Tourism is one of the fastest growing service sectors in the world. It is also increasingly important for the Finnish economy and a lot now depends especially on tourists from Asia. But the competition for Asian tourists is tough. Today, the Asians can choose from a large number of interesting tourist destinations all over the world and it is thus not at all obvious that Finland will be their choice of travel destination from all the options available.
‘Finland has all the prerequisites for becoming a major travel destination among Asian tourists. However, hard work is required to build an attractive country image and market it in Asia. Especially, the ability to use affective images and messages that resonate with Asian tourists is crucial’, explains Professor Arto Lindblom from the Aalto University School of Business.
In their research project, researchers from Aalto University and the University of Turku focus on the impressions Asian tourists have of the Nordic countries. The project was launched a year ago in Japan and now it has continued with a survey conducted in Singapore. The survey was carried out at the beginning of this year and it assessed the country images people living in Singapore associated with Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway. Almost 600 Singaporeans responded to the survey. The Finnish, Swedish, Danish and Norwegian embassies and the European Union Centre in Singapore participated in gathering the survey material.
‘Our questionnaire survey shows that the Nordic countries are seen in a rather positive light in Singapore. A similar observation was made a year ago in Japan. Like the Japanese, the Singaporeans especially associate an image of a high quality of life with all the Nordic countries surveyed. The education systems in these countries are also regarded highly", says Postdoctoral Researcher Taru Lindblom from the University of Turku.
Keeping up with alternative destinations is challenging
However, there were also clear differences between the Nordic countries examined. There were differences particularly in the factors contributing to affective images and, on the other hand, in the impressions Singaporeans associated with the sights, cultural offering or, for example, shopping opportunities provided by the countries. Of the countries studied, Sweden was the one that did best in terms of these different image indicators. Norway also scored high in many of the indicators. The results for Finland pointed in two slightly different directions. On the one hand, Finland scored well in each investigated main dimension, but on the other hand, it fell clearly behind the other countries in several individual indicators.
‘Although the images associated with Finland are positive based on the collected data, we still have a lot to do to catch up with the other Nordic countries. What is crucial regarding country images is precisely how well we do compared with the other alternative travel destinations and countries’, stresses Professor Lindblom.
Although Singapore is a small country and its role in Finland’s tourism industry is not very significant, the survey still provides a good understanding of how the people with the most purchasing power in Asia experience Finland. In particular, the study helps to understand the images associated with Finland in relation to the other Nordic countries.
The aim is to expand the research project to other Asian countries in the near future.
Arto Lindblom, DSc (Econ), Professor, Aalto University
Taru Lindblom, DSc (Econ), Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Turku
Miikka J. Lehtonen, DSc (Econ), visiting Assistant Professor, Aalto University