Finland in Winter: What to Do and Where to Go
Published: October 30, 2013 (Issue # 1784)
The vast number of Russian tourists visiting Finland is going to continue growing, according to industry experts that met in St. Petersburg on Tuesday.
The flow of Russian tourists to Finland is increasing annually by 14 to 27 percent and by the end of 2013, the General Consulate of Finland in St. Petersburg plans to have provided local tourists with 1.25 million Finnish visas.
According to data from the Border Service of Finland, 4.83 million people crossed the Russian-Finnish border within the first six months of 2013. The Finnish-Russian Chamber of Commerce predicts these figures will have doubled by the end of 2015.
The traditional agenda of Russians going to Finland is topped by shopping but according to representatives of companies working in the tourism sector, few Russians know about the wide variety of winter activities available in Finland. Together with hotel representatives and ferry operators, they gathered at the Sokos Palace Bridge Hotel on Oct. 29 to discuss “Winter Holidays in Finland.” The event was organized by The St. Petersburg Times and Sokos Hotel, with Alexei Kozlov, head of market research at the Finnish-Russian Chamber of Commerce, acting as moderator. Participants discussed interests of all tourist categories and focused on how to get to Finland with a maximum of comfort and a minimum of cost. Sokos itself was represented by Konstantin Vikat, Sokos Hotels St. Petersburg’s sales manager for Finnish destinations.
Those still deciding whether to celebrate New Year in the country of Santa Claus (or Joulupukki, as he is called in Finland) should get their skates on, according to the experts.
“You have to plan your trip to Rovaniemi [Joulupukki’s native town] in advance, preferably about a year before going, as Rovaniemi is a small town. We even advise our tourists either to do it in advance or to opt for other dates,” said Olga Efremchenkova, head of the sales department at Saimaa Travel Russia. “There are no crowds of tourists and prices are halved.”
“We offer special tours for five to six days to Santa Claus’s village, to the fairy forest with trolls and elves. There is also the Arctic Zoo where wild animals live in their natural habitat and tourists can observe them as they walk across rope bridges in the trees,” said Marina Kosheleva, the head of the Scandinavian department at the Versa tourism firm.
“Of course, Rovaniemi is for the most part for children, but sometimes it’s good for adults to feel that they’re children again,” said Efremchenkova.
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