It may feel like summer just ended, but it’s only six weeks until the Christmas flight season begins in northern Finland.
Significantly more holidaymakers are expected to fly from Britain to Lapland this winter than last, says Finpro (the former Finnish Foreign Trade Association). Its London rep, Riitta Balza, surveyed half a dozen of the UK’s biggest package tour operators. They all plan to send more tourists to northern Finland this season – some much more. The season begins in mid-November.
Balza tells Yle that Christmas, New Year’s and year-end weekend trips to meet Father Christmas in Lapland are nearly sold out already. There is availability at other times, which Balza says is partly due to stricter new rules against children taking time off of school.
The new Snowbird airline’s direct flights from London to Enontekiö in Finland’s remote north-western ‘arm’ has also improved sales through smaller tour operators, she notes.
New routes bring new business
More winter tourists are also expected from Germany. A Finnish Tourist Board official in Berlin, Jyrki Oksanen, says that the popularity of downhill skiing is declining in Germany while interest in Lapland is growing. More Germans are into cross-country skiing, snow-shoeing, Northern Lights, ice castles and other Arctic exotica.
Oksanen says a new flight link set up between Munich, Hannover and Kittilä is also spurring interest. Meanwhile a new charter flight route between Zürich and Kittilä has proven popular and is perking up sales in Switzerland.
Russia still a question mark
Last year the number of Russian tourists declined due to the economic and political situation. The Finnish tourism industry is still waiting to see whether Russians will flock to Finland around New Year’s as in earlier years.
Jyrki Niva, CEO of Lapland Safaris, tells Yle that some Russian tour operators have gone bankrupt, but that some in Lapland’s tourism sector report that direct online sales from Russian customers have risen briskly.
Related stories from around the North:
Canada: The environmental and social impacts of Arctic tourism, Eye on the Arctic
Finland: Nature tourism in North Finland drawing Chinese tourists, Yle News
Greenland: Greenland inspires Arctic Bay, Canada tourism strategy, Eye on the Arctic
Russia: Creating links across the Arctic – A look back on the Beringia Arctic Games, Eye on the Arctic
Sweden: Is space tourism coming to Sweden’s Arctic?, Radio Sweden
United States: Passport troubles keep some athletes from Arctic Winter Games in Alaska, CBC News