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Decline Seen in Lapland Christmas Tourism

Airports in the north of Finland expect to get 132 fewer charter flights of Christmas tourists than last season. The number of Christmas charters is falling to the level where it was in 2004. The decline is the largest in the history of Christmas tourism in the north of Finland.

Image: YLE / Jarmo Honkanen

Compared with last year, the number of flights is going down by 25 percent, says Martti Oinas, regional director of the aviation authority Finavia.

Rovaniemi, is losing the greatest number of Christmas charters flights. This season, 132 charters will land in the Santa Claus capital, most of which are from Britain. A year ago the number was 187, indicating a decline of nearly 30 per cent.

Kittilä Gains at Rovaniemi’s Expense

Rovaniemi is losing its position as the centre of Christmas tourism in the north of Finland. This year 141 planes are landing at Kittilä airport. Last year the number was 178. Rovaniemi and Kittilä have long competed over popularity in Christmas travel. Kittilä’s success is attributed to more efficient marketing and high-quality programme services.

In terms of percentages, Ivalo will experience the greatest decline, with 32 charter planes landing there, compared with last year’s 68.

Kuusamo will get 19 Christmas charters this year, 26 less than in 2008, and in Enontekiö, 45 planes are landing this season, 15 less than a year ago.

Decline in Russians not as Steep

The number of Christmas tourists from Russia is not going down as much as that of the British, who are reeling from their economic crisis. Finavia’s Martti Oinas, notes, however, that the real extent of the decline will not be known until the planes are on the ground.

“The Russian mentality is such that people take things to the last moment. Cancellations are made at very short notice.”

The Christmas rush at northern airports is beginning in the coming weekend. The busiest weekend will be a week later.

Christmas tourism in Finnish Lapland has undergone massive changes in the past ten years. The number of flights began to increase in the early part of the decade. The biggest surge in growth was in 2006, when there were 140 more flights than in the previous year. The record was set in 2007, with 612 Christmas charters.

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