Welcoming the WTCF Summit to Helsinki in August 2019

WTCF Closing Ceremony, Qingdao

Dear Friends,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good life – that is what it is all about. The most fundamental mission of cities is to create the best possible conditions for good everyday life. In the travel business however, we deal with the highlights of life. Trips are planned and dreamed about. Even people who travel constantly in business take pleasure in the dream of their next vacation. We are in the business of happiness. This must be the best business in the world.

As a business, tourism is one of the most lucrative ones. The secondary impacts of a single travel decision are considerable. The money used for services, food and entertainment adds up to a global mega business that does not only create its own ecosystems, but feeds the services and utilities used by local people at travel destinations in their everyday lives. Travel brings with it jobs, investment, exposure and development. But it can also provide for communities in a way that builds sustainable life for all.

30 years ago the first commercial flight between China and Europe took place between Beijing and Helsinki. During those times travel was still a novelty. Travel choices were based on very limited information. Travel decisions were made based on availability of travel options to destinations. Not everyone had the possibility to travel.

Today travel options are practically unlimited. Information about destinations is available in all languages, in all formats, at any time of the day. Digital revolution has made it possible to share travel experiences by a moment’s notice. Peer evaluation has changed the way we make consumption choices. Travel is cheaper, more informed and available to ever growing number of people. In 30 years, things have changed dramatically.

With the vast growth and new availability also come the challenges. We already know from many places in Asia and Europe that the pursuit of happiness by travel might become a problem for the local people. Uncontrolled growth is neither sustainable nor desirable. Among other things you need to engage with the local community in a way that will create good life for all, not just for the people who visit.

We heard from Buenos Aires this morning that one of their slogans is that instead of visitors they make friends. I think that this thought is simply brilliant. The future of travel is the future of community creation. Our ability to connect the benefits of travel to the well-being of the local communities is the next major chapter in tourism. Sustainable and smart solutions will make this development easier.

In Helsinki we believe that by making the city a happy home for the local residents we will also make the city a desirable destination for the travelers. Our ultimate goal is not to grow tourism in numbers – but to increase the value travel brings to our local community. Tourism and travelers need to be a natural part of the city’s inner working. The city has to function as a platform for good life with the added value of our visitors – or as Buenos Aires would say – friends.

One solution is better services – many of them digital. The Tencent WeChat Helsinki Mini Program discussed this morning brings curated locally created content to the pocket of practically every Chinese traveler. These kinds of tools create the right mood for the trip even if you’re just planning where to go. A sense of community is born even before you have boarded the plane. For us Helsinki is not a tourist destination – it’s a community that is happy to welcome you to the family.

After these intensive and fruitful days in Qingdao it is time to turn our attention to Helsinki and next year’s summit. Helsinki will host the WTCF Fragrant Hills Summit in 2019 as the third foreign city - after Rabat and Los Angeles. Qingdao has showed us this year that indeed we are in the business of happiness. Rarely you can see so much excitement and smiling faces in a conference setting. We look forward to sharing the Helsinki experience with you and many more conversations about good life.

Welcome to Helsinki. Friends.