Authors: Anne Matilainen and Saana Santalahti

The aim of this study was to get an impression of the image of Finland from those Japanese who already have some knowledge on the country. As many Japanese tourist only use the Helsinki-Vantaa airport as a transfer airport to Europe, there is a need to consider how to keep the Japanese in the country. Thus, there is also a need to understand why the tourists visit the places they do. This is question this study aims also to answer.

The study was carried out by interviewing Japanese who have been living or staying in Finland for more than three months but no more than five years. As the purpose was to find interviewees who had more experience from Finland than an average tourist, but had not yet fully integrated to the Finnish society, this timespan was seen as the most suitable. The data was then analyzed by using qualitative thematic analysis.


Is it easy for our foreign guests to travel by public transport in Latvia, Estonia and Finland?

Summer is the best time of the year for rural tourism to relax from a city rush and enjoy the beauty of Latvian nature. Peaceful countryside idyll, bird watching, trying local specialities and participation in traditional arts and crafts workshops – these are just a few of activities that foreign guest wish to experience, thus giving preference to visit the countries of Central Baltic Sea – Latvia, Estonia and Finland instead of many other attractive travel destinations.

To find out the viewpoints of foreign guests in the above mentioned countries regarding their experience of traveling by public transport, the partners of INTERREG Central Baltic Sea “CAITO – Meta cluster for attracting the Japanese tourism market” project group conducted structured interviews with a wide range of rural tourism stakeholders. The central focus of the CAITO project is Japanese tourists, since the number of their visits is increasing due to growing concerns of geopolitical instability in other so far popular tourism destinations in Europe. Changes in lifestyle also play important role – there is an increasing trend to spend more time in fresh air, taste eco products and try local traditions, which is available outside cities in rural areas.

Tourists who have visited Latvia, Estonia and Finland admit that in the cities public transport system is good, various modes of public transport are optimally integrated to meet the needs of passengers. However, in remote rural areas the situation is not as optimistic – there is a need for more frequent trains/buses, and timetables of various modes of transport often are not integrated causing problems with travel planning.

As tourists often wish to see as many sightseeing objects of one area as possible, it is highly important to have a well-planned route, which efficiently combines several modes of transport. Research results show that currently there are just a few internet sites available where travellers can obtain information about all transport services’ providers, as each transport enterprise mainly provides information only about its own routes, thus travellers often have problems to combine routes of two or more different transport service providers. Moreover, buying tickets is another challenge as, unlike in most of cities, in rural areas traffic time-tables (directions, departure/arrival times) are available only in official language but not in English. A significant problem for travellers in Latvia is that, in accordance with the Latvian State Language Law (Article 21 of the State Language Law), all information that is intended for the public and provided by state or local government institutions must be in Latvian only with a few exceptions (for example, information in international transport centres).

It is easy to find information in Google, but internet access at affordable prices is also essential, which often is a problem for people outside the EU. Visitors to Europe usually have some experience in rural tourism and thus are better prepared for exploring certain places, but most Japanese tourists do not know that there are a lot of nice places in the countryside in our region, so it would be helpful to add transport links with short explanations in English to internet sites, so that visitors themselves could find the necessary information.

Although electronic tickets are accepted on buses and trains of almost all transport companies in the cities, they should, in most cases, be printed on paper. Moreover, it is problematic to purchase tickets for bus ride in rural areas, and although tickets can be bought on-the-go if there are free seats, for many travellers, especially traveller groups, this does not seem a safe way how to plan their route.

One of the research findings suggests that, currently rural bus networks are designed for local people to be used on a daily basis. In particular, in the remote rural areas, “on-demand transport services”/ “dial-a-bus” are increasingly being introduced, resulting in less frequent access to scheduled transport services. This makes it increasingly difficult for tourists to develop timely travel routes and buy tickets well in advance before the date of the trip.

As foreign travellers admit, although people in rural areas are usually kind and responsive, for them it is often difficult to communicate in English; thus, if the bus driver does not speak English, it is almost impossible for foreign tourists to find out at which stop they should get off. In this regard, positive changes are expected in 2021, when Latvian bus route contracts will be renewed as part of the procurement procedure, by which it is intended to provide a stop announcement system on buses in audible and written form on video display screens.

Project CAITO in Japanese media

Herewith our Japanese colleagues share with us media coverages by participants of CAITO press trip during 28.08.-03.09.2017 in Latvia, Estonia and Finland

・6 pages articles in fashion&lifestyle paper magazine “Linier” about Finland (texts and illustrations: Ms. Mariko Hirasawa, photos: Ms. Yumiko Miyahama)
Page1 Page2  Page3Page4 Page5 Page6

・The list of articles in blog of ayan (Ms. Kozue Koide)

・The list of articles in blog of UKOARA (Ms. Yuko Arakawa)

・The article on Fiskars and restaurant Kuparipaja in website GOTRIP! (Ms. Kozue Koide)

・Many articles – travel plan and spots introduction in website TripPlanner (Ms. Miki Noguchi):
“Mushroom picking in Latvia and Finland”…/p…/0f90e2b8cba5c9c20522b8cef3fef07e

“Sights in South Finland”

“Sightseeing plan of Hanko with nostalgic scenery”

“Sightseeing course in Pärnu”

“Around Cesis and Gauja National Park”

“Nostalgic walk in Tammisaari”

“Finnish pretty design village – sightseeing course in Fiskars”

“Go Rural” – Practical Guide for travellers visiting south coast Finland, Estonia. Latvia

Welcome to Finland, Estonia and Latvia – three neighbouring countries in the North of Europe and Scandinavia, on the shores of the Baltic Sea. This brochure will help independent travellers plan a holiday trip in the South of Finland, Estonia and Latvia beyond traditional touristic routes and to discover the real countryside.

