Decoding Design

Is design a bigger tourist draw than sports events?

Posting in Architecture

This year, Helsinki is the World Design Capital--and tourism numbers to Finland are up so far. Could design initiatives prove to be a wiser way to lure visitors and boost an economy than sports?

Design is proving to be a tourist draw for a certain European nation this year...and that nation is Finland. The Nordic country is home to the current World Design Capital, Helsinki (shown above). And statistics indicate that in 2012, visitors are coming to Finland at higher rates than in the past.

Overnight stays in Finnish cities grew in the period from January to May 2012, compared with the same period in 2011: up 3.5% in Helsinki, 22.3% in Espoo, 4.5% in Vantaa and 3% in Lahti, according to statistics published on the Web site for the World Design Capital Helsinki program. The Finnish Tourist Board found that growth of overnight stays in all of Finland represented the biggest spike in such stays in Nordic countries between January and May. The number of people staying overnight in Finland increased by over 11% overall.

The Port of Helsinki saw a 5% rise in passenger traffic between January and June of this year. It's estimated that 400,000 international cruise passengers--the biggest number to date--are expected to arrive in Helsinki during the World Design Capital year.

While these statistics didn't include any estimated figures on how the World Design Capital Year might boost Finland's Gross Domestic Product for 2012, online design magazine Dezeen observed that the Finnish tourism boom--sparked by design interest--contrasts with early evidence that the London Olympics may not be having a significant effect on the U.K.'s economy.

Dezeen cited a Reuters report stating that the London Olympics would be unlikely to significantly affect the British capital city's economy. Reuters pointed to a statement from the U.K.'s Office for Budget Responsibility: "Given the uncertainties and the relatively small size of any possible effects, we assume that, apart from the ticket sales effects, the Olympics will not have a material effect on the quarterly path of GDP."

Could design be a bigger draw than sports, in terms of tourism's effects on a nation's or city's economy? Of course, this isn't really a fair or totally equal comparison. Or is it? After all, one of the most resonant phenomena of the 2008 Beijing Olympics was the crop of stunning new architecture (the Bird's Nest stadium by Herzog and de Meuron, the CCTV building by Rem Koolhaas and his firm Office for Metropolitan Architecture) intended specifically to debut during the Games. And draw tourists, of course.

[Via Dezeen]

Image: timo_w2s/Flickr

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Reena Jana

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Reena Jana has written for the New York Times, Wired, Harvard Business Review online, Fast Company, Architectural Record, Artforum, Time Out New York, Harper's Bazaar, and GQ. Previously, she was the innovation department editor at BusinessWeek. She holds degrees from Columbia University and Barnard College. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure