“Look at the camera and say: I wish I was in…” I’m standing in a photo booth surrounded by rolling hills and snowy trees. I chose that landscape from the selection. “Whenever you are ready.” In this photo booth I can wish I were anywhere in Finland. But today I can wish I were anywhere in the world really. And if I’m not careful, I might soon find myself from a plane to Turkey or Tanzania.
Annual Travel Fair has invaded Messukeskus, the Fair Center in Pasila, Finland. The whole world is visiting. There is Finnish archipelago, small stands form a network of islands in the corner, there is Sweden with neatly organised stands, and somewhere behind Qatar and Thailand, there is a selection of African countries all decorated with impressive pictures of wildlife. 80 different countries all over the world are represented at the fair. Travel organisations, airlines and travel destinations advertise, give guidance and sell their products to the visitors who meander around the massive hall. Over 60 000 visitors come each year, mostly from Finland but also from the other side of the border.
“I wish I was in the Northern Finland, skiing on the hills, surrounded by snow and nature.” I think I just gave my permission to use that wish for marketing purposes. I grab my free I wish I was in Finland canvas bag and dive into the crowd. My aim is to find out more about Australia and New Zealand. But how can I find anything from the labyrinth of the stands?
Cheap flights, luxurious travel packages, exotic destinations… Free candy, free leaflets and free raffles. I write my name and (thrash) email address on raffle tickets featuring prizes such as bicycles and Le Cordon Bleu cooking classes in Paris. All the other 60 000 will take part in the same raffles so the chances to win are minimal. But why not? Among the stands, there are few stages where talks and interviews, as well as music performances from Moomin children’s songs to Sami rap, engage the audience.
I do find the Australia stand. Unfortunately, there is only one small stand, Australian Tours, for the whole continent. I pick up the leaflets featuring New Zealand and Australia and flip them through. I have to wait 10 minutes before I get a chance to chat with the people at the stand, but at last I get some answers and tips. “The rainforest is another must see in Cairns. Can’t go without a guide, though. There are day trips where you take a small mini-bus-like-car and you serpentine in the thicket alongside the river. It’s really good”. Well, maybe I’ll check out the rainforest. Next week I’ll take off to NZ and then to Australia.