Worldcon 75 Chair Responds

Jukka Halme

Jukka Halme

[There’s been quite a bit of discussion here about accommodations for the Helsinki Worldcon, the relative convenience of getting back and forth to the 2017 Worldcon site, and whether voters were aware of the facts. Chair Jukka Halme left a response in comments, and it seemed a good idea to make it a post so more will see it.]

Hello, Worldcon 75 Co-Chair Jukka Halme here.

I’d like to thank Terhi (and others) for addressing a number of issues here and giving answers we should have on our website. We have every intention of adding more information there about Helsinki, hotels, traveling, eating, parties etc. This will take time and effort, but I believe we’ll have more than a fair amount of this info available before the end of 2016. Comments and questions are always welcomed, especially if they come directly to us, via email (info@worldcon.fi) or various SoMe channels.

We apologise for any miscommunication, but I’m afraid I have to beg to differ with, or at least comment on, some of the claims raised here.

When bidding, we did mention that there was a hotel attached to the Helsinki Exhibition and Congress Center Messukeskus. We were always clear to point out, however, that it is the only hotel close to Messukeskus and that most people would have to find accommodation somewhere else, namely Downtown area. This fact was never hidden, obfuscated or covered up. We apologise that this information did not reach everyone, but the bid never hid this fact.

As to traveling to the convention site from the centre of Helsinki, I cannot even remember how many times we explained the various ways of reaching Messukeskus. It takes five minutes to travel by train from the Helsinki Central Railway station to Pasila, and back. And those trains leave every other minute during day.

Trams are slower, but will make the same trip in 20-25 minutes or so. Adding walking time from and to the hotel makes it more or less what Terhi states in one of her many messages. As we said on our bid FAQ: “There are about 40 hotels within 20 minutes’ travel by public transport”.

On Twitter, Mark Gerrits made this nice map: https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/0/viewer?mid=1Iiu0EwyuGmmRYsmNY-IlnDJ5T4k Helsinki does have a fair number of other hotels besdes the ones shown here, but these should be the ones we have blocked rooms.

Walking distance from the Central Railway station to Messukeskus is 2,5 miles or 4 kilometers. It would take me forever, or about 45 minutes and I’m a slow walker.

I understand that not everyone is Finnish, or even European, and have ways different from us. I know, shocking. “Si fueris Romae” and all that.

It’s a big world, and we really would like to bring a piece of that world to Worldcon with our little convention here in Helsinki next year. I welcome you all: Tervetuloa!

39 thoughts on “Worldcon 75 Chair Responds

  1. Michael, as I understand it (and I may not; I’m going by what I’ve heard here and elsewhere, but I’m not affiliated in any way with the Helsinki Worldcon), the attached hotel is being earmarked for people with disabilities. I don’t know what the process is, but they apparently want most or all of the rooms there to go to people who will have difficulty with navigating public transportation for whatever reason. (I have to admit, this seems fairly reasonable to me if true, but then, I’m not going to be able to make it to Worldcon 75 so it doesn’t affect me personally.)

    I welcome correction if I’m wrong.

  2. So, this was my experience booking my hotel room for my stay in Helsinki for the 75th Worldcon.

    I received an email on Thursday September 01, 2016 at 11:08 am cst, letting me know that hotel reservation were now open for the dates of August 08-13, 2017.

    Now I was aware of Helsinki’s hotel limitations, with regards to their being only ONE hotel that is actually attached to the convention center, as I had read Helsinki’s bid proposal prior to voting for them in 2015 for the site selection.

    No problem I thought as I am always quick to make my hotel reservations the day that reservations are opened.
    The Early Bird Gets The Worm. Right!
    WRONG!

    The email that I received on Thursday morning stated,
    “Rooms at the onsite Holiday Inn are not included in the information on the website at this time. We are holding those rooms in reserve for members with accessibility or mobility needs, and those bookings must be requested from our Member Services Accessibility Team, so they cannot be simply booked online.

    WHAT?

    This information was not apart of the pre-bid package, as far as I am aware of. But, I could be wrong and I could have easily have read that bit and it did not register at the time.

    I am not in anyway trying to make a statement that my needs should come before another Worldcon member who has accessibility or mobility needs. But to hold the hotel’s entire room block for Worldcon members with accessibility or mobility needs is a bit much. I could see maybe holding 1/3 of the rooms, BUT ALL OF THEM! This does not sit well with me.

    So what I did was I made a reservation for the dates of August 8-13 2017, at that hotel which is attached to the convention center (The Holiday Inn), but my reservation is a regular one and not apart of the Worldcon convention block, at the discounted rate.

