NEW YORK -- There's more of everything -- from cruises and flights
to hotel rooms and tours -- on tap for Finland this summer, and it
can cost a lot less than U.S. visitors might believe, according to
To prove it, the Finnish Tourist Board has posted a list of
"dollar-stretching" tours and other products at www.gofinland.org.
Examples include a $599 air-inclusive, three-night Helsinki stay
from Continental Journeys; a two-night, air/hotel Icelandair
Holidays Helsinki package for $579; a $2,218 air-inclusive,
five-night cruise/tour to both Helsinki and Stockholm, Sweden, from
Passage Tours; and Nordique Tours' eight-night King's Road Package,
priced from $2,099 with air for travel in May or $2,299 from June 1
to Oct. 31.
King's Road itineraries remain the most popular tours among U.S.
visitors, said Nino Messia de Prado, the Finnish Tourist Board's
director for North America.
Accordingly, 33 operators are offering related product this
year, including new "mix-and-match" specialized tour modules that
can be tacked onto standard itineraries.
"The King's Road, which we still market as our primary product
in the U.S., encompasses all the elements Americans look for:
historical, scenic, cultural and culinary highlights in the
southern part of Finland," said Messia de Prado.
The international nature of the King's Road tourism route --
which stretches from Oslo, Norway, to St. Petersburg, Russia,
through Finnish cities such as Helsinki, Porvoo, Turku and Rauma --
is typical of the sort of tour most Americans visiting Finland
choose, he said.
Messia de Prado estimated that 70% of U.S. visitors opt to
combine Finland with neighboring destinations.
"The typical tourists who visit our region have traveled
extensively and would like to combine as much of Scandinavia, the
Baltics and Russia as possible on their trips," he said.
Responding to that demand, local cruise companies, including
Viking Line and Silja Line, now offer one-day to one-week sailings
to cities such as St. Petersburg; Riga, Latvia; Tallinn, Estonia;
and Visby, Sweden.
According to Messia de Prado, a record number of cruise ships
will call in Finnish ports this year, helping to fuel what could be
a 5% to 10% jump in arrivals from the U.S. in 2004.
"Last year was not a record year, [and] we were down about 6%,"
he said. "But the U.S. travel trade is telling us that so far
they're having a record year. Operators are even telling us they
have waiting lists for programs that include Finland."
Another development that should boost visitor numbers is the
debut of thrice-weekly Icelandair service -- on Mondays, Fridays
and Saturdays -- from Reykjavik, Iceland, on June 4.
The carrier is promoting the summer flights with roundtrip fares
to Helsinki, via Reykjavik, starting at $614 from Baltimore, Boston
and New York and $664 from Minneapolis and Orlando.
"The additional airlift will be very welcome, but the problem
may be not enough bed space," said Messia de Prado.
That's a bit less of a problem in the capital now that the
238-room Hilton Helsinki Kalastajatorppa -- the chain's second area
property -- has opened. The Hilton Strand reopened in January
For more, contact the Finnish Tourist Board at (800) FIN-INFO or
To contact reporter Kenneth Kiesnoski, send e-mail to [email protected].