The Finnish Tourist Board announced today its intention to participate at this year’s Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2005, the Middle East’s premier travel trade exhibition, to be held between the 3rd and 6th of May at Dubai World Trade Center. Finland is the first Scandinavian country to ever participate at the Middle East’s premier exhibition and plans to attract the attention of Arab tourists and create connections with regional tourism players.
The Finnish Tourist Board is represented in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) by Sharaf Travel, a leading provider of vacation and corporate travel services, based in Dubai. In close cooperation with Sharaf Travel, the Finnish Tourist Board is planning to expand its operation in the region, in partnership with Finnair, the country’s official airline, and market Finland as a safe, family oriented vacation spot in the heart of Scandinavia.
“We have been working with the Finnish Tourism Board and Finnair over the past years, and have seen a gradual increase in the outbound traffic from the Middle East, specifically the GCC countries, to Finland,” said Salah Sharaf, managing director of Sharaf Travel. “Our shorts to medium term expectations are to see both inbound and outbound traffic increase at a higher rate, which would help develop stronger economic relations between Finland and the UAE.”
The Finnish stand will house leading travel and tourism companies such as Finnair, Finland Travel Bureau, Arctic Safaris, Fair Wind Travel and Viking Line, all looking for business opportunities in the region.
Over the past years, Finland has grown in popularity among Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) residents as a holiday destination. In terms of room-nights spent in Finland, the numbers peaked in 2002, especially for tourists from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) (please see graph below).
Finnish Tourist Board executives said that developments over the past years have placed the Middle East region, and especially the UAE, in the cross hairs of their global promotion plans. “As the first Scandinavian country to ever take part at the Arabian Travel Market this year, we aim to open the doors of opportunity for both regions, the Middle East and Scandinavia,” said Sven Hansen, regional manager, Finnish Tourist Board. “After ATM, we will launch a more structured plan that aims to garner awareness in the region about Finland, and develop business partnerships thus reflecting our long term commitment to the region.”
Finnair, Finland’s official airline had looked to Dubai in September 2003 to expand its cargo business by developing a new lucrative route on the New York-Gothenburg-Dubai-Gothenburg-New York axis. The route is operated using a Boeing 747-200 freighter aircraft with direct main-deck capability enabling the transport of outsize shipments. The airline also returned to the North Atlantic cargo market by providing freight capacity on Emirates SkyCargo, with transfer connections to Scandinavia and Europe, with connections through Dubai to the Gulf region and India.
“Our aim is to find new freight dimensions on the north-south axis in addition to our more traditional east-west dimension. The market in the Gothenburg area of southern Sweden remains interesting, but the Middle East, the Gulf region and India are new, interesting territories,” says Antero Lahtinen, managing director of Finnair Cargo.
Finnair operates two non-stop flights daily from the period of October to April between Dubai and Helsinki, the only non-stop flights between Dubai and Scandinavia. With a flight time of only 5 hours and 45 minutes, this route is the fastest connection between Dubai and Western Europe, with many direct connections to other Scandinavian and Baltic cities.
On another note, according to the Mercer Human Resource Institute, an international think-tank, Helsinki, the capital city of Finland, is the second safest city in the world, lead only by Luxemburg and followed closely by Bern, Geneva and Zurich.
The Finnish Tourist Board, MEK, was established in 1973 under the Ministry of Trade and Industry to promote tourism. It is allocated a special appropriation from the State budget to finance its operations: 16,201,000 euros in 2005. In addition the Finnish tourist industry contributes approx. nine million euros. MEK works in close cooperation with and for the Finnish tourist and travel industry, implementing and financing marketing projects jointly with the industry. One of the joint goals is to develop more enticing, competitive products for tourists.