My Oulu: The Munich flight connection generated an estimated €30,000 in tourism revenue per flight during the winter season

The number of flights at Oulu Airport has dropped by about half compared to 2019. The three-year development programme led by BusinessOulu now aims to rectify the situation. Photo: Visit Oulu

My Oulu

Julkaistu: Kirjoittaja: Pasi Rytinki (Translation: Anne Laurila)

Jaa sosiaalisessa mediassa:

The direct flight connection from Munich to Oulu, opened in December, will have a significant economic impact on the region: according to preliminary estimates 2–3 million euros annually. Under the leadership of BusinessOulu, the municipalities of Northern Ostrobothnia have taken joint action to improve air traffic in Oulu and the accessibility of the region.

A survey was conducted among passengers arriving at Oulu Airport in February–March, which examined, among other things, the passengers’ reasons for coming to Oulu and how long they intended to spend in Northern Finland. The survey was carried out by students of Oulu University of Applied Sciences and a total of 127 passengers from Helsinki and Munich responded to it.

Of the respondents, 70 per cent lived elsewhere and 30 per cent were locals. The ratio of leisure and business travellers was the same, 70 per cent leisure travellers.

64 per cent of the respondents, a total of 81 people, were international tourists. Of international travellers, 86 per cent were leisure travellers. For them, the most important reason to fly to Oulu was winter holidays and winter activities. The second most common reason was visits from friends and relatives.

More than half of the passengers had a destination specifically for the Oulu region, and most of them had Oulu at least as part of their trip to the north.

”The first wave of passengers came in December, when the route was opened. They were people, who had some kind of ties or connections to the Oulu region”, says BusinessOulu’s Account Manager Jyrki Kemppainen.

More than half of the passengers had a destination specifically for the Oulu region, and most of them had Oulu at least as part of their trip to the north. A large proportion of the respondents also said that they stay in the area for quite a long time, more than five days on average. As many as 60 percent said they would stay at least a week.

”The average stay in Oulu has been 1.7 days, which is significantly longer than usual”, says Yrjötapio Kivisaari, CEO of Visit Oulu.

Considerable tourism income

Direct connections also bring direct economic impacts to the north. Based on the survey, the estimation is that during the winter season, one flight from Munich will bring about 30,000 euros in tourism income to the region. With flights twice a week, i.e. around a hundred per year, the annual impact has been conservatively estimated at EUR 2–3 million, spent on accommodation, various services, retail trade and transport. During the winter season, one tourist spends about 95 euros per day according to the estimations.

”Studies show that spending during the winter season is considerably higher than at other times, because accommodation prices are higher due high season. People are also eager to spend on activities during this period”, Kemppainen says.

Two-thirds of the arrivals had booked the trip themselves, and the rest had used the tour operators services or bought flights and accommodation as a package.

”This indicates that tour operators have not yet had time to introduce this flight connection into their programme, but this picture will certainly look different next winter”, Kemppainen estimates. He also believes that the share of international tourists will increase in the future.

Similar surveys will be done in future to see how the situation develops.

Lufthansa opened a flight connection between Oulu and Munich last December, and in February the company made the connection year-round. Photo: Visit Oulu

Kemppainen says that he has already heard many tourism operators in Oulu say that the increase in the number of German tourists has been reflected in customer flows, which encourages them to invest in winter tourism. Kivisaari also emphasises that Oulu has something to offer in this field.

”International tourists come to us to experience winter. People come here as units, i.e. couples or families, and it helps us plan services according to the type of tourists coming here”, Kivisaari says.

According to him, the results of the study will be analysed in a joint workshop of tourism operators in Northern Ostrobothnia already during May.

Cooperation between municipalities

At the beginning of the year, municipalities in Northern Ostrobothnia launched a joint three-year development programme led by BusinessOulu to promote air traffic in the region and improve accessibility. This is due to a situation where the annual passenger volume at Oulu Airport has dropped by almost half. Before the coronavirus pandemic in 2019 Oulu lured over one million passengers, but last year only 550,000 passengers.

”It is worrying that passenger numbers also decreased last year compared to 2022, so we need to take action in this regard”, says Juuso Rönnholm, Business Oulu’s Public Affairs Manager.

Air connectivity not only plays an important role in the regional economy, but also enables investment in the tourism sector and beyond, improving the availability of labour and the attractiveness and reputation of the region.
Public Affairs Manager Juuso Rönnholm, BusinessOulu

The development programme has three main objectives: to improve the capacity of the Oulu–Helsinki route and restore competitiveness to it, to have more direct international connections to Oulu and to bring back Oulu Airport as the second busiest airport in Finland. Development programme has EUR 584,000 budget and about half of the county’s municipalities are contributing to the program with two euros per inhabitant per year.

”Accessibility is very important to the Oulu region. Flight connections are not only of great importance to the regional economy, but they also enable investments in the tourism sector and elsewhere. Good connections to the region improve the availability of labour and the attractiveness and reputation of the region”, says Rönnholm, referring to a report by the Regional Council last year, according to which better flight connections would increase the turnover of about half of the companies in the region.

Ongoing negotiations

Rönnholm points out that positive developments are also taking place with Lufthansa’s Munich-Oulu -route, as airline confirmed recently, that the route will operate year-round. Rönnholm and Kivisaari are in constant negotiations with various airlines and operators in the industry, aiming to open new international routes to Oulu.

According to Kivisaari, there is positive signals from the airlines to new route openings to Oulu, but there are many moving parts in the negotiations: plans may change if, for example, aircraft manufacturers have delivery problems or engine problems, in which case there is not enough capacity. The interest of airlines may also depend on cooperation with tour operators, in which Visit Oulu strives to help.

New routes are not kicked off overnight and the right timing is the key to success with airlines.

”At the moment, it is very last days or weeks before something could happen for this year. In a couple of weeks, the airlines focus will move on to winter or summer 2025, and 2026 will be around the corner too”, Kivisaari describes the importance of right timing in negotiations with airlines.

According to Juuso Rönnholm, also the Oulu–Helsinki route is constantly being negotiated with all the operators who would be able to enter it. Currently, the route is operated only by Finnair.

”We highlight the international opportunities of Oulu and the potential of the Oulu–Helsinki route. We see very strongly that there is room for another company, and we are trying to encourage companies to come on the route.”