Finland’s position as Russia’s neighbor affects how attractive the Nordic country is perceived as a travel destination abroad.
After two years of understanding Covid-19, Finnish tourism business began to improve after a successful winter season in Lapland. The upcoming spring and summer tourist seasons looked bright for the Finnish sector for a short time Kristiina HietasaariDirector of Visit Finland.
But after Russia invaded Ukraine, the sector is once again facing significant uncertainty. Visit Finland is currently receiving a lot of inquiries from tour operators about the situation and some cancellations.
"We have sent inquiries about the current situation, whether you can come to Finland and what has happened here. This is a serious crisis and we fear that it will have an impact," Hietasaari said.
Finnvera’s Regional Director for Northern Finland Pasi Vartiainen has also received information on trip cancellations in several provinces in Northern Finland.
"I am worried about the seasons to come. I suspect that the desire for tourism is waning throughout Europe, but Finland’s presence on the Russian border also puts a lot of pressure on these decisions." The guard said.
Cancellations have been reported in both Lapland and Helsinki.
The change has continued
CEO of Sotkamo Vuokatti Tourist Center Juha Kuosatold Yle that the booking situation is currently good and there are no direct concerns about safety.
The year has started successfully in Vuokatti and there have been a lot of foreign guests. So far, trips to the area have not been canceled due to the ongoing war.
However, the conflict has not yet had time to affect the current season, as the winter holiday season is mostly dependent on domestic tourists. There will also be a lot of guests from Russia, Belarus and Ukraine in Vuokatti.
"You can imagine this having an effect. The journey from that direction dries completely," Kuosa said and added that Russian tourism played a significant role before the crisis in Ukraine, but the changes have been visible for some time.
"People are now focusing on the core issues, securing their own family and future. I hope the situation is over as soon as possible" Kuosa said.
A large number of foreign tourists also returned to Ruka in Kuusamo, but even there Russia’s attack on Ukraine is still worrying.
"Of course, we are primarily concerned about the current global political situation, but also about our own industry. Such instability affects people’s mood and readiness to travel abroad," said Mats LindforsRuka-Kuusamo Managing Director of Tourism.
Lindfors has not received any information about the cancellations for Ruka-Kuusamo due to the crisis, but safety has been asked. After all, he is hopeful about the future.
"There must be a strong belief that the world situation will level off and caution when traveling to Finland will decrease. I would like to be positive and believe that the situation in Ukraine can be resolved peacefully," he said.
Looking far away, the security situation in Finland looks different
Visit Finland has discontinued its marketing operations in Russia. However, Hietasaari said tourists who can afford to choose their destination are more likely to choose Western destinations in Europe than Russia’s neighbors.
The pandemic was severe and long-lasting, and the survival of domestic travel companies was taken care of even before the conflict in Ukraine. The longer the crisis lasts, the deeper the industry sinks.
"It’s really worrying," Hietasaari said.
There is still uncertainty about the impact on tourism, as the flight booking situation will update in the coming weeks.
Looking at it from a distance, the security situation in Finland may seem more uncertain than it is, and the current situation may adversely affect people’s willingness to travel to Finland in the longer term.
Uncertainty about the future may also hamper investment in the tourism sector. Vartiainen hopes that the current situation will only delay investments, as the attractiveness of Finnish tourism has proven to be strong during the past winter.
"It is worrying whether Finland is seen as a safe place to invest in this situation. Fear can affect tourism and investment decisions," The guard said.
Source: The Nordic Page