    6 Night Stay – for an estimated total of 1463.00 euros after taxes
    or
    244.00 euros per night

    Maybe I will get lucky and break my leg between now and then and qualify for one of the convention block rooms at the discounted rate.

    Such is life.

    No matter what I am excited and looking forward to Worldcon next year in Helsinki.

  3. I will not be going to Helsinki. I’m writing this because I am someone who, were I going to Helsinki, would be in the category of those with “accessibility or mobility needs”. In that regard, I’m probably better off than most people in my circumstances, as I’m still fairly capable for being an older gimp on wheels.

    I can state with a fair degree of certainty that, for me, hotel proximity to the convention center would be the determining factor in my being able to attend and enjoy the con. The plain truth is (and this may not be the case with Helsinki) most cities aren’t really designed for people who need chairs, scooters, crutches, et cetera. Neither is a lot of public transportation. So being in that hotel could very well be a necessity for someone facing those particular requirements.

    This is one of the reasons I rarely attend cons these days. The simple act of getting around from point A to point B can be seriously daunting for someone like me.

  4. Thanks for responding Jukka. I was pleased with how quickly we were notified that our request for the accessibility room was received and what the next step is.

  5. I couldn’t possibly walk 2.5 miles unless my life depended on it, and then only very, very, very slowly, with about a week in bed afterwards. One-tenth of that is as far as I can make it without some other power source, and I’d still rather not.

    Cities (especially old ones) and public transport are really not designed for people on wheels. You will roll down a hill and die in San Francisco if you’re in a manual wheelchair, but at least Helsinki’s flat. Powered wheelchairs and scooters are often too big for sidewalks and public transit. Trains often have gaps between them and the platform that make it impossible for those; hopefully the Helsinki trains are new.

    So I’m glad the attached hotel block is entirely reserved for disabled fen! Traveling on mass transit is tiring even when everything’s up to code. They wouldn’t be able to go without it. People who don’t have trouble walking can stay downtown, which is probably more interesting anyway.

    However, I reiterate that absolutely NO ONE involved with the bid who I talked to in person at various cons (before and after they won) pointed out that there would be such a commute. They may not have been hiding it, but they sure weren’t publicizing it or making it clear, either. And all the hotel and transport information should have been up on the website BEFORE hotel reservations opened.

    I wonder how accessible the rooms in the attached hotel are, as far as are the bathrooms big enough, the sinks and beds low enough, door handles instead of knobs, any roll-in showers? Just having elevators isn’t enough.

  6. lurkertype: all the hotel and transport information should have been up on the website BEFORE hotel reservations opened

    Yeah, I think as more hotels are added, there will be a ripple effect amongst the more expensive hotels, as people make new reservations and then cancel earlier ones.

  7. I’ve looked at the bathroom photos on Trip Advisor and the hotel website. Definitely not enough room for a chair to maneuver unless you’re really, really good and have a low-profile chair. Also seeing a lot of tubs, not many flat ones — and those are in the small bathrooms. Sinks look pretty high as well, with towel racks on the front. Toilets probably okay in height, but not American width. Plenty of grab bars. Beds look fine, though you might have to take some of the furniture out to get around the room easily. Doors are handles, not knobs. 11 accessible rooms. Allows pets and smoking, but does have non-allergenic bedding and non-smoking rooms. A/C and internet apparently erratic.

    Breakfast sounds good though! And the wood floors look nice.

    I would advise wheelies to check it out before booking. Some of the farther away hotels might be better if you can handle transit, I dunno. Your spoons.

  8. Robert Reynolds:

    “The plain truth is (and this may not be the case with Helsinki) most cities aren’t really designed for people who need chairs, scooters, crutches, et cetera. Neither is a lot of public transportation. So being in that hotel could very well be a necessity for someone facing those particular requirements.”

    Public transport is by law designed to be accessible in Finland. And Helsinki is by comparison very accessible compared to other European cities, again because of law. But after having visited MAC2, I fully agree with you that closeness to con is a necessity for many people when they choose hotel.

    Jukka, thank you for your information, it was very nice meeting you at MAC2.

  9. Helsinki’s also quite a pretty town, and this will be the perfect season to visit. Those of us who are lucky enough to not need facilities for the disabled / mobility impaired can enjoy the experience of being in the thriving centre of a major world capital, in addition to having quick public transit right to the convention site — compliments of the municipality, which is fully behind the Worldcon and is helping make it a success.

    My wife Deirdre and I were stoked about the 2015 bid and about any chance to revisit Helsinki, and delighted about the win for 2017, which is why we pre-supported both bids. (No other connection to this con, except looking forward to it.) This is going to be great, folks.

