The goal: doubling the number of tourists in North Karelia
Renovations worth €19 million for Kimmel, and Wild Nordic Finland to start operating at the Bomba Karelian village
Despite the coronavirus crisis during the spring, the Northern Karelia Cooperative Society (PKO) is investing in the future and seeks to double the number of tourists in the region. In addition, an increased number of international travellers are sought for the whole Finnish lake district in cooperation with a new business partner. PKO is modernising Original Sokos Hotel Kimmel in Joensuu. The goal of the investment, with a value of €19 million, is to make Kimmel the number one event venue for the whole Eastern Finland for conference guests and tourists. At the same time, Bomba House, located next to Break Sokos Hotel Bomba in Nurmes, is turned into a Karelian centre open all year round. In addition, Wild Nordic Finland (Villi Pohjola Oy) will join the Bomba Karelian village as a destination management company and event agency. Operating from Bomba, they will bring tourists to the whole Finnish lake district.
“Tourism business in the North Karelia region has been stagnant for a decade: the number of annual accommodation nights has remained steady at approximately 500,000. The goal of Visit Karelia, the regional travel organisation of North Karelia, is to double the amount of accommodation nights in the region by 2030. The travel business is also one of the top growth areas in PKO’s strategy, and our goal is to double the number of guests at PKO hotels. The renewing Kimmel plays a central role here. Instead of a strategy statement, the goals will be reached through bold investments and purposeful actions. Through our actions, we want to also inspire other investors to develop the travel industry of the whole North Karelia and the Finnish lake district”, says Juha Kivelä, managing director.
At Kimmel, the already versatile conference facilities will be modernised to enable arranging even larger events. The new conference facilities will accommodate 13 separate conference groups, or nearly 600 people. The largest room will enable events of 350–400 people. The number of hotel rooms will increase from 230 to 237. With the renewal, the Economy rooms of the lowest price class will disappear, replaced by Superior rooms popular with business travellers and conference guests. In addition, the hotel’s wellbeing centre will include a hair salon, beauty salon and a large gym. According to the preliminary estimate, the modernisation work will start in December 2020, and the work will proceed in stages. The work is expected to be completed in the early spring 2022.
The refurbished Bomba spa hotel was opened in Nurmes after an investment of €6.5 million in 2018. This was a start for the development of the area, and in 2019, overnight stays at Bomba increased by 30%.
“The development of Bomba House and the Karelian village is the next step. Together with our partners, we are building the Bomba House into a Karelian-themed event house open through the year. On 17 July, we will open the “Karelian woman at a party” exhibition at the Bomba House together with the Suojärvi parish association. The next stage of the development will include the internationalisation of the Bomba area and making the event service selection even more varied. We have signed a cooperation agreement with Wild Nordic Finland that will bring more international travellers not only to Nurmes but the whole Finnish lake district”, says Antti Varis, acting director of Travel Industry and Hospitality Business.
“Bomba is located on the shore of the beautiful Lake Pielisjärvi, and it is a completely different travel destination from Lapland, Helsinki or the archipelago, and therefore quite attractive. An international traveller seeks the nature, cleanliness, freshness, safety, coolness and the dreamlike cottage scenery. Bomba can offer all this. From here, we can also serve better the rest of the Finnish lake district, such as the Northern Savonia and Kainuu regions”, says Sami Päivike, CEO of Wild Nordic Finland.
Wild Nordic Finland will start event services at Bomba on 1 January 2021, and starting from 1 May 2021, the company will rent all the 50 rooms of the Karelian village for its use. When serving foreign travel agencies, Wild Nordic Finland will take care of programme planning, logistics, service level, subcontractor management and invoicing, making it easier to attract international tourists to Finland.
“It is great to see that Visit Finland’s long-term work on the Lakeland project together with the region’s tourism companies produces concrete results and major investments in the region’s travel infrastructure. It brings great new opportunities for the development of the region’s travel industry, and also nationally promotes improving the attractiveness of the travel offering on the international market. I hope that many other operators will follow PKO’s lead in developing the selection of travel services the Finnish lake district can offer”, says Paavo Virkkunen, head of Visit Finland.
As a national travel industry expert, Visit Finland is responsible for advancing tourism from abroad to Finland. Wild Nordic Finland (Villi Pohjola Oy) is part of Lomarengas Group, which has been offering leisure services in Finland for more than 50 years. In addition to Finland, Wild Nordic Finland operates in Sweden, Russia and the Norwegian Lapland.
Further information: Juha Kivelä, managing director of PKO, tel. +358 50 330 2060
Paavo Virkkunen, head of Visit Finland, tel. +358 40 766 6355
Sami Päivike, CEO of Villi Pohjola Oy/Wild Nordic Finland, tel. +358 50 554 4356