Helsinki to improve its image in order to receive more gay tourists
The City of Helsinki is attempting to improve its image among travellers who belong to sexual minorities.
The Helsinki City Tourist & Convention Bureau is to start listing its gay-friendly travelling services.
The city hopes that as soon as the list of services is available on Helsinki’s website, the image of Helsinki as a liberal and safe destination will be conveyed to gay tourists.
”According to surveys, Helsinki’s image as a tolerant city has fallen behind that of for example Stockholm and Copenhagen”, says Marketing Manager Kari Halonen of the Helsinki Tourist and Convention Bureau.
The project was presented at a seminar on queer tourists in Helsinki yesterday - Monday.
”Queer” is a concept covering homosexual, bisexual, transsexual, and transgender individuals.
The underlying factors include the fact that tourists belonging to sexual minorities spend lots of money when they travel. Helsinki has spotted the so-called "pink money", the purchasing power of the gay community.
”Based on European studies, a queer traveller uses as much as 70 per cent more money at a destination than does a tourist who belongs to the sexual mainstream”, reports Service Manager Ilkka Veiström of Myway Solutions, a company that arranged the seminar.
The firm is the only company that provides travel services for sexual minorities in Finland.
No research exists as yet on the market potential of gay tourists in Finland. However, the potential demand for gay products and services in the Finnish market must be high, Veiström believes.
In the USA, the group of tourists belonging to sexual minorities use some USD 65 million every year. According to Veiström, the European Gay and Lesbian Travel Alliance (EGLTA) has estimated that as much as 15 to 20 per cent of the continent’s tourist market is made up of pink money used by queer tourists.
SETA, the Finnish organisation for sexual equality, has assisted the capital in listing gay-friendly services.
”It is important what kind of image Helsinki gives to queer tourists”, says Kerttu Tarjamo, the vice chair of HeSeta, SETA’s member organisation in Helsinki.
”The fact that information is available could be a decisive factor when choosing a destination”, Tarjamo notes.
Prior to the launch of the project, none of the capital’s hotels had advertised themselves as gay-friendly, Kari Halonen reports.
At present, a total of 12 enterprises are involved in the project, including firms providing services for cruise tourists, taxi businesses, and hotel chains. In addition, the list includes some restaurants and cafeterias that are already popular among gays and bis.
In order to be involved in the project, enterprises have been required to train their personnel to become gay-friendly. For example, hotel personnel will have to learn how to check the actual wishes of gay couples, without attempting to act upon false presumptions.
”The current list of companies includes only those enterprises which could be found within a month”, Halonen reports.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Gay culture flourishes in Helsinki (10.8.2004)
Special guides for gay tourists who visit Helsinki (5.4.2007)
The Helsinki City Tourist & Convention Bureau