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Tourists turned off by Finland’s unusual "black" Lapland cancel holiday jaunts

Tour companies are cancelling trips to Lapland as the region sees an historic low level of snow cover.

Vetoporot odottavat aitauksessa lunta ja töihin pääsyä
Reindeer safaris are off the table in Lapland due to lack of snow. Image: Vesa Vaarama / Yle

Travellers keen on spending time in Lapland's winter wonderland have had to swallow their disappointment as a lack of snow has dashed their plans for a seasonal getaway.

Many have been taking to social media social media to complain as tour operators TUI and British travel company Transun took the decision to cancel day trips scheduled for the first week of December.

Lapland's snow troubles even made it into the foreign media, with one British tabloid, The Sun, renaming the Finnish region "Crapland".

Holidaymakers whose trips have not been cancelled say they're worried about what the lack of snowfall will mean for them.

"The pictures I have seen look terrible, and spending 565 euros (£500) per person for one day and coming away without the magic of Christmas will be very disappointing," said Chris Dunleavy, who paid 3385 euros (£3,000) for a family day trip from Newcastle in northern England, to Enontekiö.

Adam Williams from Tamworth in England pointed out that snow was part of the reason he booked a holiday in Lapland in the first place.

"We paid for a once in a lifetime trip to magical Lapland with our daughter, based on a TUI brochure of snow mobiles and husky rides," he added.

"Now due to lack of snow they cannot accommodate those excursions."

Missing snow "not typical"

Paavo Korpela from the Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI) said the unseasonal weather isn't normal.

"It's almost a record low for snowfall. There are almost 20-30 centimetres less than usual in central Lapland," he told Yle News. "This is not typical."

A high pressure zone has dominated Finland's weather throughout November, preventing snowfall, according to the FMI.

"During October we had a large area of snow cover over Lapland, but it was followed by milder weather and the snow melted off," Korpela explained. "There's been high pressure since then, so no precipitation."

Story continues after photo.

Ainoa konsti varmistaa poroajelun onnistuminen on säilölumi
Reindeer safari companies have been resorting to using snow stored from last winter in some cases. Image: Vesa Vaarama / Yle

In statements to Yle News, Transun Travel and TUI UK said they were monitoring the situation.

"We keep a close eye on forecasts and continue to monitor the situation closely, but we also have a number of contingency plans in place in Lapland to ensure customers can still have the trip they are looking forward to," a TUI spokesperson said.

"It has been unseasonably warm in Lapland recently and there has been limited snowfall. We have therefore cancelled our first two departures of the winter and offered affected passengers alternative dates later in December at no additional cost," Transun Travel told Yle News.

"If the alternative dates were not suitable, we have offered a full refund."

Laura Hardy, who booked a one-night stay in Rovaniemi with Thomas Cook, said she’s not impressed with the travel companies' contingency plans.

"It's been suggested that we go decorating biscuits. It’s hardly an alternative to snowmobiles and sleigh rides," she said.

"We are constantly checking forecasts, webcams for any sign of snow. It's quite stressful," she added.

Lapland enjoying travel boom

The uncertain start to Lapland's winter holiday season comes as the region is experiencing an increase in visitor numbers.

According to Finnish airport operator Finavia, 677 charter flights will arrive at in Lapland over the Christmas period, an increase of 89 flights compared to 2017.

Finavia said it's also investing 55 million euros in Lapland's airports, with a new 20-million-euro expansion of Kittilä airport opening on Thursday.

"The winter brings in around 60 percent of the region's annual tourism income," said Visit Rovaniemi CEO Sanna Kärkkäinen.

"I get a lot of phone calls from travellers saying, 'You're the CEO of the company, tell us if there'll be snow'," Kärkkäinen added.

But she said she isn't worried about the current lack of snow cover in Lapland. "We all know that once it changes, it changes dramatically. When the snow arrives, there is a lot of it."

EDIT 27.11.2018 This story has been edited to remove the claim that Thomas Cook is a TUI subsidiary.

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