British tourists head to snow-capped Lapland in search of Santa Claus

HELSINKI, December 15 (Reuters) – Santa Claus and heavy snowfall are luring British tourists to Lapland, bolstering the Finnish tourism industry hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

Most tourists who come to Lapland at Christmas come from Britain, Sanna Karkkainen, managing director of Rovaniemi Tourism and Marketing, told Reuters.

“The first British charters arrive in mid-November and for them the goal of the trip is to meet Santa Claus,” Karkkainen said.

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The town of Rovaniemi in Lapland is the official hometown of Santa Claus, according to his tourism website, with attractions that include a Santa Claus Village and excursions inside the Arctic Circle.

Karkkainen said the discovery of the new omicron variant did not cause cancellations like the increase in case rates, and Finland’s strict travel restrictions did so last year.

Britain recently tightened the rules for those returning to the country, requiring them to take a COVID-19 test before departure and another test upon arrival in England, despite their vaccination status. Read more

Finnish airport group Finavia and tourist agency Visit Rovaniemi both said there were no cancellations.

Finavia said the number of charter flights for this year’s Christmas season was close to 90% of what it was during the 2019 season.

Finland currently requires tourists to show proof of vaccination, a negative test result, or if they have recovered from COVID-19 in the past six months.

Karkkainen says that while most tourists still come from the UK, there are growing numbers of visitors from France and Italy.

Ahead of the December 2019 pandemic, Lapland’s tourism industry saw 724 charter flights land at its four northernmost airports, with Kittila and Rovaniemi being the most popular destinations, Finavia said.

In December 2019, Lapland had 152,000 visitors and sales of accommodation stood at € 39.3 million, according to travel research firm TAK. noted.

But the pandemic has halted 98% of visitors and 79% of accommodation sales, according to TAK statistics.

Before the pandemic, Finnish travel exports were growing by 12% per year and industry accounted for 2.7% of Finland’s gross domestic product, according to a 2020 report from the Finnish Ministry of Economic Affairs.

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Report by Essi Lehto in Helsinki and Attila Cser in Rovaniemi. Editing by Jane Merriman

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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