Santa Claus village in Rovaniemi is ready for the Christmas season. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

Santa’s beds are fully booked

More than 500 flights are expected to Rovaniemi in what could be the best ever tourist season.
November 17, 2015

On Saturday, Santa Claus himself will declare the Christmas season open in an event to be broadcast live world wide on You Tube from the Santa Claus village on the Arctic Circle in Finnish Lapland.

Rovaniemi know how to brand itself for the growing global tourist market.

“Santa, it is that simple, people want to see Santa,” says Sanna Kärkkäinen, Managing Director of Visit Rovaniemi.

This winter, hotels in Rovaniemi are full to the brim with customers most of the season. Tourists are coming from around the globe, although the biggest increase is from Great Britain.

The 3,200 beds capacity at the hotels is fully booked and Kärkkäinen says more could be sold, if available.

“We need more beds and then we could get more flights,” she says. With some 500 pre-announced flights arriving to the airport north of town in the coming months, last year’s tourist increase will be beaten.

Sanna Kärkkäinen is Director of Visit Rovaniemi. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

“More customers are staying several days, although we still have some one-day visitors,” Sanna Kärkkäinen explains.

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40 percent drop from Russia
A sharp drop in tourists from Russia, down 40 percent from last year, is compensated with an increase in visitors from Asia and Europe. Germany, Japan and a 25 percent growth from China are important nationalities for bookings at Rovaniemi hotels.

“We cooperate very well with Finniar that fly in tourists from many destinations in Asia. We see a big increase from Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia,” says Sanna Kärkkäinen.

This autumn, Finnair became Europe’s first operator of the brand new Airbus A350, an aircraft Finnair will use when expanding the Asian route-network.

“Make happy babies”
In addition to Santa Claus, the Northern Lights is a magnet for waves of Asia tourists to northern Scandinavia.

Years ago, someone told young couples, especially in Japan, that babies made under the Northern Lights will be happy babies. In Rovaniemi, you can maxmize your chance to see Northern Lights - or “make happy babies” - by booking an sms-alert.

Cross-border marketing
On Wednesday, tour operators from Finland team up with colleagues from Norway and Sweden in Tromsø.

With a €6,4 million budget, a new Visit Arctic Europe project aims at boosting cross-border tourism in the north. Combined marketing is one goal in the collaboration between Finnish Lapland Tourism Board, Northern Norway Tourism Board and Swedish Lapland Tourism Board.

The funding comes from EU’s Interreg Nord program.

While there have been joint marketing initiatives between different counties and municipalities inside national borders, joining forces with Nordic neighbours has never truly been tried. The initative was first highlighted in a report presented to the Prime Ministers of the countries at the Arctic Frontiers conferance in Tromsø in Janaury. 

Joint marketing of northern tourist destination is expected to strengthen providers in all three countries.

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