Questions & Answers

The following questions are those originally asked by the 2013 Smofcon Fannish Inquisition. Our answers have been updated since then (latest update: 2 August, 2015). If you have other questions about the bid, please don't hesitate to get in touch with us and ask.


General

For what dates are you bidding?

The second weekend in August 2017: Wednesday the 9th through Sunday the 13th. Our facilities have blocked out several days on either side of this weekend for us, to give us flexibility for move-in and move-out.

What is your proposed convention host city? Is your convention site in a city center location or a suburb? If a suburb, what are the transport options into the city center? How far is the site from the city center?

Our host city is Helsinki, Finland. The convention site is Messukeskus, the Helsinki Exhibition and Convention Centre. It's located in the Pasila district of Helsinki.

The City of Helsinki will be providing all attending members of the Helsinki Worldcon in 2017 with free public transport during the convention.

Travel to and from the centre of the city is very simple by local train, as the Pasila station is located 0.3 miles (500 metres) from the convention site and one stop (5 min) from the central train station. There are between 10 and 35 trains each hour in both directions, depending on the time of day or night. Three tram lines also have a stop right in front of the site, and it's well served by other bus and tram connections.

All buses and metros, as well as most trams and trains, are low-floor and wheelchair-accessible. Mobility scooters are allowed on low-floor trains.

What are your main facilities?

Obviously, the facilities we'll be using need to reflect the likely size of the con. Predicting at this stage how big a Helsinki Worldcon might be is a difficult task. Therefore, our agreement with Messukeskus allows us to postpone the decision on what spaces to actually use and pay for until the end of September 2016.

We have currently reserved all of the conference rooms, a number of lounge spaces, three saunas, and up to about 115,000 sq. ft. (10,700 m²) of hall space. The conference rooms can be divided into two categories. 11 rooms are in the range of 100-400 people. 6 rooms are smaller for 36-80 people. Additionally, we've reserved an option for booking an extra hall that can be split into 7 lecture halls for 250-450 people each.

All of the conference rooms are equipped with a digital projector and screen, and all the bigger ones also include a sound system with 3-4 microphones. The cost of setting up this equipment is almost entirely included in the cost of our facility rental (which is common in Finland), and the decorator line item common in American Worldcons is entirely irrelevant here. We are provided those services with our rental fee, included in the contract.

All of the conference centre and hall space is fully wheelchair-accessible, spread over two floors in total, with four elevators connecting the floors. There are several accessible rooms within our main hotel block as well as overflow hotel. They are equipped with roll-in showers, handle bars for access needs, fire alarms that include warning for the deaf, induction loops for the hard of hearing, and elevators next to every set of stairs. The City of Helsinki recently completed a program called Helsinki for All which implemented modern accessibility within the city in terms of curb cuts, ability to use public transit, etc. The ability to move freely and easily within and without the city's buildings is a high priority for all.

The building of our site is fully air-conditioned, and the main hotel adjoins the conference centre without anyone having to walk outside, if it is a particularly warm day.

Who is your bid chair? Who is on your committee? What experience do they have in general? In running this kind of convention in particular?

The bid has an executive board consisting of Eemeli Aro (bid chair), Jukka Halme, Crystal Huff, Michael Lee, and Karo Leikomaa (project manager). Our committee consist of some of the same folks that participated in our bid for 2015, as well as others. For the full list, please see our committee page.

Who will be the chair of the convention? What experience do they have?

If the bid is successful, the resulting convention will be co-chaired by Saija Aro, Jukka Halme, and Crystal Huff.

Saija Aro has been making Finncons happen for over 20 years, working at every level from gophering to co-chairing (the last one in 2014 was on the small side with 3000 attendees). She also ran the memorable Finnish room party at Interaction, dabbles with other conventions, fandom organizations and art happenings. In her civil life she manages things at an eco company, a set of twins and a bid chair.

