Some 400,000 Russian tourists are expected in Finland at the turn of the year, an increase of about 10 % from last year. In Helsinki alone, more than 130,000 eastern neighbours are expected over Christmas and the New Year.
Most come for shopping, and many also visit skiing centres.
To accommodate the swelling numbers of visitors, 14 extra trains from Moscow through St. Petersburg to Helsinki have been taken into service. The carriage numbers of daily Allegro-trains have also been doubled at the turn of the year.
Ilya Saitsev and Olga Sevastyanova from Moscow are among the thousands who prefer to travel by train, as opposed to flying to Finland.
According to the couple, trains beat planes for romance.
In addition to touring Helsinki, Ilya and Olga plan to visit Turku and Tampere, as well as hitting some skiing slopes.
Stockmann open for business with roubles
Businesses in Finland look forward to the considerable income brought by Russians at this time of year.
To this end, most larger shops employ Russian speaking shop assistants, while the Stockmann department store now even accepts roubles as payment for purchases.
Stockmann Jumbo in Vantaa has been testing the use of roubles since the autumn, according to sales manager Hanna Kiminkinen.
“We’ve got three months experience in this, and it’s gone well. Cards are still the most popular payment methods, but the rouble has become the most used foreign currency here,” Kiminkinen reveals.
The sales manager also says that the number of Russian tourists in general has increased in the past years, and most tourist purchases in her store are made by Russians.
Spa hotels also popular with Russians
In the same neighbourhood as Stockmann Jumbo, Spa hotel Flamingo is also experiencing an influx of Russians. A third of the hotel’s customers are from across the eastern border at this time of the year. Russian guests are especially important for the hotel during Epiphany week, when Finns’ Christmas holidays end, and the natives go back to work and school.
Unlike Stockmann, Flamingo CEO Ari Laine sees no need for introducing roubles for business:.
“We haven’t even considered this. They’ve got euros and credit cards just like we do, so payment is not problem.”