THIS Christmas, Santa Claus will not be receiving visitors from abroad at his home in Lapland due to Covid-19 travel restrictions.
Strict travel restrictions imposed by the Finnish Government have wreaked havoc on tourism in Lapland, with an unprecedented drop in the arrival of foreign tourists.
Visits to Santa Claus in Lapland over the Christmas period, as well as the rest of the year, are one of the country’s main tourist attractions and expectations for this year were very positive, especially when the pandemic situation improved slightly in the summer, but the global deterioration of the situation this autumn has caused reservations to fall drastically and the mass cancellation of trips booked from Britain, France and Germany, the main markets.
Finnish authorities had expected better figures than seen in 2019, when the area recorded 3.1 million overnight stays, half of them between December and March.
In 2019, the tourism sector contributed more than €1 billion to the country’s economy, 6.9 per cent of its gross domestic product, and provided employment to 8,000 people.
Finland currently has the lowest incidence of Covid-19 in Europe, with 53 infections per 100,000.
According to the authorities in Lapland, between March 2020 and March 2021, the tourism sector there will lose around €700 million (close to 70 per cent of the predicted income).
“These figures represent a catastrophe for Lapland”, explained Sanna Kärkkäinen, director of Visit Rovaniemi, the tourism office of the Lapp capital.
The situation is so bad that it could lead to the bankruptcy of 61 per cent of Lapland’s tourism businesses if travel restrictions are extended beyond March, despite public aid, according to a survey by the Tourism Industry Association of Lapland (LME) among its members.
Tourism businesses there complained that changes planned to the restrictions will be too late to save the Christmas season.
Lapland has turned to trying to attract domestic tourists, although tourism promoters believe that it will not be enough to compensate for the huge loss of income. Domestic demand, however, is very different from international demand, and what might be ‘exotic’ to travellers from other countries, will not be considered so exciting by locals.
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