We are gradually approaching Christmas 2017 and looking forward to the New Year. For the City of Rovaniemi, 2017 was another busy year of active development. We have implemented various operational changes and prepared ourselves for the future reform of regional government and health and social services. I would like to extend my warmest thanks to our personnel, who have committed themselves to meeting these challenges.
The political situation in Europe remains fluid, due to Brexit and the German government crisis. In Finland, exports have developed well and unemployment has clearly fallen. Here in Rovaniemi, employment is showing strong growth, and both long-term and youth unemployment has declined.
2017 was a year of strong development activities in Rovaniemi. Our strategic operations have been fruitful in cooperation with businesses and other partners. Residential construction remains very active, and tourism-related construction is lively at the Arctic Circle, in Ounasvaara and at the centre of Rovaniemi. We have increased our accommodation capacity by around 1,000 beds, to meet growing demand from international tourists. Towards the end of the year, Rovaniemi was given exceptionally high levels of international media coverage, and Rovaniemi-based businesses have won numerous international awards.
We are looking to the future with confidence. Rovaniemi is the attractive capital of Arctic tourism and politics. Finland now holds the presidency of the Arctic Council, which is providing Lapland and Rovaniemi with wide visibility as Arctic fora. Rovaniemi is also a strong and growing centre of sports and physical exercise. The official Olympic Training Centre, which is connected to the Santasport centre in Ounasvaara, Rovaniemi, is becoming increasingly international and will be further enhanced by the new swimming hall.
In 2018, we will focus on building our regional government. This will also involve adjusting the city's operations. A key challenge involves ensuring the city's continued vitality and productivity in cooperation with its partners. Our new city strategy lists several geographical focus areas, including Ounasvaara, the city centre and the river banks, the university campus in Rantavitikka, and the Arktikum bioeconomy cluster. New town plans have been completed or are under preparation in Lampela, Valionranta, Ojanperä, the Arctic Circle and Ounasvaara.
Finland’s 100th anniversary of independence is drawing to an end. The year saw numerous events, in which we jointly celebrated our home country and the successful role it has played in the world. In 2018, various events will be held to mark the 120th birth anniversary of Alvar Aalto, a Finnish architect and designer.
Christmas is a time of peace and quiet and celebration with our loved ones. I would like to thank our personnel for their good work and our partners for their excellent cooperation during the year, and wish all citizens of Rovaniemi a Merry Christmas and a safe New Year 2018!
Esko Lotvonen, Mayor of Rovaniemi