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Foreign tourists reappear in Helsinki

The capital is seeing an uptick in Christmas visitors. 

An old-fashioned carousel is a main draw at Helsinki's Christmas market. Image: Henrietta Hassinen / Yle

Helsinki is seeing more tourists than it has for nearly two years, though the number of visitors is still a shadow of pre-pandemic figures.

Hotels in Helsinki are now at about 50 percent capacity, up from around 13 percent last December.

In December of 2019, Helsinki hotels recorded 180,000 foreign overnight stays, a number that dropped to 13,500 last year.

The City of Helsinki's tourism director, Nina Versterinen, said that before the pandemic, Russian and Chinese visitors made up the majority of winter holidaymakers. December 2019 saw an all-time high of Chinese and Russian visitors—36,000—in the city.

Today most of the tourists in the capital hail from Germany, with some also arriving from Sweden, the UK, US and Estonia.

"Eighty percent of hotel stays are by domestic travellers at the moment," Vesterinen said, adding that the tourism sector will continue to mostly serve Finnish travellers next year.

She noted that several new hotels are under construction in the capital and will add some 3,500 rooms to current availability.

"In 2024, Helsinki will be able to provide ten million overnight stays if capacity is at 100 percent. This is an indication of how much hope there is," she said.

Authorities in Lapland are meanwhile seeking out accommodation for foreign tourists who may end up ordered into quarantine after testing positive for Covid.

The region is especially crowded this time of the year due to international visitors looking to spend the Christmas season in Finland.

So far, a total of 50 foreign tourists have been placed in quarantine after contracting the virus.