Finns, Estonians and Latvians share similarities in mentality and way of life, but each country is still proud of its unique identity. All three countries are safe and easy to travel around – there is a good road and transport network, and there are many guest houses and country hotels, even in remote country areas, to welcome guests.

In this brochure, you will find the key information that is necessary to plan a trip – a map of the Baltic Sea countries with airports and sea ports marked, names and contacts of airlines, ferry and bus companies and car hire, and suggestions for holiday themes in the countryside. Besides, we have provided a number of web links to useful sources of more detailed information.

Let this brochure inspire you for a holiday trip!

Brochure Go Rural (PDF)

Media trip for Japanese tourism operators

Project CAITO in cooperation with national tourism boards are organizing the media for selected media representatives from Japan. The trip will be arranged 28.08.-03.09.2017 and will cover Latvia, Estonia and Finland.


The representatives from different media from Japan in Latvia will visit local carpenter’s workshop and open-air functional exhibition of medicinal plants, they will have a lunch in Ungurmuiža manor and participate at mushroom picking and cooking in Karlamuiza Country Hotel in Latvia.


In Estonia the group will have very intense program. They will go for a relaxed hike with the hostess of Nurka Farm along the boardwalks and foot paths of Tolkuse bog, learn about the plants and folktales and bog legends. Then – lunch in Golf restaurant Eagle and Cider tour in Tori Jõesuu Cider and Wine Farm at the edge of Soomaa. The guests from Japan will also have chance to enjoy Sauna in Klaara-Manni Countrywoman’s Spa. The next day will start with visiting Herb Garden on Tamme Farm and Santa Claus at Santa’s Chimney Farm.

The guest will have lunch at Maria Farm which is a great place to enjoy true country life in a beautiful natural setting boasting forests, bogs and the sea. After lunch program will includes visiting Alpaca farm – the largest in Estonia, Jaanihanso Cider House and Luhtre Farm.


In Finland the guests from Japan will visit the Siuntio river, Sundby castle and the beautiful countryside scenery of Siuntio as well as different venues at the Fiskars Village.  Fiskars Village, the birthplace of the world known design company, has become an internationally renowned center of Finnish design and art, attracting close to 200,000 visitors a year. Events and service of Fiskars Village have their focus mainly on four themes – design handicraft and art, local food and drinks, performing arts and outdoor and nature.

In the next day guests will visit The Tammisaari Old town and Raasepori Castle Ruins. They will have a chance to see the Svartå Manor – one of the most precious manor houses in Finland with a history of more than two hundred years. The tour will end with the Tyryi mine museum and lunch in the underground.

Rural tourism product guide “Go Rural”

We proudly present rural tourism product guide “Go Rural” – Latvia/Estonia/South coast Finland”.

This manual is aimed to help you discover rural destinations in South of Finland, Estonia and Latvia beyond traditional touristic routes. The tours and sites in this manual are based around small-scale accommodation, open farms, local producers, living traditions and sincere people. The people here have a close relationship with its nature and annual cycle. Each season has its own specific activities like mushrooming, berry picking, collecting herbs, ice-fishing and different agricultural jobs as well as traditional and seasonal celebrations. The countries are a haven for the tourist who loves nature, respects traditions and would like to experience the countries and their cultures more deeply.

Behind this manual there is a team of professional countryside tourism organisations and tour operators. For many years we have carried regular inspections of our accommodations and sites, have closely cooperated with national parks and nature experts, researched and developed new routes.

In this manual we present examples of group and individual touring routes, full day packages based on accommodations in the countryside, nature experiences in national parks, visits to farms and craftsmen. All of these can be linked with the traditional touristic routes and city experiences to bring more variety and attraction.

Travelling options between the countries are shown by air, ferries and bus. The list of tour operators that can help to arrange tours and services group and individual customers is provided in this manual. Some of the tour examples include optional extensions to Lithuania and Sweden.

Available in languages: English ( GoRural_2017_en)  and Japanese (GoRural_2017_ja)



Seminar “Knowledge of the Japanese market” was held in Tallinn and in Riga

Project CAITO invited more than 50 members of Estonian, Latvian and Finnish travel and tourism associations, tourism boards, project partners and other stakeholders to participate at seminars in Tallinn and Riga in April of 2017.

Mr Shigeyoshi Noto, representative of Baltic and Finnish tourism boards in Japan and CAITO project expert, shared the knowledge and insight on Japanese tourism market. He has 16 years’ experience in the tourism industry cooperation and marketing promotion between Japan and Central Baltic countries. Rural tourism entrepreneurs, representatives from agencies and tourism operator’s representatives had a unique possibility to acquired knowledge on Japan’s target market and travel habits.

Presentations (PDF):