Jukka Halme has chaired and co-chaired three Finncons, including the massive Finncon-Animecon in 2009 (over 10 000 attendees) and has also been in charge of programming at Finncon and Åcon for several years. Jukka has been actively involved in the Finnish and Nordic fandom since the early 80s, doing everything possible from gophering to editing and beyond. He has also been the fan GoH of two Eurocons. In his free time he works for the City of Helsinki and minds his two dogs with his lovely wife.

Crystal Huff began staffing conventions at her very first one. She has helped run Publications, Massage Den, Member Services, Staff Den, the Photo Booth, Staff Services, and Volunteers, variously, at Arisia, Boskone, and Worldcon, with occasional side forays into volunteering at Balticon, Transcending Boundaries Conference, and SXSW. She served as chair of Arisia 2011, Relaxacon 2011, and Readercons 23, 24, and 25. Crystal lives in Boston with her family.

Our bid chair Eemeli Aro will continue as the chair of the board of Maa ja ilma ry, the Finnish non-profit association officially organising the event.

Have you agreed to participate in Pass-Along Funds? Would you be willing to increase the percentage from 50% to 70%? Of surplus?

Yes, we're willing and interested in participating in Pass-Along Funds. We're also open to talking about what the percentage of surplus should be.

What is your position on harassment and codes of conduct?

We, the committee and board of Helsinki in 2017, are science fiction and fantasy enthusiasts who wish the world of the future to be better than the world as it currently exists. We prioritize and strive to embody such ideals as respect for human rights, pluralism, justice, and non-discrimination. We will not tolerate those who seek to harass or harm members of our community, particularly those who would harm our colleagues and friends who are primary targets of harassment and harm in the wider world.

We welcome members and supporters of all convictions, but we will not condone harassment, abuse, or other actions designed to harm or terrorize our members, whether online or at conventions, or at any associated functions. While we are dedicated to a robust culture of debate on many topics, harassment and threats have no place in our community. Any individual who participates in actions of harassment or harm is not welcome at our conventions nor in our organizations.

We will not stand for our events or our communities being a haven for harassing or harmful behavior. We reserve the right to take any actions necessary to protect our members from harassing and harmful behavior, including ejection from our events and involving law enforcement. We encourage anyone experiencing harassment or worse at our events or in our communities to contact us.

Should our bid for Worldcon be successful, we will have a code of conduct in place well before the convention, and we intend it to meet or exceed best standards of practice.

Travel

What is the typical current airfare to your closest airport from world cities such as London, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Melbourne?

For return tickets for a week's stay in August, bought reasonably well in advance: London $200, Boston $900, Chicago $900, Los Angeles $1100, Melbourne $1500.

Do international flights, as well as domestic, fly into Helsinki? Which airlines? Are direct flights from the cities above flown into Helsinki?

Direct flights from North America to the Helsinki International Airport are currently available from New York via Finnair. In the recent past direct connections to at least Boston, Chicago, Orlando and Toronto have also been available seasonally, primarily via American Airlines and Finnair. Excluding charter flights, 51 airlines operate from the airport.

Helsinki is the main Northern European hub for traffic between Europe and Asia. Within Europe, there are multiple daily direct connections to pretty much all the hubs (London, Amsterdam, Paris, Frankfurt, etc.) at which a plane from the US or elsewhere in the world might be landing. In 2012, on average 40,000 passengers per day were served by the airport, the vast majority of which were international passengers.

In practice, if you can fly to an airport in Europe from another continent, you'll be able to catch a direct flight from there to Helsinki.

Will I need a passport or visa to visit Finland?

Finland is a member of the European Union, and is within its Schengen Free Travel Area, which has abolished border controls between 26 European countries. Travellers from outside the Schengen Area need to have a valid passport when entering the area. A visa is not needed for travellers staying less than 90 days and holding e.g. a UK, US, Canadian, Australian or Japanese passport (full map). There is no Finnish equivalent of the US ESTA form; no pre-announcement of your visit is required.

At Helsinki airport, automated border gates are available for adult holders of biometric passports of the EU, EEA, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Switzerland, and the USA. If flying to Helsinki using connecting flights, you may not need to pass through border control at any of the airports you fly through, and officially enter the Schengen Area in Helsinki.