    And a major part of the reason it’ll be great is being in the CBD (central business district), rather than being out in the wilds. E.g., I loved LonCon 3 to death, but ExCeL was only nominally in London, and I frankly regarded Newham as out in the wilds of Essex, well on the way to Harwich. (ExCeL’s about 10 km east of the City of London, for heaven’s sake.) This time, we get to be actually in the metro centre without having to travel 45 minutes on two different public transit systems.

    You’ll want to be there.

  10. Oh, what a bummer if people feel that they haven’t been provided enough information about visiting Helsinki. To repeat what others said already, it’s a tremendously easy city to get around in, the city centre is compact and the public transportation is fast. If you aren’t afraid of that sort of thing and want some fresh air, you could probably rent a bicycle and get to the con site even faster.

    Hopefully everyone will have a good time in Helsinki.

  11. I am pleased to see the Worldcon giving priority for rooms near the convention center to people who need them the most, rather than the quickest of the (well-organized) people who are keeping track of when Worldcon starts taking hotel reservations.

    Nearby rooms are a finite resource, and it makes sense to give priority to the people who need them in order to attend and enjoy the con at all.

  12. I’d be happier if the hotel map linked above was actually part of the con’s hotels page; having that information would have made the process of choosing a hotel much easier. The process wasn’t eased by the challenge of finding hotels with rooms available across four separate search sites.

    That said, walking around a European city is generally a pleasure, and I’m fortunate to be mobile and fit. I don’t mind leaving the attached hotel to people that really need it.

  13. I certainly knew during the bid process that Helsinki was reserving the close hotel for people with disability issues. It was not hidden information. Then again, I was working for the opposing bid which was entirely in one hotel with no convention center so I was more aware of the differentiating features.

  14. But did the people who joined since the last progress report get that one?

    Glad to see most people are supportive of them what needs it getting the close rooms. Particularly as disabled people often have more nebulous plans than tabs do, and thus couldn’t book everything right away.

    I dreamed about Helsinki last night after looking at photos. So pretty!

  15. I reserved a completely different hotel, I hope it’s nice. The hotels in Helsinki are sure expensive, they are all close in price to what the Aloft next to the Excel in London cost me.

    My bigger issue is actually that you only get very little news if you aren’t doing the social media circus. Using that feed the official homepage has would be nice

  16. (We’re still clickin’ and broodin’, but we know more than we did a day ago…)

    Part of the “find a hotel in a city I’ve never been to” is quickly getting a rough sense of what’s where in relation to the convention site proper. We’re finding Google/Bing/etc maps to be helpful in locating, and assessing walk/train times and distances.

    (Hint: Start by plugging in Messukeskus, which is the Helsinki Expo and Convention Centre. If you see a hotel you like, then ‘ask’ for directions/etc.)

    I agree that basic reference URLs aggregated on a core place (e.g., the con’s HOTELS page) would help. E.g. I just noticed that page 11 of Progress Report # 2 that shows the Convention Center, the neighborhood names, hotel locations, and some of the key transit lines.

    I haven’t yet found one that will accommodate my service stuffed possum, however…

  17. First the location of the hotels was always clear to me in every interaction I had with the Helsinki team. Second keeping the attached hotel for those who need the close proximity makes good sense to me. I do not have that need now but who knows at some point in the future I might. For the Helsinki committee I suggest adding a very visible explicit reference to the map in the Progress Report on the website Hotel page as a way to reduce confusion. I had forgotten about the PR and just used mapquest and Google maps and the website to determine where I wanted to stay. I got a reservation in the hotel I wanted; Original Sokos Hotel Presidentti. I am staying an extra day past the listed con room block and I need to check if I am getting the con rate for the con nights or not but I will wait until the dust settles from the early flurry of activity.

  18. (I am not associated with the convention operations in any way, other than being an early monetary supporter and now attending member)

    In the bidding for the convention, I am quite sure my questions of “where are the hotels?” and “how do I get from the hotel to the convention centre?” to the bid representatives were answered clearly and correctly. I asked both people staffing both fan-bid desks at other cons and bid-committee members. I also recall this question being clearly answered in open Q&A sessions.

    The information is also available if you research Helsinki transport, or even just pick a hotel in central Helsinki and ask Google Maps for transit directions to get there.

    I cannot support any claims of lack of information about hotel location and transportation.

  19. Continuing to advertise Helsinki, here’s another nice video (A Year in Helsinki (timelapse) ).

    No, I don’t live in Helsinki and I’m not in the con organization but I’m happy promote Helsinki and Worldcon 75.
    I live in Oulu, that is located about 600 km north of Helsinki (1 hour by plane or 5.5-6 hours by train) and just 2.5 hour drive south of the Arctic Circle.

