by Hanna Kayra, Li Jizhi
HELSINKI, June 1 (Xinhua) -- A little disappointed but more curious about the nature, a group of Japanese tourists stepped on a bus returning to Ravaniemi, a city in the far north Lapland, after spending more than one hour at a frozen lake some 60 km further north waiting in vain for the aurora borealis to emerge.
It was a midnight tour organized by Moi Moi Bus, a tourist agency operating in Rovaniemi, north Finland, about two months ago. A guide from the agency said it was not unusual that the tourists won't see the northern lights, but usually they are satisfied with the experience because of something else.
Jussi Perkkio, the sales director of Santa's Hotels, told Xinhua that Finland's popularity among Asian tourists is mainly attributed to the clean air and quiet wilderness.
For Chinese people Santa Claus is often the main attraction, and among the Japanese tourists Moomins are a big hit. However, Both Chinese and Japanese visitors have come to see the northern lights.
According to Finnish Travel Board media and public relations manager Jari Ahjoharju, Asian tourism has been growing annually almost 20 percent for some time now.
The biggest growth of tourists to Finland in 2013 came from Asia. While the total overnight stays by foreign tourists numbered almost 5.9 million, which was 1.1 percent more than in 2012, the number of Asian tourists grew by 17.3 percent.
Among them, the figure of visitors from China increased by 26.4 percent and Japan 16.4 percent.
"One of the greatest assets of Finland is its suitable location. Finland is usually regarded as a country which is remotely situated, but we have very good flight connections from Asia. When traveling from there we are the first European country," said Ahjoharju.
Perkkio's hotels have seen the most rapid increase in overnight stays by Chinese tourists, and this market potential made him join a massive promotion campaign in mainland China a month ago. Over 20 Finnish companies took part in the show, which went on for more than a week starting from the southern port city of Shenzhen.
"The interesting part is that Santa went with us," said Perkkio.
The most popular months spent in Finland last year were during the summertime in July and August. Southern Finland and the archipelago are the number one area for most tourists by 55 percent of overnights.
Perkkkio noted that the Lapland area in northern Finland is also trying to lure tourists in its summer time, which comes later than most European and Asian areas but appears cooler for sure.
"Lapland is traditionally considered as a winter destination, and the competition level as a summer destination is not good," said Perkkio, naming Britain and Italy as the great rivals.
However, the midnight sun in June and July, as well as the Santa Claus who is ready to receive guests in all seasons could be a new bless for Perkkio to sell the business.
By the end of this year Finnish Travel Board and Finpro, which promotes the business opportunities of Finnish companies worldwide, will merge. This will no doubt enhance the presence of Finnish Travel Board representatives abroad.