Employment in tourism

According to the preliminary data for 2021, there were 133,400 employed people in tourism, which was 2 per cent (2,000 persons) more than in the previous year and 13 per cent (-20,700 persons) less than in 2019.

The number of hours worked decreased from 2019 relatively more than the number of employed persons. In tourism, the number of hours worked totalled 213 million in 2021, which is 17 per cent (43 million hours) less than before the pandemic in 2019.

Tourism accounted for 4.9 per cent of all employed persons in 2021. Before the pandemic, around 154,000 persons, or 5.8 per cent of all employed persons in Finland, worked in the tourism industries. The number of employed persons increased annually by over 6,000 employed persons (4.5%) in 2018–2019. The sector also has very significant multiplier effects on other sectors, such as construction, transport and trade. One euro in tourism adds 61 cents value to the other sectors.

Regional distribution of employment

In regional terms, tourism provides employment especially in Uusimaa, where more than one third of the employed persons in the sector worked in 2021. The proportion of people working in tourism was higher than average in Åland (17.6%), Lapland (7.7%), South Karelia (5.4%) and Kainuu, Pirkanmaa, Uusimaa and Southwest Finland (5.1% each). According to an estimate by Statistics Finland, there is a clear correlation between foreign travel to Finland and higher employment in tourism.

Employment in tourism by industry

Examined by industry, the food and beverage service sector is by far the biggest employer in tourism: about a half (51%) of employees worked in the food and beverage service sector in 2021 (Figure 1). Around one quarter (25%) of the employees in the tourism sector worked in passenger transport services. The rest, around one-quarter (24%), worked in cultural, sport and recreational services, accommodation services, and travel agencies and similar services.

Measured in man-years, i.e. the labour input of a person converted to a full-time employee, the number of personnel in the tourism industry was close to 85,000 in 2021. The food and beverage service industry was clearly the largest employer measured in man-years, but its proportion was slightly smaller, whereas the proportion of passenger transport was slightly larger in man-years than in the number of personnel. (Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment business sector service, tourism.)

Unless otherwise stated, the figures are based on the tourism account data for 2020–2021 (in Finnish, abstract in English) and tourism as export infographic 2023 (in Finnish). More detailed database tables have been published on Visit Finland's Statistics Service Rudolf. The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment’s business sector services (in Finnish) also publishes employment data on tourism.

Poor availability of labour hinders growth in the sector

The availability of skilled labour is a critical condition for the renewal and growth of the tourism sector. However, the poor availability of labour has become an obstacle to growth in the tourism sector. Accommodation, food and beverage services and tourism services have, on average, over 10,000 open job vacancies each month, according to the data for the early part of 2023. The coronavirus pandemic further aggravated the sector’s labour shortage and the challenge of matching supply and demand in occupations where both unemployment and demand for labour are high. The number of unemployed jobseekers in the sector is approximately 14,000 per month. The unemployment rate is 13 per cent.

There is a shortage of labour especially in certain restaurant jobs, e.g. waiters. In addition to occupations in the restaurant sector, there is also a mismatch between workers and jobs for travel guides and hotel receptionists. This problem is common in sectors where employment relationships are often atypical and the earnings level is low. It may also be related to location.

Atypical employment relationships, earnings level and location behind the mismatch problem

Part-time employment, shiftwork, fixed-term seasonal work and temporary agency work are common in tourism. In the tourism sector, the proportion of atypical employment (part-time, short fixed-term work for less than 3 months, temporary agency work) of open vacancies was 69 per cent in 2022, compared to 55 per cent of open all job vacancies (Figure 2). A slightly more than one third of the employees of tourism companies participating in Visit Finland’s Sustainable Travel Finland programme are seasonal workers (STF statistics). Of the open job vacancies in the tourism sector, 98 per cent were in occupations with earnings level under EUR 16 per hour, which is lower than the median wages of Finns (EUR 18.41 per hour in 2020). Of all open job vacancies, 46 per cent were in occupations with an hourly salary of less than EUR 16.

