Up to 200 planes are arriving in Finnish Lapland during Christmas week with tourists from all over Europe. That is a challenge in times of coronavirus.
Charter planes and regular routes are crowding the sky above northernmost Finland. With an average of 180 seats in each plane, up to 36,000 people are flying in to meet Santa, see the Northern Lights and have fun in the snow.
Arctic winter tourism is nearly back to pre-pandemic numbers this Christmas for the airports of Rovaniemi, Kittilä, Ivalo and Enontekiö.
The Barents Observer has previously reported about new routes to Rovaniemi from Milan, Riga, Düsseldorf and Paris. Further north, the airports of Ivalo and Kittilä are served with numerous flights from London, Manchester, Brussels, Bucharest, Kyiv, Amsterdam and Athens to name a few.
On Sunday, December 26, the small airport in Kittilä alone counted 19 arrivals from all over Europe. In addition are the regular flights from Helsinki by Finnair and Norwegian.
“Rovaniemi and Lapland are highly interesting as magical winter destinations, and Italy is a significant market for our Christmas season,” says Sanna Kärkkäinen the Managing Director of Visit Rovaniemi.
“The recovery of tourism in Lapland will benefit from each newly opened route,” Kärkkäinen says.
However, Finland is facing the same wave with of COVID-19 infections as most of Europe. An all-time high number of 3,223 new infections were counted on December 24. Only 44 of the cases that day were in the Lapland hospital district, according to the data from Finland’s national health authorities.
Although Lapland is not too badly hit, the national restrictions apply also to the tourist sector in the winter wonderland.
Valid from Christmas Eve, the Finnish Government restricted the activities of restaurants and other food and beverage service for the coming three weeks. People need a COVID-19 passport to enter. Serving of alcoholic beverages ends at 17.00.
Restaurants are also required to have only half of the normal number of customers seat in use in both indoor and outdoor premises.
From December 28, restrictions aimed to limit the spread of the virus will be further strengthened. All travelers entering Finland must provide a certificate of a complete and valid vaccination series or have an EU digital COVID certificate that proves the person has recovered from covid-19 within 6 months.
In addition to the aforementioned requirements, the person must present a negative covid-19 test result of less than 48 hours. The result of a PCR or an Antigen test is accepted. These requirements apply to persons born in 2005 (2006 after New Year’s Eve) or earlier, the Finnish Border Guards informs.
Rovaniemi is the snowy and icy capital of Lapland on the Arctic Circle and the official hometown of Santa Claus. For Christmas and three weeks ahead, restaurants are forced to close at 20.00. That is normally when people from southern Europe start to go out for dinner.
Related stories from around the North:
Canada: Arctic Canada: Nunavut imposes immediate COVID-19 restrictions, CBC news
Finland: COVID-19 surge casts shadow over tourism in Finnish Lapland, Yle News
Greenland: New strategy activated to manage COVID-19 outbreak in Upernavik, Greenland, Eye on the Arctic
Iceland: Iceland extends COVID-19 measures for at least two weeks, Eye on the Arctic
Norway: Norway imposes partial pre-Christmas COVID lockdown, The Independent Barents Observer
Sweden: COVID-19: Sweden imposes new restrictions as infections rise, Radio Sweden