort strives to become an area focused on well-being and ecology in the heart of the Turku Archipelago. The idea is to showcase the rich and unspoiled natural setting of the archipelago in a sustainable manner. Creation of green neighbourhoods of zero-emission/zero-pollution, allows Kultaranta to lead by example on the issues of sustainability, circularity, and zero carbon emissions.
Teija Raninen from Turku Business Region says that the Kultaranta Resort is just one example of the local innovation and next-level thinking: "Sustainable travel is a really strong trend right now, as the Kultaranta project demonstrates."
Raninen feels that Turku holds a rather unique position on the national Travel & Tourism map: it bridges urban culture and marine nature with compelling ease. "This is a great platform for different operators to build ground-breaking Travel concepts."
According to Raninen, Turku has a curious lack in its hospitability range: there are only Finnish hotels, with not one international operator in the ranks. "We have suitable plots and properties and Turku Business Region is having negotiations to bring international hotel chains here," she says.
Innovative hotels are welcomed here: for example, Kakola Hotel recently opened in a legendary old prison, giving the patrons a chance to spend an unforgettable night behind bars. And there's more in the works: Finland's largest experience and event centre is to be constructed in Turku's rail yard and train station area. With a price tag of €550 million, the Turku rail yard wants to combine top-level technology and service design to create world-class experiences and events.
The master plan core is formed by an experience centre and a new multipurpose arena with around 10,000 seats. The plan is to build a tower hotel in the area to support tourism. "For the city, this type of an 'experience oasis' is a big priority – and sure to attract visitors from around the world," Raninen says, adding that the experience center could pull in 5-10 million visitors per year.
Heading north from Turku – about a six-hour drive – we come to the final destination of our coastal tour: Kalajoki. Home to some of the most iconic seaside sand dunes in the Nordics, Kalajoki is a blast in the summer with all-out fun in the sun – but Janne Anttila from local business development company Kalajoen Hiekkasärkät believes that Kalajoki can be so much more than just a summertime hit.
"During the last 10 years, we've moved towards a more year-round approach, with a lot of emphasis on the Arctic experiences and activities," he says. This can mean wind surfing on ice or kayaking on the near frozen waves – or simply gazing at the northern stars. "The local Rahja archipelago alone – with 100 islands – is a great nature destination, for cyclists and paddlers alike," Anttila says.
Annually, the Kalajoki area pools in around €40 million as Travel & Tourism revenue, but Anttila is convinced that's just a beginning. "Already our plans for the long term allow for another 30 million euros to be added each year," he says, fully welcoming international players to the neighbourhood.
Most noteworthy among these plans is the exciting new "seaside dream" called Kalajoki Marina. Touted as high-class, marine holiday and recreation centre, the concept calls for unique holiday apartments, a hotel, restaurants and, of course, the marina itself.
"The municipal infra has already been established and the first phase of development will see new apartments built in the area," says Anttila. Among the planned 'must-see-for-yourself' accommodations, there are the "storm huts", cozy cottages realized upon the breakwater.
"We want to give our visitors a real taste of the Arctic coast – and those cottages will go a long way to delivering a once-in-a-lifetime experience," Anttila believes.
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Head of Travel & Tourism industry
hanna.lankinen (at) businessfinland.fi
Senior Advisor, Travel & Tourism
tuija.tommila (at) businessfinland.fi