Problems with the availability of labour may also be related to the location. Seasonal workers are particularly needed in Lapland. Among occupations with a shortage of labour, regional mobility is a major problem for waiters, for example. There is a shortage of waiters in many regions, especially in Lapland. At the same time, the oversupply of waiters in Uusimaa is substantial. For example, restaurant workers and travel guides are occupations in which there should be enough labour at the national level (i.e. there are more unemployed than open job vacancies at the national level), but the available labour is not sufficient regionally to meet the demand if the labour force does not move from one region to another. There is also an oversupply in these occupations in Uusimaa and a shortage in Lapland.

Tourism employs women, young people and people from abroad

Nearly 70 per cent of the employees in accommodation and food and beverage service sectors are women and 30 per cent are young people. (Employment report of the business sector services of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment 2022). Foreign employees made up 16 per cent of the employed persons. People who have moved from abroad work in the restaurant sector in particular. In the future, the demand for foreign labour and work based immigration will increase, and it will be increasingly important in the tourism sector to ensure that the sector can attract and retain employees. 

Unless otherwise stated, the figures are based on the final report of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment’s labour market roadmap project: Report on the supply, shortage and matching of labour in 2022 (in Finnish, abstract in English) and the updated data compiled in the project.

Tourism sector’s ability to attract and retain workforce

There are factors that play a role in both attracting workforce to the tourism sector and retaining it. Tourism studies have remained popular in higher education institutions (universities and universities of applied sciences). By contrast, the number of applicants in vocational education have fallen over the past ten years as a whole. Graduates of all education levels specialising in the "travel, tourism and recreation sector" and the "hotel and restaurant sector" find employment easily. Full-time employment seemed to increase for higher education graduates. (Report on employment in the tourism sector of the business sector services of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment 2022).

According to the statistics on wages compiled by the Confederation of Finnish Industries, staff turnover in tourism and restaurant services is higher than in other sectors. The gross turnover percentage including all turnover cases was 35 per cent in 2020–2021. The number of those who left the sector was higher (37 per cent) than the number of those who entered the sector (34 per cent). Staff turnover in tourism and restaurant services has increased slightly in recent years. However, it is significantly lower than in Sweden, for example. (EK 2022, in Finnish.)

Further information on the factors on attracting and retaining workforce is available at Report on employment in the tourism sector of the business sector services of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment 2022 (in Finnish, abstract in English). ​The education administration's reporting portal Vipunen provides information on the number of applicants for education and placement of students after completion. The Forum for skills anticipation (OEF) (in Finnish) produces information on future competence and labour needs.

Employment in tourism in Nordic countries

Of all the Nordic countries, the tourism sector employs the most people in Denmark: 273,000 persons (converted to full-time employment relationships, man-years) in 2019. In relative terms, employment has grown the most in Iceland, where the number of employees in the tourism industry has doubled in the 2010s. In 2019, 29,000 persons (man-years) worked in the tourism sector in Iceland. Measured in man-years, the tourism sector employed 133,000 persons in Finland, 116,000 persons in Sweden and 183,000 persons in Norway.

Responsibility and safety are key assets for tourism in all of the Nordic countries. Major trends, such as global tourism growth, exchange rates and the pandemic have an effect on the employment trend in the tourism sector in the Nordic countries. The differences in the development of the sector are directly reflected in the tourism sector’s proportion of the total employment in each country. In all countries, the sector suffers from a persistent shortage of labour. In particular, skilled and educated employees are needed. In general, the same factors as in Finland explain the labour shortage.

Figure 3 describes the importance of the sector in each country’s economy: the proportion of people employed in tourism relative to all employed persons.

The data is based on the figures from the Report on employment in the tourism sector of the business sector services of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment 2022 (in Finnish, abstract in English), the OECD and the tourism account data.

Concepts of tourism employment

Inquiries: Sanna Kyyrä, sanna.kyyra(at)gov.fi