Published on : Saturday, September 19, 2020
Between November and March, Finland’s far north generally throngs with international holidaymakers who visit for experiencing a snowy wonderland of reindeer rides, ice castles and the “real” Santa’s grotto. But in spite of record visitor numbers in recent years, the corona virus shutdown is expected to affect Finnish Lapland’s tourism businesses considerably this winter. Many fear that government moves to alleviate travel restrictions in the Nordic country will not be sufficient for managing the damage.
“We’ll be bankrupt after December if we don’t get any bookings,” said tour operator Sini Jin from Rovaniemi, an Arctic Circle town that markets itself as “the official hometown of Santa Claus”. Jin has run Nordic Unique Travels for five years, offering Northern Lights safaris and expeditions into the Arctic wilderness for lots of travelers from Europe and Asia every season. Jin said, “Now we’ve had one or two bookings a week, and mostly we’re just doing refunds.”
Jin’s company received emergency financial aid after the government granted more than a billion Euros ($1.2 bn) to assist businesses, but it has not been enough for supporting the lack of tourists. Jin’s dilemma is shared by tourist companies across Finland’s vast Lapland region, where the sector supports 10,000 jobs, generating one billion Euros of annual revenue.
Without international visitors this winter, around 60 percent of tourism companies anticipate losing at least half their turnover and three-quarters would have to dismiss their staff.
Finland’s corona infection rates remained the lowest in Europe over the summer, and among the 9,000 confirmed infections, just 243 have been recorded in Lapland. “We’re not giving up and we’re trying to get the politicians to see there is a better way,” said tourist board head Nina Forsell.