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Åland: many travellers, far fewer overnighters

Åland: many travellers, far fewer overnighters

| Text: Helena Forsgård, foto: Kjell Söderlund

Åland has just under 30 000 citizens, and more than two million annual visitors. This must mean the place is literally swarming with travellers, right?

The truth behind the tourism figures is in fact quite different. Numbers from Statistics and Research Åland (ÅSUB) do show that there are some two million visitors to Åland every year and that this has been the case for the past few years. But the great majority of them are travellers who are counted as arriving in Åland despite the fact they have never set foot there.

Do not disembark

More than 770 000 arrive on ships that are on 24-hour cruises starting in Stockholm. They only stay for a brief period of time in the Mariehamn harbour in the early hours of the morning, before returning to Stockholm. 

So that leaves just over 1.2 million travellers. Many of them come from Turku or Stockholm on some of the daily passenger ferries that operate all year round. They then change to other boats in Mariehamn before returning to their starting point on the same day. This group is tempted by the food, entertainment and tax-free shopping onboard. The statistics do not show exactly how big this group really is, since the shipping companies do not provide the figures separately.   

Ålanders themselves are believed to carry out around 260 000 journeys every year. Another relatively large group of travellers is people with holiday homes in Åland. 

There is a lot passenger ferry traffic to and from Åland, with daily connections to Turku and Helsinki in Finland, Stockholm, Kapellskär and Grisslehamn in Sweden and Tallinn in Estonia. in 2017 there were 9 107 arrivals in Åland’s harbours, mostly regular traffic. Foreign cruise ships visiting Åland make up a very small part of that number.


The statistics for people spending the night in Åland shows a different picture – one that is closer to the truth about the “real” tourism. In 2018, 207 600 people stayed in accommodation which is part of ÅSUB statistics. This represented a total of 410 000 nights. Every five years, ÅSUB carries out a survey of tourism’s socio-economic importance to Åland. The latest one was published in 2018, and showed tourism consumption was worth around 105 million euro. If you include consumption onboard vessels owned by Åland-based shipping companies, that number rises to around 330 million euro. 

Land-based tourism represented around 2.9% of Åland’s GDP.

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