Finland (the easternmost part of Scandinavia) is a young country compared to its neighbors, such as Sweden and Russia. Along with previous Viking penetration of Finland during its existence, this country was a part of the Kingdom of Sweden from the 13th century to 1809 (when most of what’s now Finland was ceded to the Russian Empire – making it the Grand Duchy of Finland).
While World War I was raging throughout Europe, Finland took that opportunity to gain its independence from Russia. It fought against Russia (to maintain its independence) during World War II, with Finland ceding the region of Karelia and other smaller areas to Russia just after that war. Enjoying a post-war economic boom in the 1970s, Finland’s GDP and standard of living eventually became among the highest in the world. Joining a similar trend carried out by other Scandinavia countries, Finland became a welfare state – with heavy taxation upon locals in return for the provision of various services
In 1995, Finland joined the European Union, and changed its official currency from the Markka to the Euro in 2002 (making it the only Nordic country to adopt the Euro).
Given its geographic proximity to Russia, Finland attracts a sizeable number of tourists from Russia (making them the majority of the 6.1 million tourists that visited the country in 2010). By that time, tourism represented 2.4% of the country’s GDP (generating 60,000 jobs). Aside from the Russians, tourists (in 2012) also came from neighboring Sweden (over 500,000), Germany (over 500,000), UK (405,000), Estonia (235,000), France (217,000), USA (198,000), Norway (182,000), Japan (176,000), Netherlands (164,000), Switzerland (132,000), and Italy (130,000). A potential market is the Chinese (100,000 of whom visited Finland in 2012).
With the majority of tourists being naturally drawn to the vibrant city of Helsinki, there is potential growth for tourism in other parts of the country, especially the sparsely-populated (and colder) northern regions such as Lapland. Winter tourism options, such as Santa Claus Village (at the town of Rovaniemi), reindeer sleigh riding tours, and sightings of the Northern Lights (from September to April annually), are among the activities that visitors can partake in.