My Oulu: Congresses attract more and more international experts to visit Oulu

The year 2024 is looking bright: thousands of congress attendees are expected to arrive to Oulu from different fields of study. Photo: Harri Tarvainen

My Oulu

Julkaistu: Kirjoittaja: Merja Haukipuro (translation: Joel Loukkola)

Jaa sosiaalisessa mediassa:

25 registered international congresses were held in Oulu during 2023. A total of 1747 attendees participated in them. The congresses produced approximately 2,4 million euros of revenue to the city as total spending per person was 1400 euros. At best, congress revenue has exceeded 4–5 million euros per year.

Most of the congresses were in the fields of natural sciences and mathematics. Other significant fields of study were social sciences, history and safety. By attendee numbers the largest fields were technology, information technology and architecture on top of natural sciences and mathematics.

One of the most significant congresses in the field of natural sciences last year in Oulu was the Icess15th at the University of Oulu.

“Expertise in the fields of natural sciences and mathematics are on a very high level in Finland, and in Oulu. We could highlight Oulu even more in conferences in the fields of technology and wellbeing”, states Professor of Physics, Hydrogen Research Specialist and the Spokesperson of the Icess15th Congress Marko Huttula from the University of Oulu.

The key reasons to participate in congresses are their programmes and contents. Additionally, the participants wish to network and present their research. On top of the official congress programming, the attendees enjoy local experiences in Finland and are willing to return to Finland on their holidays.

We aim to be included among the five most popular congress cities in Finland.
Marketing Manager Riina Aikio, City of Oulu

Additionally, the attendees visit Finnish universities and research institutes as well as meet local researchers, scientists and potential new customers. In fact, congresses are a great way to market Finnish expertise and attract experts. They also make encounters between science and business possible.

Exposure with congresses

For example, the Icess15th Congress brought together attendees from 24 countries which offered massive global exposure for Oulu.

“If and when we want international interest in Oulu, organizing conferences and congresses is important. Practicing science serves the city of Oulu as well and the scientific community and top researchers interact with each other. Congresses are typically the meeting places for leading scientists and scientific communities”, Huttula continues.

“I see cooperation between the city of Oulu and the University of Oulu as very necessary. Fluent cooperation plays a very important role.”

A middle-aged man in a blue blazer in an auditorium.

“Oulu shouldn’t compete with metropolises in the same fields, but instead highlight the exotic attributes of the north such as the nature and cycling routes”, Marko Huttula says. Photo: Mikko Törmänen / University of Oulu

International congresses offer opportunities to invite more networks and decision-makers to visit Oulu.

“These visits are important from the perspective of investments, recognition and accessibility. We aim to be included among the five most popular congress cities in Finland”, city of Oulu’s Marketing Manager Riina Aikio states.

The task of Oulu Convention Bureau, which is a part of Oulu’s central administration, is to invite and attract congresses and events to Oulu together with the organizers.

Exotic attributes of the north

Both the organizers and the attendees believe in the strength of face-to-face encounters.

“Supplementary activities, lunches and dinners produce encounters, generate new thoughts and ideas and create communication. These can attract the interest of international visitors”, Huttula states. He considers events organized in person as much more significant than those arranged online.

Last year, 529 international congresses were held in Finland and 84 % of them were organized as in-person events. The number is larger than in the previous year and the coming years are looking bright.

The number of hybrid events is decreasing from previous years, approximately 15 % of all congresses were hybrid. Purely virtual international congresses are organized very rarely.

“It is not worth trying to be an international metropolis like Paris or Milano. We should highlight the exotic attributes of the north such as the nature and cycling routes”, Huttula says.

Congresses are organized in Finland throughout the year. The busiest season is in the summertime: June was clearly the busiest congress month last year. The next busiest months were May, September and October. The quietest months were January and July. By attendee turnout, the busiest month was May when 16 000 congress attendees visited Oulu.

The latest statistics collected by the Finland Convention Bureau from 2023 have been used as a source for the statistics. Source for the monetary statistics: FCB Delegate Study – Visit Finland

Finland Convention Bureau’s congress statistics 2023 news article can be read here: Congress Year 2023 – information sharing and Finnish expertise – Visit Finland (in Finnish).


The criteria to define an international meeting or congress:

  • There is at least 10 attendees
  • There are attendees from at least two other countries
  • At least 20 % of attendees are from outside of Finland
  • Lasts at least one day (minimum of 4 hours)
  • Is organized by an international association or its Finnish member association, national association, university faculty or group of researchers, university of applied sciences, research institute, ministry or some other non-profit organization.