  20. Random travel tip for anyone going to Helsinki, and tacking on a few days to sightsee: Spend at least one of those days taking the ferry over to Tallinn. (You can take the ferry there in the morning, explore the city for a day, and ferry back in the evening, without having missed too much. If you have more time, staying overnight is quite recommended, and personally I’d say you should just make a week out of it to see the rest of Estonia, too.) 🙂

    Tallinn has a gorgeous Hanseatic inner city, which is eminently walkable. Great mix of Russian/Orthodox influences in an otherwise perfectly preserved very Western European feeling town. Quite a contrast, too, with the communist era buildings, particularly the monolithic Linnahall which greets you as you step off the ferry.

  21. Yes, absolutely. There’s definitely a (mostly elderly) segment of the population which only speaks Russian – and sometimes German – as foreign languages, particularly deeper into the country, but everyone I encountered in restaurants/shops in Tallinn spoke English quite well.

  22. @Terhi: I want to visit where you live.

    @Aan: I’ve seen inner Taillin on TV and would definitely go there if I was as close as Helsinki.

  23. @Aan
    How long is the ferry trip from Helsinki to Tallinn and do they use RoRo ferries? I dislike ferries, particularly RoRo ferries, but I’d love to see the Baltic states again. Never been to Estonia, but I was in neighbouring Latvia for a student exchange back in 1989, when it was still part of the USSR.

  24. I find myself suddenly in possession of a Worldcon 75 Attending Membership, a booking for a Hotel in Helsinki (a 15 minute walk away from Messukeskus where Worldcon will be happening), as well as airline tickets “there and back again” (to borrow a phrase) – though both the hotel booking and the flights can be canceled, should the temperature of my feet become an issue. *heh*

  25. @Christian Brundschen- yay!

    I have the hotel but not the flights. I need to decide what I’m doing before and after.

  26. Cora:

    @Aan
    How long is the ferry trip from Helsinki to Tallinn and do they use RoRo ferries? I dislike ferries, particularly RoRo ferries, but I’d love to see the Baltic states again.

    I’m not Aan but I just booked ferry tickets from Helsinki to Tallinn the other day, and the traveling time was about 2 or 2,5 hours on those. The “ferries” are actually more like small cruise ships and they are quite comfortable.

  27. I have no knowledge of the Helsinki – Talinn ferries except by reputation. (The very amused stories I hear mostly centre around many of the passengers taking advantage of inexpensive liquor prices aboard ship.) But I certainly have been to Talinn.

    Talinn was the surprise hit of a Baltic Capitals cruise my wife and I took in late autumn 2008. Ours was the very last cruise ship of the season, and the weather was a bit chill and rainy, but, m’God was a lovely surprise Talinn was. It’s a compact walled city from the Hanseatic era, memorable nice to walk in, and personally we found the Estonians we encountered to be winningly pleasant folk (for whatever that’s worth; we got a favourable impression). Many will appreciate a great opportunity to buy Baltic amber at good prices. I personally liked just really liked walking around, people-watching, and taking in the ambiance.

    Take one of the tours in which they tell the story of the ‘Singing Revolution’ by which they re-established independence from the USSR (with some help from lucky timing and Boris Yeltsin).

    The Estonian language is the closest living relative to Finnish, so the Estonians said they and the Finns cannot quite comprehend each other’s languages but there are a lot of very similar phrasings and vocabulary. (I’m possibly botching that detail a bit, at a distance of eight years. Corrections invited.)

  28. My plan was to get the train to Stockholm and then ferry into Finland.

    Having looked at costs I am now considering flight to Copenhagen, then surface to Stockholm and flight into Helsinki. Norwegian Air is so crazy cheap.

  29. Thanks for the info, Aan and Spacefaringkitten. Two hours on a ferry I can handle, especially if it’s not a RoRo ferry.

  30. I was away at the cottage–no Internet service–so only just saw the hotel info today. Booking this year is awkward as I am supposed to be going with family and trying to coordinate all this is wasting time. I suppose it’s too late for the closest hotel. Sigh.
    I wasn’t expecting to have to get to this so soon, I have so much on my plate just now.
    Thanks to the conchair and the commentators. The ferry trip to Tallin sounds nice indeed. Interested in hearing about travel plans people are making as we also want to take in some sights the week after the con.

  31. The hotel situation was very clear from the beginning to anybody willing to spend a few minutes on the topic. It is nothing out of the ordinary for a European location, and it was a lot worse in Glasgow in 1995 because the railway was out of service due to a flood.

    Granted, it will be a bit more difficult than at most North American locations, but rail and tram will be free thanks to the transportation pass provided by the City of Helsinki.

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