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Tuesday's papers: Lapland boom, Russia sanctions and moves to alleviate loneliness

Thursday's papers look at the record number of tourists in Lapland, a former foreign minister's outburst, and a plan to use shopping malls as a meeting point.

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Image: AOP

Turun Sanomat reports that a record number of foreign tourists are expected to visit Lapland this winter season, thanks to an increase in flights to the region.

According to Statistics Finland about a quarter of a million overnight stays by foreigners were recorded in Lapland in January – 6 percent more than at the same time the previous year. February, March and April are looking good too, says Ari Vuorentausta from Lapland Hotels.

“The Chinese New Year took place in February this year, so that’s why the number of Chinese tourists in January was smaller compared with last year," Timo Lappi from the Finnish Hospitality Association tells TS.

A growth in the number flights to Lapland has been crucial for bringing in a record number of visitors, Turun Sanomat writes.

Finnair has launched direct flights to Kittilä from London, Paris and Zurich, adding to the existing routes from Frankfurt, Munich and Dusseldorf flown by Lufthansa and Germania. At the same time, the national carrier has increased domestic flights, which has made it easier for Asian tourists who travel through Helsinki to reach Lapland.

A record 700 charter flights landed at Finnish Lapland’s airports in December, causing the number of passengers in Kittilä and Rovaniemi to leap by 17 percent. The airport in Ivalo logged an even higher growth rate of 27 percent in January-February.

Vuorentausta is optimistic that the record reached this winter will be surpassed next year. “The message we have received from our big clients shows that next winter season will be strong too,” he says.

Russian diplomat expulsion questioned

Tabloid Iltalehti reports that former foreign minister Erkki Tuomioja has criticised Finland’s decision to expel a Russian diplomat in the aftermath of the nerve gas attack in Britain. According to the Social Democrat MP such actions should be based on sufficient proof and not just suspicion.

“With the information I have now, I would not have gone ahead with the decision,” Tuomioja reportedly wrote on his Facebook account.

"I do hope that the government has more information that gives cause to this action,” adds Tuomioja, who currently sits on parliament’s foreign affairs committee.

Finally, Tuomioja said that he supports President Sauli Niinistö’s view that continuing a dialogue with Russia is more important than ever.

Shopping malls to the rescue of the lonely

With politicians and government ministers looking for ways to alleviate loneliness, the tabloid Ilta-Sanomat highlights shopping centres as a possible solution.

Two shopping malls in Oulu and Lahti have already had a good experience with helping the lonely.

In Oulu’s Höytyä shopping mall, a community organisation arranges activities for people of all ages, from school children’s afternoon clubs to bingo and dancing for the older crowd. Eero Tervonen from the community centre at Höytyä says that shopping malls are places where people spend time anyway, and estimates that up to 100 people visit the community centre daily.

Similarly, in Lahti’s Okeroinen mall, about 30-50 elderly people meet every Friday at a ‘living room’ provided by a local grocery store.

Shopkeeper Mikko Artima says he believes the weekly meetings to alleviate loneliness and recommends that other businesses organise such activities too. “People come here in good spirits week after week. The meetings give people positive feelings and energy for the every-day life,” Artima says.

While being in the presence of other people in a shopping mall is a form of interaction, it may also increase the feeling of loneliness, sociologist Pasi Mäenpää warns. As a result, shopping malls could be developed into local community centres instead of just places where people can buy goods and services, he says.

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