Helsinki wants to attract a million virtual visitors in the coming year through its virtual reality VR-Helsinki initiative.

The unique virtual city experience has been developed by the City of Helsinki together with its partner VR studio ZOAN and will be presented at start-up event Slush on 4-5 December.

Virtual Helsinki is a digital twin of Helsinki created through 3D modelling.

The aim is to profile Helsinki as a centre of VR/AR (augmented reality) expertise, as well as to attract a million virtual visitors to Helsinki in 2019.

"Virtual tourism is a globally interesting and growing theme," said Helsinki Marketing CEO Laura Aalto.

"Consumers are increasingly aware of the climate impacts of tourism and are keen to make responsible decisions.

"Virtual tourism also supports Helsinki's goal of being a pioneer in sustainable tourism while reinforcing our reputation as a city that utilises the latest digital innovations."

Helsinki recently won the European Commission's new European Capital of Smart Tourism competition. The evaluation criteria included the sustainable development of tourism, the use of digitalisation in tourism services and an interesting cultural heritage and innovative tourism offerings.

In the virtual city experience presented at Slush, visitors can enjoy a tour of Senate Square, the home of legendary Finnish architect Alvar Aalto in Munkkiniemi and the recreational island of Lonna. The tour is accompanied by music and changing seasons.

While many players in the tourism industry already market their destinations in 360-videos that can be viewed on VR headsets, the concept for Virtual Helsinki is broader, allowing visitors to move about freely in the computer simulation of Helsinki, and various additional experiences can be created.

In the future, VR-Helsinki will serve as a digital platform that also enables service providers to run their businesses.

"For example, visitors can tour Helsinki as it was in the early 20th century or purchase Finnish design products and have them delivered to their homes by post," explains ZOAN CEO Miikka Rosendahl.

"In addition, as virtual reality becomes more social in the near future, friends from all around the world can meet and explore virtual destinations together."