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Sustainable tourism, events and urban marketing

Ensuring sustainable growth is the city’s most important task. This is linked to SDG 8 (Decent work and economic growth), which also highlights the promotion of sustainable tourism. The tourism and event industry is a key part of the city’s vitality as the capital. Sustainability has also been put at the forefront of the development of tourism, events and urban marketing in Helsinki. Responsibility is emphasised in the development of tourism and in the Roadmap for Events. In 2020–2021, Helsinki is also co-ordinating the Carbon-neutral Tourism project, whose the long-term goal is to contribute to reducing CO2 emissions and increasing energy efficiency in the tourism sector.
SDG 8: Decent work and economic growth

Ensuring sustainable growth is the City’s most important task. This is strongly linked to SDG 8 Decent work and economic growth, which also highlights the promotion of sustainable tourism. The tourism and event industry is a key part of Helsinki’s vitality as the capital. Sustainability has also been put at the forefront of the development of tourism, events and city marketing in Helsinki.

According to Helsinki’s City Strategy, the aim is to make Helsinki the world’s smartest and most sustainable travel destination. Helsinki’s Tourism and Events Programme 2022–2026, completed in spring 2022, sets out the detailed objectives, measures and indicators to achieve this goal.

Helsinki is part of the Global Destination Sustainability Index, which measures the sustainability of travel and event destinations across a wide range of factors. Helsinki aims to be the index’s top destination by the end of 2025. In 2022, Helsinki was ranked twelfth, compared to sixteenth in 2021. At the same time, Helsinki’s total index score increased by approximately 10 points (72.5/100 in 2021, 82.8/100 in 2022).

Helsinki’s Think Sustainably service helps residents and visitors to Helsinki choose more sustainable restaurants, places to visit, shops, accommodation and events, and provides companies with concrete tools to make their sustainability work visible and develop it. The criteria serving as the cornerstone of the service were revised during 2021 to better address social and cultural sustainability. The criteria for ecological sustainability were also updated to better meet the requirements of the times and encourage companies to adopt more responsible practices. Following Helsinki’s example, the service has been introduced in Finland by Visit Tampere Ltd, which is responsible for tourism marketing and development in the city of Tampere. The scalability of the service is also promoted internationally.

Helsinki is investing heavily in the national Sustainable Travel Finland (STF) programme for travel destinations and companies. The City has promoted the certification of companies in this programme and aims to make Helsinki an STF destination by the end of 2025. The programme takes into account all areas of sustainability. The programme also includes the calculation of companies’ carbon footprints, among other things. The goal is to have around 100 companies in Helsinki that have completed the STF programme by the end of 2025.

Helsinki coordinates the extensive Sustainable Growth for Tourism project, which aims to promote sustainability and carbon footprint calculation in the tourism and event industries, among other things. Helsinki is also involved in the Carbon Neutral Experience project, which includes measures such as a destination-level calculation of the carbon footprint of tourism. Helsinki has also signed the UN’s Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action in Tourism.

Helsinki’s brand and marketing strategy places sustainability at the heart of the entire brand concept. International city marketing highlights sustainability, equality and nature as Helsinki strengths, including through the Helsinki Sustainable City 360° video series published in 2021. Responsibility is also one of the permanent cornerstones of the online service. The different dimensions of responsibility are taken into account in the day-to-day content production and curation work throughout the process, both in terms of content provider prioritisation and image choices. Most of the editorial articles of also include a responsibility aspect; there are over 100 articles with a strong emphasis on some dimension of responsibility.

Helsinki monitors its brand through the Benchmarking Helsinki’s Brand in a Global Context study conducted with The Business of Cities. During the last cycle, the Helsinki brand incorporated a ‘leadership on sustainability’ element. This shows that Helsinki’s work for sustainability has also been recognised internationally.


  • Helsinki’s placement and index score in the Global Destination Sustainability Index rose significantly.
  • A significant number of companies have joined the Think Sustainably service and the Sustainable Travel Finland programme and completed environmental certification.
  • Sustainability has become part of the international brand of Helsinki.

Areas for development:

  • Carbon footprint calculation for companies in the tourism and event industries is an important but also challenging task. Significant investments are required in the development of both tools and the skills of the entire ecosystem to develop the calculation to the desired level.
  • The development of communication on sustainable activities and the productisation and promotion of sustainable tourism and event products require additional investments.
  • The development of inclusive tourism and events has begun, but significant investments are still needed to make Helsinki truly diverse and inclusive.

Programmes, studies and websites:

Tourism sustainability in Helsinki
Helsinki Tourism and Events Programme 2022–2026  PDF
Benchmarking Helsinki’s Brand in a Global Context  PDF