Ministers consider new hybrid travel solutions

Some options include test-to-fly certification, new travel bubbles or travel corridors especially for Lapland package holidays, or relaxed rules for business travelers.

File picture showing flight departure board at Helsinki Airport / Credit: News Now Finland

Ministers are meeting on Wednesday to discuss the possible introduction of ‘hybrid’ measures to open up the country’s travel market.

The government is coming under pressure to ease some restrictions to allow more business travel as well as tourism at a time when the highly-seasonal tourism industry, in Lapland in particular, is facing a huge financial and jobs crisis.

One of the options the government is considering is a ‘test-to-travel’ plan where tourists who want to come to Finland would have to show a negative Covid-19 test before they get on a plane, bus or ferry. This measure would not apply to any Finnish citizens or residents.

“It has become clear that the powers of transport authorities need to be strengthened in order to ensure health safety in transport. The Finnish Transport and Communications Agency Traficom has the right to temporarily cut off dangerous flight routes” says Minister of Transport and Communications Timo Harakka (SDP).

“In daily international traffic, it would be most effective to oblige the transport organizer on flights, ships, buses and trains to take care of and check that the tourist has a certificate of a negative test result” he adds.

This test-to-travel option is primarily aimed at making it easier for authorities to stop specific routes – like the recent Turku-Skopje flight connection – where there are high numbers of passengers who test positive for Covid-19. But it could also be a way to open up popular tourist routes to places like Lapland.

File picture of husky sled ride in Lapland / Credit: iStock

Tourist bubbles or travel corridors 

Another option that is being pushed by business organisations, tourism operators and local healthcare experts in Lapland is the idea of a ‘travel corridor’ which they hope will tempt back tourists from key markets like UK, Netherlands and Germany.

This idea essentially ‘manages’ the package holiday groups from start to finish, knowing who is where at any given time, and which individuals the tourists interact with. In case of a coronavirus outbreak it would in theory be easy enough to identify and trace infection chains.

“The main logic is that we focus on groups whose travel path from airport-to-airport we know in advance. We know what is the programme, what is the schedule, who the people are and how they can be contacted – and normally they move in groups” says Rami Korhonen from Lapland Safaris, one of the region’s largest tour operators.

Another option the government is reportedly looking into is waiving the 14-day self- isolation period for people coming to Finland on business for a short amount of time. However they could still be required to maintain quarantine-like conditions while here, and possibly also need to get negative Covid-19 tests before travel, or on arrival.

A press conference to unveil any possible new rules for travel is expected on Thursday.