Onsite: Finnish Tourist Board Announces New Agent Training Program

NEW YORK-During their recent visit to Manhattan, the Finnish Tourist Board (FTB) met with Travel Agent and announced that, before the end of the year, they will launch a new travel agent training program to become a Finland specialist. The FTB, which has outsourced its marketing to Aviareps Tourism, a German travel management company, said that the program will take between one and three years to complete, and will include online training modules and tour operator/supplier incentives for agents. Graduates of the program will be listed on the FTB's web site, [www.visitfinland.com], and will receive leads from the FTB.

In addition to unveiling a new marketing campaign, featuring the slogan "discover FINTASTIC variety," the FTB revealed that it is currently in negotiations with several U.S. airlines (which they were unable to specify at press time) to add non-stop airlift from the U.S. to Helsinki, Finland's capital city. Finnair, which recently moved to Terminal 8 at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, currently offers direct service from that city to Helsinki; no American carriers have direct flights as of yet.

In other news, Karelian Trains (+358 40 8620 099) will launch high-speed train service between Helsinki and St. Petersburg, Russia, in 2010. These new trains will reduce the traveling time between the two cities from five-and-a-half hours to about three hours. Within five years of starting the high-speed service, the number of passengers traveling the route is expected to triple.

This August, two new properties opened their doors in Helsinki, the 246-room Hilton Helsinki-Vantaa Airport [helsinkivantaa.airport@hilton.com], a five-star hotel next to the international terminal of that airport, and the 95-room Sokos Hotel Albert, in the heart of downtown. By August 2008, The Gielas Hotel will open in the Lapland region of Finland with a conference center and 84 rooms, each with its own sauna and balcony.

For brochures or more information, go to [www.visitfinland.com] or call 877-GOFINLAND (877-463-4652).