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Record number of tourists visit Finnish Lapland in 2019

There were more than 3.1 million overnight stays in the region last year, the highest ever recorded.

Santa's village square in Rovaniemi is a popular place for tourist photos. Image: Vesa Vaarama / Yle

Lapland's popularity as a tourist destination reached a new record high last year, with 3.1 million registered overnight stays in the region, according to preliminary data published by Statistics Finland.

The 2019 figure represents a 3.8 percent increase on 2018, a year which also saw record numbers of visitors.

The data reveal that more than half of those staying overnight in Lapland were foreign visitors, of which the majority (270,000) came from the United Kingdom.

Despite being the biggest tourist group, the number of British tourists fell by more than five percent from the previous year -- a drop which can partially be attributed to the sudden collapse of the tour operator Thomas Cook in September.

The second largest nationality to visit Lapland came from France, with about 178,000 overnight stays, a 12 percent increase on the previous year. There was also a year-on-year increase in the number of German (173,000) and Dutch (106,000) visitors.

Lapland's popularity also seemed to be on the rise in China, with overnight stays one-fifth higher than last year, totaling well over 81,000. However, the number of Chinese tourists visiting this year is likely to be significantly affected by the coronavirus travel ban.

Rovaniemi and Inari the most popular destinations

Rovaniemi was once again the most popular destination for visitors to Lapland, with more than 738,000 overnight stays recorded -- an 11 percent increase on 2018’s numbers.

The municipality of Inari also saw an increase in the number of overnight stays, as 471,000 visitors were recorded.

In contrast, the number of overnight stays in Kolari was two percent lower than in the previous year, at nearly 326,000, and in Kittilä the number of overnight stays had fallen slightly to 530,000.

Tourist numbers up across Finland

Lapland’s growing popularity among tourists was reflected across Finland, as the nationwide figure rose by 3.9 percent compared to 2018 with a total of 23.1 million overnight stays recorded at accommodation establishments.

The number of overnight stays in the capital region of Helsinki was recorded at nearly 4.5 million, which is just under eight percent more than in 2018.

The data published by Statistics Finland were collected from hotels and other accommodation establishments with at least 20 beds. The figures do not include all tourists as the statistics do not include, for example, visitors staying at cottages or those using online services like Airbnb.