Many countries have been heavily affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. How is Helsinki currently dealing with this crisis?
Helsinki and Finland are doing quite well compared to many countries. The level of Covid-19 infections remains quite small. In order to serve our clients we have developed the Helsinki Method and Virtual Helsinki for b2b events. It is critical to understand how digitalisation can help our industry. I still believe in physical encounters, more than ever, but now we have to take all advantages from today’s digitalisation in order to create the best possible hybrid encounters and use our full virtual extent in the travel and meetings industry.
In March we started the concept Helsinki Method for Meetings and Events, which helps event organisers and producers create meaningful encounters.
The Helsinki Method assists in getting to know event participants, identifying the event’s true goals and selecting the right methods for virtual encounters. This forms a framework for planning an outstanding event together with the right partners.
We wanted to take similar approach to meetings as we have in Helsinki in general, everyone can contribute and make their voice heard. Helsinki fosters a diverse culture that brings people together. The city thrives and evolves in an atmosphere of adopting new skills and ideas, openness and respect towards one another, and being inclusive while giving enough space
The Helsinki Method is based on our city strategy.
We organised webinars for professionals locally and abroad last summer and online tutorial was launched in July.
Helsinki Method: https://www.myhelsinki.fi/en/meetings-and-travel-trade/helsinki-method-for-meetings-and-events
Smart city and digitalization is one of the areas that Helsinki is focusing on in international operations. By using 3D modelling Helsinki already has a digital twin of Helsinki city centre. It was two years ago when VR Studio Zoan together with city of Helsinki created a Virtual Helsinki. First the content could only be accessed by VR glasses, but this year we’ve also released browser version which can also be accessed by mobile phone.
We have for example a virtual version of the art museum Amos Rex, Helsinki Design Week and its exhibitions in virtual reality.
Virtual Helsinki can be used also for business events and this is now our main focus. One of our congress centres, Finlandia Hall, has now been realised in virtual reality. We have the possibility to organise hybrid meetings where online participants can immerse themselves in the conference hall’s digital twin. It means also endless capacity for hybrid congresses and events in Helsinki.
The world’s first pixel streaming congress “World Summit on Digital Built Environment” was organised in Illusion City, which recreated Helsinki and Tallinn in virtual reality. The summit used Epic Games’ Unreal Engine technology and Zoan’s virtual event platform to transport attendees in real time to this “Illusion City”.
The MICE industry is also struggling during these difficult times. How do you think this will change our industry, and what measures can be taken, in your opinion?
People will think more carefully than before where they will travel. It is our advantage that Helsinki has a lot of space and you can easily find nature in the capital city.
If we think of the congresses, the international characteristics will play an important role also in the future. Associations will need opportunities to engage with local industry and academic institutions in order to broaden the reach of their content and network. In Helsinki, we have wide ecosystems around for example health, education, smart & clean, ICT (high-tech manufacturing, financial technology, quantum technology) and many more sectors and we can help in introducing these networks for b2b events. The City of Helsinki is also interested in more permanent relationships and co-operation with associations.
Sustainability will become even more important. Helsinki was the first European city to report UN Sustainable Development Goals and all our guests have the possibility to plan their stay sustainably https://www.myhelsinki.fi/en/think-sustainably
New technologies and business opportunities created by b2b events should be measured more carefully in the future.
As soon as Helsinki is able to welcome international association congresses in the future:
Did you know, that…? Three (surprising) facts that are relevant for association meetings.
Helsinki was the most popular Nordic congress city in the latest UIA congress statistics.
For the third year in a row, Finland has been named the world’s happiest country by the annual United Nations World Happiness Report.
Finland is the only Nordic country using the Euro as its currency.
Where to meet?
There are four main conference venues, and many hotels have excellent conference facilities which hold up to 700 participants. All conference venues and 80% of the hotels in Helsinki have environmental certificates.
The largest venue Messukeskus Helsinki, Expo and Convention Centre, has capacity up to 20,000 participants with versatile premises for meetings and exhibitions of different sizes.
Designed by the world-famous architect Alvar Aalto, Finlandia Hall is an unequalled international
classic of architecture and design – down to the finest detail. Its largest auditorium has 1700 seats and it can be combined with numerous parallel rooms and an exhibition area. Finlandia Hall is also in virtual reality and it is possible to organise a hybrid meeting where online participants can immerse themselves in a digital twin of the conference hall.
A stunning waterfront location and a short walking distance to the city center make Marina Congress Center a fantastic venue for meetings and events. The largest room is suitable for 600 people.
Paasitorni houses nearly 30 characterful and adaptable meeting, party and event spaces for 8–800 participants. The carefully restored prestigious building, supplemented with new wings, provides an inspiring and memorable setting for events of all kinds.
Clarion Hotel Helsinki rises 78 metres above sea in the urban Jätkäsaari district, next to West Harbour. The old warehouse, designed by Lars Sonck in the 1930s, has a new life as a modern event venue for up to 1000 guests.
Where to stay?
Accommodation providers in Helsinki metropolitan area offer approximately 18,500 rooms in over 100 locations, ranging from five-star hotels to affordable hostels. Most are within 1.5 kilometres of the city centre.
One of the recently opened hotels is The Folks Hotel Konepaja that thrives on the urban roughness and raw energy of its surroundings. The Hotel has 146 rooms in two beautiful old red brick buildings that date back to the early 20th century. Also the legendary hotel Crowne Plaza Helsinki – Hesperia has reopened after a renovation lasting almost 10 months.
How to get there?
Approximately 60 airlines serve Helsinki, and the airport boasts more than 180 international landings each day. There are several daily and direct connections to Helsinki from all major European destinations, most within a 2-hour flight. Helsinki also serves as a hub to Asia. Finnair has more than 80 direct flights a week via the most direct route from Helsinki to 14 destinations in Asia.
There are also ferry services from Estonia, Sweden, Germany, Poland, and Russia and a train service (travel time 3.5 hours) to and from St. Petersburg, Russia.
Do you offer any special services/assistance for associations?
Among the services we offer for associations are:
• Free public transport for congresses with more than 1000 delegates.
• City reception at the City Hall, hosted by the mayor
• Assistance with media coverage and outreach activities.
• In order to help organizers run their congress as sustainably as possible we have created Sustainable Meeting Guidelines free for all to use.
• Helsinki Method for Meetings and Events online tutorial for all to use
• Virtual Helsinki environments for hybrid meetings
Personal recommendation/insider tips?
Finns are crazy about saunas, so why don’t you try one while you are here. There are several public saunas in the city, for example Allas Sea Pool and Löyly.
Visit one of the islands, such as the island of Lonna where you can first enjoy traditional sauna and afterwards lovely locally sourced, organic dinner. Once a base for storing and clearing mines, the island is now a refuge where visitors can leave the hustle and bustle of city life behind them.
Helsinki Biennial is an international art event that will bring outstanding contemporary art to maritime Helsinki. The first Helsinki Biennial will be held in the unique surroundings of Vallisaari Island 12.6.–26.9.2021. Helsinki Biennial will present 40 international artists or groups of artists from both Finland and around the world. You can spot artworks outside along the cobbled path and inside historical buildings, gunpowder cellars and empty residential buildings. https://helsinkibiennaali.fi/en/
Zero waste Restaurant Nolla https://www.restaurantnolla.com/ and other sustainable tips can be found https://www.myhelsinki.fi/en/think-sustainably
Whom to contact?
Helsinki Marketing / Helsinki Convention Bureau, Helsinki.firstname.lastname@example.org, Meethelsinki.fi