«They go across the globe to experience the purity of the Arctic»
Lakes and forests as long as the eye can see. The long stretches of Finnish Lapland express slow, cool calm.
«This is want they want», Sanna Kärkkäinen says to the Barents Observer. «The pure and clean nature and the authenticity of the place».
«This has really become trendy and hot among global tourists», she underlines. «And then it is the fact that this is really a safe place.»
Kärkkäinen is Managing Director at Visit Rovaniemi, the local tourism office in northern Finland. She smiles and has good reason. Never before have this many tourists visited Finnish Lapland, the Arctic part of the Nordic country.
Alone in February, the growth in tourist visits to Rovaniemi, the regional capital, amounted to 14 percent year-on-year. In the first two months of the year, almost 108,000 tourists visited the place. And the trend is the same for the whole region.
France represents the quickest-growing market, followed by China and Isreal. A string of other countries follow suit, among them even Australia and the USA.
Meanwhile, Russia, which previously was the by far biggest market for the Lapland tourism industry is quickly losing ground. As the ruble has plummeted and the Russian economy weakened, the number of Russians visiting the Finnish resorts have dropped dramatically.
Russians are now the third biggest tourist group in the area. And the drop in Russians continue.
«It is a great pity that the Russians are not traveling that much anymore. I truly and honestly hope they will return, and there will always be place for them», Kärkkäinen says.
The Finnish tourism industry feared the effects of the declining Russian economy. However, that fear was soon overcome. The declining number of Russians opened up space for new groups.
«If it was not for that, we would not have had so many Chinese here», the tourism director says.
The new boom in regional tourism is well assisted by the well-developed Asian routes operated by Finnair, as well as good marketing.
Finnish Lapland has much on offer. Not only has the region pure and clean nature, northern lights and winter landscapes with snow. Lapland also offers smooth slopes for skiing, a number of fancy resorts and a well-developed infrastructure. And then, of course, they have Santa and his reindeers. The Santa Village, as well as the many other Santa facilities in the area, attract thousands.
And more attractions are coming up. The next big thing coming up might be the clear Arctic summer and the midnight sun, Kärkkäinen says.