In a smaller and smaller world with globalization, a country can be seen as a company whose product range includes the export sector, investment, tourism, culture, government and its inhabitants (Gfk America). Like companies and their brands, countries have to distinguish themselves from others. An important part of branding is to increase tourism in a country, to make people aware of what they can do in the country in order to attract people to visit it, to raise its high profile and also make it known abroad.
The position of Finland as a tourist destination has become competitive in the course of globalization and has lead to the growth of the Finnish tourist sector. “In 2007, tourism accounted for 2.3 per cent of Finland’s GDP, while the share of tourism businesses came to 3.8 per cent.” (Finland’s Tourism Strategy to 2020 2009) In relation to other industries, the tourism industry in Finland is a larger industry i.e. within the sector of employment, because 130,500 employees, 5.2 per cent of Finland’s employees and many of them are young people, work in the SME-dominated industry. (Finland’s Tourism Strategy to 2020 2009)
2.1 million in August 2010 was the total number of overnight stays at Finnish accommodation establishments by non-residents. The number of nights spent by resident tourists was under 1.5 million. Overnight stays by foreign tourists in total were 622,000. “Russians were the largest group of foreign tourists in August with good 108,000 overnight stays. The number was 11 per cent higher than in August 2009. Germans came next with 83,000 nights spent, with an increase of 2 per cent from the previous year.” (Statistics Finland 2010)
Finland has one big problem how Jorma Ollila, ancient CEO of Nokia, pointed out during a panel discussion in 2009: “Among the Nordic Countries, Finland is the great unknown.” (Formin Finland 2009) As a reaction of realizing this fact, the Ministry of Employment and the Economy create between the spring of 2009 and May 2010 a second edition of an economic tourism strategy for Finland, called “Finland’s Tourism Strategy to 2020” (Finland’s Tourism Strategy to 2020 2009). As one result, tourists can now visit the online presences of the Finnish Tourist Board http://www.mek.fi and – more important – the Official Tourism Website http://www.visitfinland.com.
Beyond accessibility, identity and navigation the contents of text and images are crucial for online users and influence their decision of staying at the page or leaving it. This is exactly what Karolien Hellemans and Robert Govers are saying in their essay, that visual and textual content are elements of place-conceptualisation. (Hellemans/Govers 2005) Finland’s official Tourism Website was mostly designed for foreign tourists, who can choose between ten languages and 21 countries to get access to the site. What I noticed is that the four images in the middle of the site differ in every language. Maybe the pictures are chosen adequate to the nationality or they are even changing within the language. I can’t be sure about it.
Chosen the general English website, the heading picture, which is in every language the same, concludes what it is in general associated with Finland: northern lights, darkness, snow and forest and in addition the text “(real) Santa” and “Finland”. It is the biggest picture from the website so it can be seen as the most important one. There is an image of a quiet, peaceful, safe, cozy and wide country created. These are aspects, which make the country special for foreign tourists. According to Hellemans/Govers, I identify it as “reflection of nature” (Hellemans/Govers 2005). The picture with the logo of visitfinland.com in it could be detected as an arrangement with the header because of the related text “I wish I was in Finland” and the motif of the warmly dressed, nice looking woman, who is lost in thoughts and dreaming of that, what the header is “talking” about – Finland! It is the only picture with a human being. The picture is also “reflection of nature” (Hellemans/Govers 2005). Left to this image in the register card “attractions” there is the picture, taken in the summer on a sunny day, of the Art museum in Oulu with an illustrated map of Finland under it. The colors and weather of the picture stand in contrast to the first described ones. I would identify it as “leisure and recreational activities” (Hellemans/Govers 2005). There is also a picture representing the category “gastronomy” (Hellemans/Govers 2005), which isn’t difficult to identify. I noticed here that in the foreground stand the meal and the empty chair like waiting for the viewer. Under this picture there is for the third time an image according to the category “reflection of nature” (Hellemans/Govers 2005), showing a wonderful snow landscape. On the right side there is a motif of Santa Claus being related to the heading picture and text. For me it can be seen as a mixture of “reflection of culture” and “reflection of heritage” (Hellemans/Govers 2005) depending on what aspect one is focused on.
According to the webpage the Finnish Tourist Board under the Ministry of Employment and the Economy wants to create a brand image of a special and unique travel destination especially for foreign tourists as the target group; B2B is also mentioned, but only as an unimpressive link at the end of the webpage. The webpage is created in a modern, colorful design with a modern looking logo to attract also younger people. As I said before they want to lay the focus on the natural aspect, which is definitely the USP of Finland. Over and above that they want to be the opposite of a mass tourist destination, being an individual alternative for peace seekers.
In my opinion the website is more or less a perfect creation. I like it very much and share it also to others with the sentence:”You can have a look here, what Finland is about.” For me it is the right way leading the tourism industry in Finland to success.
Formin Finland. The branding project very important for Finland (16.07.2009), viewed 27th of November 2010. .
Gfk America. The Anholt-GfK Roper Nation Brands Index, viewed 27th of November 2010. .
Hellemans, Karolien & Robert Govers (2005): “European Tourism Online: Comparative Content Analysis of the ETC Website and Corresponding National NTO Websites”, in: Information and Communication Technologies in Tourism 2005.
Ministry of Employment and the Economy (2009): “Finland’s Tourism Strategy to 2020”, viewed 27th of November 2010. .
Statistics Finland. Tourism statistics 2010. Overnight stays at accommodation establishments increased by 4 per cent in August (14.10.2010), viewed 27th of November 2010. .