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Travel ban: 1K Chinese tourists cancel Rovaniemi trips

Millions of Chinese travellers were impacted by broad travel bans due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

File photo of tourists in Rovaniemi. Image: Vesa Vaarama / Yle

Around one thousand Chinese tourists have cancelled or postponed their trips to Finnish Lapland's Rovaniemi due to travel bans in China.

Over the weekend China restricted travel plans of millions of people, due to the outbreak of a new strain of coronavirus stemming from the Asian country.

On Saturday China said it would suspend all scheduled tour groups and travel package sales for citizens headed overseas. The suspension went into effect on Monday, according to media reports.

Two Chinese tourists in the northern municipality of Inari were thought to have been possibly infected with coronavirus at the end of last week, but tests showed they were not suffering from the infectious disease.

Some delayed plans until summer

The managing director of tourism firm Visit Rovaniemi, Sanna Kärkkäinen, said around 40 tour groups have cancelled trips. Some of the groups, each made up of 20-40 people, have rescheduled their trips to the northern tourist destination, she said.

"It has been positive that summer [trips] have come up for discussion. If we could transition [some of the volume of] the high season winter tourism to the sunnier summertime, it would be a good thing for us," Kärkkäinen explained.

However, she said the economic impact of the cancellations is still difficult to assess, because all the details between tour operators and service providers have not been ironed out.

February is most commonly the time of year when the highest number of Chinese tourists visits Lapland, a month when some 5,000-10,000 visitors from China are expected to descend on the region, according to Kärkkäinen.

The new strand of coronavirus has killed at least 80 people in China and infected more than 2,700 individuals in the country. So far, no fatalities stemming from the new strain have been recorded outside of China but some experts have warned that up to 100,000 people around the world could already be infected, according to UK newspaper The Guardian (siirryt toiseen palveluun).

Nearly 60 million people have so far been affected by lockdowns in cities across China, according to media reports.