In recent decades, LGBTQ tourism has been on the rise largely due to progress in human rights. The LGBTQ market is considered recession-proof and one of the fastest-growing markets in the world. These reasons alone could demonstrate the importance of attracting tourists from this community to Finland. Finland is already in a good position regarding human and LGBTQ rights; therefore, it seems natural to tap into the LGBTQ market.
This quantitative research aimed to increase the general understanding of LGBTQ tourism in Finland through discovering the international LGBTQ community’s perception of Finland and realizing which of Finland’s pull factors can entice them more. In addition, this study aimed to discover ways Finland can communicate its friendliness to the LGBTQ community.
The findings of this study show that the international LGBTQ community perceives Finland positively as a tourist destination. One of the reasons for this perception could be the widespread content that can be found on social media and online news outlets about Finland. Finland has been named the happiest country in the world for five years in a row and Tom of Finland is a well-renowned comic among the LGBTQ community. These factors could have created an unconscious and unintended awareness of Finland.
Being identified as gay-friendly by the family and friends of the LGBTQ community members and being recommended by them are the most important ways to communicate the gay-friendliness of Finland. The only way to transfer the gay-friendliness values through family members is by being authentic. However, first there is a need to understand what items are important for the LGBTQ community in terms of gay-friendliness.
These items are: same-sex marriage, how anti-LGBTQ a destination is, incorporating LGBTQ themes/imagery in mainstream media/advertising, existence of gay culture in the destination, socializing with LGBTQ people, feeling welcome in the destination, an open and tolerant attitude of the locals, and being identified by a third party and friends as gay-friendly.
Finland as a gay-friendly country fulfils the gay-friendliness requirements of the LGBTQ community. However, this gay-friendliness can be elevated through incorporating two items. First, by using LGBTQ themes/imagery in any kind of advertisements, whether they be photo- or video-based. Secondly, by creating authenticity in tourism businesses, which can be achieved through ongoing training of staff in tourism businesses, the obtaining of certificates from LGBTQ organizations and workshops, such as ‘We Speak Gay’ and ILGTA, and developing a relationship with local LGBTQ organizations and LGBTQ charities.
Another research question that was explored in this study was which attributes of Finland can act as pull factors for the international LGBTQ community. In answering this question, eight attractions were identified. These are: Northern lights, relaxing atmosphere, exploring new places, quality eating experiences, opportunities to see wildlife and nature, dramatic/beautiful landscapes and scenery, a safe and secure destination related to personal safety, and the LGBTQ friendliness of Finland. Interestingly, no Lakeland activities were important for respondents; in fact they had the lowest score.
Nature and new experiences were the frontrunners Finland’s pull factors; therefore, DMOs, with the participation of the local authority could plan a cohesive design to support infrastructure and draw a specific budget for the maintenance and marketing of these areas. Since a quality eating experience was one of the essential attributes of Finland for the LGBTQ community, working with non-Finnish influencers on Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube could be beneficial for exposing more people to Finnish food. In addition, local DMOs could invite cooks and chefs from the local area or go to their place of business and film how they cook their traditional Finnish food and then post these videos on their own social media channels.