As of Tuesday, Finland has lifted the Covid-19 restrictions on the opening hours and capacity of the country’s bars and restaurants.
However, restaurants must continue to adhere to certain hygiene standards, including ensuring that customers can properly disinfect their hands, prevent congestion and improve sanitation.
By Timo LappiThe celebration of the lifting of Covid restrictions, the CEO of the restaurant lobbying group MaRa, has been overshadowed by Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine and subsequent sanctions.
His assessments show that it will be a huge blow to the Finnish tourism and catering industry and slow down the recovery from the pandemic. The Russians formed the lion’s share of foreign tourists who spent the night in Finland before the Covid-19 crisis began.
Huge losses due to the pandemic
The Finnish restaurant industry has been particularly hard hit by the crisis. According to Lapland, net sales in the hotel and restaurant sector alone decreased by EUR 3.6 million in 2020–21 compared to 2019.
He says the restaurant industry as a whole has suffered even bigger losses, but exact figures are not currently available. In addition, previously highly profitable companies have been reported to be in debt because they are unable to pay rent and taxes.
"When the restrictions are hopefully finally over, this year we can see how the pandemic has affected businesses as creditors and lenders start collecting unpaid payments," Lapland more.
Companies in the sector received a total of EUR 650 million in financial support from the state in 2020–21. According to Lapland, the amount is considerably smaller than for the other Nordic countries.
In addition to companies, employees in the restaurant sector are also in debt due to long layoffs, he says Annika Rönni-Sallinenchairman of the trade union PAM, which represents workers in the private service sector.
According to Lapland, the number of employees leaving the sector is a five-digit number. Rönni-Sallinen estimates that at some point it was at least 20,000, and pubs and nightclubs suffered most of the losses.
"The majority of workers are young people who have moved to the sector or continued their studies," he states.
Lapland suggests that the labor shortage is so severe that it is hampering the growth and recovery of companies. Bars and restaurants are still trying to return to their former routines, but some nightclubs will open even on Tuesday at midnight as soon as the restrictions are officially lifted.
Staying brought a little relief
Although there has been a fairly profitable winter season in northern Finland, which has received both domestic and foreign tourists, Lapland states that hotels in the Helsinki metropolitan area have suffered huge losses.
The growing popularity of accommodation, ie a holiday abroad in one’s own country, helped to bring much-needed impetus to the tourism industry.
"I believe the trend is growing for reasons related to the fight against climate change," Lapland says.
He also feels that the phenomenon of takeaway ordering from restaurants is to stay, but warns that it is not as profitable for restaurants as food delivery services charge a substantial commission of up to 30 per cent on the price of a meal.
Source: The Nordic Page