For citizens of countries requiring a visa, a regular short-stay Schengen visa may be obtained for EUR 60 (EUR 35 for citizens of Russia, Ukraine, and other countries with visa facilitation agreements with the EU). A waiver of this fee may be available for Worldcon participants aged 25 or less.

How far is your convention site from the nearest airport/train station/port and what is the likely cost of getting to the hotels by both public transport and taxi from that airport/train station/port?

Our site is quite close to the nearest transit options; everything in Helsinki is reasonably well-located for us.

Travel from the airport is currently €4.50 (about $6 USD) one way with public transport (train from the airport, free transfers for the rest of the journey). The City of Helsinki will be providing all attending members of the convention with free public transport (subway, trams, buses, local trains, and the ferry to Suomenlinna), which should include travel back to the airport.

The nearest train station of Messukeskus is Pasila, which is a 0.3 mile (500 m) walk away, and all trains to and from Helsinki and the airport stop there, including the connections to St. Petersburg and Moscow.

The airport is 10 miles north of the convention site by car, and is served by a direct train connection that should get you to either Pasila or the centre of Helsinki in 15-20 minutes. Taxi from the airport is likely to cost about $40 USD at current prices.

The port of Helsinki—with regular passenger connections to Sweden, Estonia, Russia and Germany—is also well served by public transport, with all quays 10-15 minutes' travel from the central train station. Taxi from the port to the convention site would probably cost about $20 USD.

Facilities

What hotels are being used for the convention? How many rooms, what type, accessibility issues, etc.?

We have preliminary contracts with the Restel and Sokos hotel groups in Helsinki, which include blocks of (in total) 1600 rooms. This includes the closest hotel, Holiday Inn Helsinki Messukeskus and its 244 rooms, including some easy access rooms. There are about 40 hotels within 20 minutes' travel by public transport, with over 6000 rooms in total.

Finnish law requires public spaces to be accessible by a wheelchair and in every public building there are accessible toilets with handle bars as well as enough space for a wheelchair or a scooter to manouver.

What are your hotel room rates? Do these rates include breakfast? Do they include internet in the room? How firm are these rates? What additional taxes and fees are there?

Our hotel room rates are currently being negotiated. Most—if not all—our hotel room rates will include breakfast, taxes and in-room internet connection. All consumer prices in Finland are listed with taxes and fees included, and tipping is not customary.

A typical breakfast at a Holiday Inn in Finland will include a wide variety of buffet items. Warm food often includes porridge, scrambled eggs, boiled eggs, sausages, meatballs and sometimes bacon. The cold foods include various types of fruits, yoghurt, cereal and muesli, berries, various types of bread, butter and jam and cold cuts such as ham, turkey, salami, various types of cheeses, cucumber, lettuce and tomato. The sweet food include pastries and cookies, often muffins and some times American or Finnish style pancakes. The drinks include coffee (often also decaf), tea, hot chocolate, two or three kinds of juices, and of course water. Some hotels include special coffees such as espresso or cappuccino in their breakfast as well.

What does parking cost at your main hotels?

Outdoors $12/day, indoors $32/day.

What is the distance from the nearest door of your main hotel(s) to the closest entrance of the convention site? What are the transportation options for those who prefer not to walk or who have mobility difficulties?

The nearest hotel and our proposed convention site share a lobby, making the distance between the two non-existent.

Within one mile's (1.6 km) walking distance are two other hotels, but the hotels right by the main train station may be even more quickly reached from the convention centre by local train (free for our members), most of which are low-floor, with access at the same level as the station platforms and usable by mobility scooters. The train trip takes 5 minutes from Helsinki main railway station to Pasila station, the first stop after Helsinki. The distance from Pasila station to the convention site is 0.3 miles (500 meters).

Where will your large events (i.e. Hugo Ceremony and Masquerade) be held?

We're looking to use the convention centre's 4400-person sloped auditorium for our larger events. It is located immediately adjacent to our hall space, and has a layout that would allow us to build a stage that's only minimally raised from the ground level, permitting easy access for anyone.

