Thursday, 02 March 2023 16:51

Should I travel within the Baltic Sea Region this year?

Written by  Anna-Maija Toivonen, EUSBSR Policy Area Tourism Coordinator

At this time of year, I start dreaming of summer holidays and looking for the perfect destination to travel to next summer. My spouse's dreams include a salmon rowing trip in northern Finland, whereas my dreams include a few days at a lake cottage in Kuusamo, where I spent my childhood holidays.

The last time I travelled abroad for holidays was before the pandemic, and maybe this year we could go somewhere outside Finland - but where to? When I searched the trendiest destinations for 2023 listed at the end of last year, I noticed that Spain and France were mentioned on several lists. Not surprisingly, for example, Paris was among these destinations. 

On the other hand, I was surprised to see Copenhagen at the top of one list. It is undoubtedly a beautiful city, but I was left wondering what it is about Copenhagen that attracts travellers. After all, there are other cities in the Baltic Sea region which are equally interesting to me. I imagine they would be just as trendy for other travellers, too. Among these cities are Stockholm, Riga, Tallinn or Helsinki, for example, if you are considering the coastal cities of the Baltic Sea region. If I look at the Baltic Sea region, there are so many interesting destinations in this area, that I need to specify my thinking about what I want from my holiday. Do I want to go to the beach, enjoy cultural experiences or go shopping? Maybe I would enjoy nature experiences or a culinary trip? You can have all this and even more in the Baltic Sea region.


panorama of helsinki g84828e1b1 1920

Helsinki, Finland


According to the Tourism Industry Report (SME Barometer published by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment in October 2022), the business expectations for the tourism industry are positive, but they remain clearly weaker than a year ago. 

As in the previous year, the tourism sector is expected to see an increase in the prices of materials and final goods and services. The report states that sales and marketing is by far the most common area for development in tourism. In addition, human resources and management development are mentioned as the most important development needs in the tourism sector. 

At the national level, the general economic situation is seen as the main obstacle to SME (small and medium-sized enterprises) development. In the tourism sector, however, development is hampered by problems of labour availability. The general economic situation and cost levels are the next most important factors in the tourism sector. According to the SME Barometer, the Russian invasion of Ukraine also significantly impacts tourism. 59% of tourism enterprises have experienced negative effects on production and/or business. 58% of tourism enterprises report negative impacts in terms of production costs and 53% in terms of reduced demand.

As a policy area tourism coordinator for the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea region, I have the privilege of working to develop tourism in the Baltic Sea Region. When talking with the people from the other Baltic Sea countries working in the field of tourism, the same challenges and development needs are stated. In addition, climate change is a major concern for all of us. In particular, the ways in which we are able to develop tourism in a more climate-friendly direction.

It is also important to see what opportunities these changes and challenges can offer to us.

Digitalization does not only challenge the industry to continuous improvement, but it also offers new opportunities for personalized customer experience and data-based business management. As the summers in southern Europe become even hotter, the cooler conditions in the Baltic Sea region are starting to look quite attractive. 

The Baltic Sea region is also a very interesting area from a political point of view. This may also make the region more attractive to tourists. Each of the countries and destinations in the Baltic Sea region are working on tourism development, but as the challenges are largely common, networking and cooperation is important. Through cross-border cooperation, new perspectives and solutions can be found, knowledge can be shared, and by working together, we can raise the profile and attractiveness of the whole Baltic Sea Region as a tourist destination.


Sopot beach

Sopot, Poland


In conclusion, I am returning to my plans for the summer holiday. I decided to keep an eye on the Baltic Sea region, but I am not quite sure what I would like to do on holiday.

Maybe I could plan a beach holiday in Kühlungsborn, Palanga or Jurmala. Would it be better to fly to Gdansk to enjoy the city's culture and combine it with a beach holiday in Sopot? An island holiday in Gotland also sounds tempting. Not to mention a cultural holiday in Riga or Klaipeda. A trip to Tallinn, or the trendy Copenhagen, would also do. 

Helsinki, my former hometown, is a go-to place because of all the dear friends who live there. However, it seems that I must go both on my summer holiday: to Lapland for salmon rowing and to Kuusamo to see the landscapes of my childhood.

I suspect I don't want to go very far from the bottom of the Bothnian Gulf. Maybe the rest of the vacation could be spent going on a beach holiday to Kalajoki, Manamansalo or Hailuoto. For a cultural destination, I could choose the old Raahe or Ii. Shopping and city life could be enjoyed in Oulu. I could enjoy the nature experiences in Syöte or Rokua and go on a foodie trip to Tyrnävä, which is known for its high-quality potatoes. All this can be experienced in the Baltic Sea region.

Last modified on Friday, 03 March 2023 14:43