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Chinese tourists buying up packages to Finland's Saimaa Lake region

Finnish travel agencies expect thousands of Chinese tourists to arrive this year, many of whom will head to the Saimaa Lake region.

Lappeenranta harbour is a favourite destination in the Saimaa lake district. Image: Kari Kosonen/Yle

Four Chinese travel agencies are busy organising travel packages to Finland's Saimaa lake district for an increasing number of Chinese tourists, Finnish holiday firms say.

At the moment, the sprawling lake region in southwest Finland is getting quite a bit of attention at the Shanghai World Travel Fair, which opened on Thursday.

Finnish tourism firm GoSaimaa says about a dozen local travel agencies are preparing for the arrival of several thousand Chinese visitors to the region.

No exact visitor estimates are available, however, because agencies do not share reservation figures. But an influx is expected in any case, after China's biggest online travel agency Ctrip added Saimaa to its holiday package roster three weeks ago.

Finnish traditions and nature draw interest

Agencies are arranging day trips to the lake region, as part of larger packages.

Intineraries for single-day trips include extravagances like visits to a hotel spa, but nature trips are also available. Tours offer travelers activities like forest treks, boating excursions as well as opportunities to bathe in a real, Finnish sauna.

For most tourists Saimaa will be only be a pit-stop on the way to destinations further afar, like Helsinki, Rovaniemi, St. Petersburg, Russia, or Stockholm, Sweden.

Chinese tourists have been booking holidays well into August and September, according to Holiday Club Saimaa hotel manager Anne Puhakainen, so the Eastern visitors are extending the region's summer vacation season, she says.

"There are almost no Finnish guests here in the autumn, so it's good that groups are coming in from China," Puhakainen says.

The reason Chinese travel agents are seeking new destinations in Finland is because Lapland's tourist housing capacity is already virtually booked to capacity, according to GoSaimaa.

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