Asian tourists flock to Rovaniemi in Finland’s Arctic

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Sanna Kärkkäinen says this February is one of the busiest on record for Rovaniemi businesses.  (Uula Kuvaja / Yle)
Sanna Kärkkäinen says this February is one of the busiest on record for Rovaniemi businesses.
(Uula Kuvaja / Yle)
This February the hotels of Rovaniemi, Lapland have been full to the brim with customers.

Usually this many people stay in hotels in the northern city only during the Christmas season, but this year the tourist boom will continue into March at least. Especially Asian travellers have found their way to Lapland this February.

When the Russian rouble started its nosedive many companies feared that tourists would abandon the north of Finland. This fear has turned out to be unwarranted, as northern hotels and travel services have been swamped with tourists. Asian travellers have partly replaced the familiar Russian visitors.

”The number of people coming from Russia fell all over the country, including in Rovaniemi,” manager Sanna Kärkkäinen from Rovaniemi Travel and Marketing. “Our guest capacity suddenly rose because of this, and demand has been high especially among people from Asia. We’ve gotten our own back after the Russian slump.”

Record-breaking February

Talk of a flood of tourists is not hyperbole, many people from Rovaniemi say.

Normally hotels get filled up exclusively during the Christmas season, but the same rush has continued into February and will likely continue into March. One Norwegian group who flew in for a meeting in Rovaniemi had to find accommodation in Sodankylä, 130 kilometres away.

Travel agents in Rovaniemi have even expressed surprise at the heightened demand. Most travel plans and bookings are made well in advance, but this year many agents have received many more ex tempore contacts.

”This is the kind of customer flow that is next to impossible to foretell, which is why a lot of us are so pleasantly surprised,” Kärkkäinen says. ”This is a February for the books, definitely.”

Related stories from around the North:

Canada:  The environmental and social impacts of Arctic tourism, Eye on the Arctic

Finland:  Traffic over Finnish-Russian border drops by one third, Yle News

Greenland:  Air Greenland plans another summer of Iqaluit-Nuuk flights, CBC News

Iceland:  Flights to Iceland to start next March from Edmonton, Canada, CBC News

Norway: Ruble crash will have a huge negative impact on cross-border trade”, Barents Observer

Russia:  Russia requiring detailed travel itineraries from visitors, Barents Observer

Sweden: Air route links Norway, Sweden and Finland in Arctic, Barents Observer

United States: Warming may hurt and help tourism in Southeast Alaska, Alaska Dispatch

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