A report out this week suggests that Finland could see thousands of new jobs if tourists from Russia are able to cross the border more easily.
Researchers believe that a visa-free regime would increase spending and create opportunities in the retail and travel industries.
Visa freedom would boost the Finnish economy and increase employment, according to researchers at the University of Eastern Finland. Last year Russians made four million journeys to Finland, with a visa-free regime expected to double the volume of traffic.
“A significant portion of the growth would come from Moscow,” said Pasi Nurkka of the research and analysis centre TAK, which also worked on the report.
Changes would require an increase in hotel accommodation in Finland, but the boost for the retail and tourism industries would create an estimated 12,000 jobs. The growth would be concentrated in the capital city region and areas offering high-level cultural and tourist services.
Extra capacity needed
The researchers interviewed four thousand Russians in St Petersburg, Moscow and the Leningrad Oblast.
Finnish retailers fear border crossing posts might struggle to cope with the rush of visitors. Current backlogs have prompted an expansion programme, with the Vaalimaa, Nuijamaa and Imatra crossing points set to increase capacity to allow 18 million border crossings per year.
The report suggests that crime levels could increase if visas are no longer required, but that suggestion was rejected by Interior Ministry Chief Secretary Päivi Nerg.
“Responsibility for monitoring would pass to border guards, and travellers would be subject to searches,” Nerg told her interviewer on Yle’s Aamu TV. “On that basis we don’t see large risks, if we prepare and ensure that border crossing points and technical systems are in order.”