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Finland's national parks busier than ever last year

The record visitor numbers weren't exclusively due to the pandemic, Finland's parks and forestry agency says.

Nainen kävelee lumikengillä.
National parks saw a 23 percent increase in the number of visitors last year compared to 2019. Image: Julia Sieppi / Yle

Finland's national parks saw over four million visits last year, according to parks and forestry agency Metsähallitus.

That figure represents a 23 percent increase on 2019's visitor numbers.

With the coronavirus pandemic placing restrictions on international travel, more people have visited destinations within Finland. However, Metsähallitus says the pandemic alone does not account for the growth of interest in national parks.

Instead, the agency says that the number of first-time hikers, mountain bikers and young people visiting outdoor destinations has been growing for a long time, along with an increase in the number of families camping with children. The number of overnight stays in national parks has also increased.

Crisis prompts change

A survey carried out by the Finnish Environment Institute (Syke) and the Ministry of the Environment last year found that respondents said the pandemic had changed their relationship with nature.

One-quarter of all respondents said their own relationship with nature became more positive during the corona crisis. More than half said they spent more time outdoors than they used to, and respect for nature also increased, according to the survey.

The rush outdoors raised concerns during the lockdown of Uusimaa last spring, with officials calling on people to remember to maintain appropriate distances from each other, even while outdoors.

Metsähallitus has been monitoring the number of visitors to the national parks since 2001 using visitor counters installed in the terrain.

Online services for people moving in nature were also used more than in the previous year. The number of individual users of the nationalparks.fi service increased by 49 percent to 3.2 million users.

Meanwhile visits to the Retkikartta.fi service increased by 44 percent to around 3.8 million.

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