Lapland is on course to have a record-breaking winter for tourists.
New figures from Statistics Finland show the number of nights spent by foreign tourists is up by almost 6% to almost 250,000 in January alone.
And that’s good news for the rest of the winter season in the north.
“I believe that we will grow by 7-8% overnight stays in spite of slightly lower growth rate in January. February was a good month, and even March and April looks good” says Ari Vuorentausta, CEO of Lapland Hotels.
The January growth comes even though it wasn’t the most auspicious month for Chinese visitors.
“The Chinese New Year was in February this year, so that reduced the number of Chinese tourists in January compared to the previous year” says Timo Lappi, Managing Director of the Finnish Hospitality Federation MaRa.
New Flight Services
One reason for the increase in tourists to Lapland is more scheduled and charter flights are landing at airports in the region.
Finnair opened new direct flights from Kittilä to London, Paris and Zurich; and from Ivalo to London. Finnair also increased the number of domestic flights to Lapland to improve connections for passengers arriving in Helsinki from Asia; and for winter 2018 the Finnish national airline plans to add 230 flights to Lapland.
German carrier Lufthansa already has flights to Lapland from Düsseldorf, Frankfurt and Munich.
Tourists flew in a record-breaking 700 charter flights to Lapland this winter, with passenger numbers growing in Kittilä and Rovaniemi airports by up to 17% in December compared to the previous year. There’s been increased passengers at Ival and Kuusamo as well.
“We were expecting good development and growth, but these figures at the end of last year and the beginning of this year have exceeded expectations” says Finnavia’s Business Manager Joni Sundelin.
Fall In Russian Tourist Numbers
One area of tourism that hasn’t been so strong is the number of people coming from Russia to Finland.
The levels are still slightly lower then 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea, and was later subjected to international sanctions.
As a result of the Russian economic downturn, and the collapse of the ruble, the numbers of Russians traveling abroad have dropped, even though the ruble exchange rate has strengthened somewhat.
Last year, a little over 800,000 Russians overnight stays in Finland last year. Those numbers are far behind 2012 and 2013 when Russian tourists accounted for more than 1.5 million hotel stays.
However the decline in Russian tourism overall in Finland not had a sharp impact in Lapland, as most Russians go to eastern Finland or the capital city region.