Given the flexibility of our space options and difficulty in predicting our convention's size, we have as a back-up the option to build a 2000-seat theatre (flat) in the convention centre hall space, which will be separated from the rest of the space by hard movable floor-to-ceiling walls.

Please describe the restaurant scene near your site.

The restaurants at the convention site itself have been completely renovated and expanded during the summer of 2013. Currently there are 21 restaurants and cafés at the convention site with 4000 seats altogether. The food ranges from à la carte to salads, tapas, home made lunch, sandwiches, baked goods, ice cream and candy in addition to various alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, such as beer, wine, sodas, juices and various types of coffee. The convention site also has four fast food restaurants: Pizza Hut, local hamburger joint Hesburger, Wok'n'Curry and Pasta Sapore.

We are expecting to have nearly all of the restaurants and cafés open during the convention. The opening hours are being negotiated with the convention site but we expect most of the cafés and restaurants to be open as long as we have ongoing program and some to be open longer.

Outside of the convention centre, finding a fine-dining restaurant may involve a 5 minute train trip to the centre of Helsinki. There are several fantastic pubs with fannish history in Helsinki, particularly St. Urho's Pub. Overall, Helsinki is a good city to eat in; it currently hosts five Michelin-starred restaurants.

What arrangements will be made for evening socializing and party space? Do you have a corkage waiver?

Our current plan is to organise party space at the convention centre, but we're looking into a few other options as well. We have a corkage waiver covering all non-alcoholic consumables served for free by third parties within the convention centre. According to Finnish law, alcoholic drinks within the convention centre will need to be supplied through the catering company, but we've reached an agreement with them that will allow for said products to pass through their accounting zero-rated, with certain restrictions, and allows for them to be served by party organisers.

Please describe the policies / laws regarding smoking in your hotels, convention center, and city.

In Finland, smoking is prohibited in public spaces, restaurants, pubs, etc. Hotels may allow smoking in a small portion of their rooms; the on-site hotel has six rooms for smokers. The convention centre itself is non-smoking, but does have a designated smoking area outside the building. Smoking immediately outside of any entrance of a building is prohibited.

Miscellaneous

What type of weather can we expect during your convention? What is the average temperature during that time of year?

In short, the weather will be delightful!

A Worldcon in Helsinki would be the northernmost Worldcon yet, at 60°N. It would therefore also be the sunniest Worldcon, with approximately 17-hour long days and nights never going past twilight. July and August are the best times to visit Helsinki, with average temperatures ranging from 22°C (72°F) during the day to 13°C (55°F) at night.

What are some of the main tourist attractions of your city?

Helsinki is fronted by Suomenlinna, one of the largest sea fortresses in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage site. The nearest national park, Nuuksio, is 22 miles (36 km) from the city centre. Linnanmäki amusement park is just over a mile (1.8 km) from the convention site and can be accessed by tram in 10 minutes. The city's architecture is a unique mix of the East and the West, and it's the best place in the world for buying Finnish design goods. It's a modern pocket-sized metropolis, with something for everyone.

However, if you do come, you shouldn't just visit Helsinki, but also come see the Baltic Sea; take a 2-hour ferry to the medieval city of Tallinn, Estonia, or an overnight cruise to Stockholm or St. Petersburg, and see the Finnish archipelago (we have 179,584 islands, to match the 187,888 lakes). Or visit Lapland in the north (the true home of Santa Claus) and experience the midnight sun.

Are you planning to have any membership discounts for certain groups, such as young adults, military, or seniors?

Should we win, our price structure will be published at Sasquan. We hope to make a con that's as affordable as possible for everyone while not compromising its quality.

The Finnish conrunning tradition expects membership to be free, but that's not something we can sensibly make happen with a Worldcon. What we can do is use our experience to raise as much money as we can from non-member sources. We have already begun this process, as evidenced by the City of Helsinki free public transit grant and the EUR 4000 grant the bid has received from the Kone Foundation.