The Irish rock band U2 and its vocalist Bono brought a bonus of some millions of euros to Helsinki’s tourism and restaurant entrepreneurs. The capital could not accommodate all fans, which is why hotel rooms were sought as far away as in Riihimäki and Lahti. On Monday, the wind was blowing plastic mugs, cigarette stubs, and earplugs around Helsinki’s Olympic Stadium. Workers were unfastening the screws from the aluminium coatings which had been covering the stadium surface.
Apart from impressed fans and two days’ dismantling work, the megaband U2 left behind them in Finland millions of euros. Thanks to a total of roughly 100,000 visitors to the two concerts, especially hotel and restaurant entrepreneurs were all smiles. Even the ferry traffic between Helsinki and Tallinn as well as the demand for taxi rides picked up.
What this means in euros for Helsinki’s economy, nobody is willing to calculate accurately.
”The share of tourism will inevitably be millions of euros. How many millions, I cannot tell”, says Veli-Matti Aittoniemi, the Executive Vice President of Matkailu- ja ravintolapalvelut MaRa (“Tourism and Restaurant Services”).
The number of foreign visitors to the two concerts was roughly 6,000 to 8,000 per gig: Estonians had bought 5,000 tickets for Saturday’s concert, while a total o f 10,000 tickets had been sold to Russia and Sweden. Half of the Finnish fans came from outside Helsinki.
The 12,000 hotel rooms in the Greater Helsinki area were all sold out. Those visitors who were looking for accommodation had to search for lodging in Hyvinkää, Järvenpää, Riihimäki, and even in Lahti, nearly 100km away.
”Top performers like U2 are such a draw that they are bound to attract tourists. Those who come from outside Helsinki go to restaurants and shops. They easily spend the same amount of money per day for other things as they pay for hotel accommodation”, says Aittoniemi.
The sales of the hotel chains, including the Stockholm-based Scandic, the Finnish Sokos Hotels, and the Restel hotels, increased by 15 to 30 per cent compared with a regular weekend in August.
The 2,400 rooms in the Scandic hotels in Helsinki and Tuusula were fully booked aleady a week prior to the two gigs.”The demand was exceptionally high and the impact of the concerts was wide. One could feel already outside the confines of the ring roads that something was happening in Helsinki”, describes Scandic director Christian Borg.
According to Borg, the demand was equal to that of Madonna’s gig in Helsinki in August 2009, but this boom continued one day longer. The first rooms were booked in October, when the tickets to the gigs came on sale.”A second peak occurred in July during the summer holidays, when people began to plan their trips”, says Borg.
The sales of the restaurants in the immediate vicinity of the Olympic Stadium and those in the city centre doubled or tripled, reports Jouko Heinonen, Divisional Manager at HOK-Elanto, the largest regional cooperative retail chain in Finland.
Drinks accounted for some 80 per cent of the chain’s restaurant sales. When we calculated the amount of sales, we noticed that Bono was 1.5 times more profitable than Madonna. Large crowds of people were out and about and they were in high spirits. Large numbers of out-of-own people had also come to attend the concerts”, Heinonen notes.
In Helsinki’s Royal Restaurants sales were up by 10 to 15 per cent.”It naturally has an effect on everything, when 50,000 people are moving in the city before and after the gig. The weekend was excellent”, Kasperi Saari, Managing Director of Royal Restaurants, says happily.