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Watch: Free cruises to distant Finnish island drawing more domestic tourists

The rustic island of Haapasaari is just a few kilometres from Russian territory.

In terms of passenger numbers, one of the most popular sea routes operated by state-owned firm Finferries makes regular voyages to a small island off the southern coast of Finland.

Rustic Haapasaari island is located about 20km south of the port city of Kotka. The journey there aboard the Otava ferry takes about 90 minutes - including stops at nearby islands - and is completely free-of-charge.

Pasi Roos, Finferries' director of safety and traffic said there was a major spike in passenger volumes over the Midsummer weekend.

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Asuntoja Haapasaaressa.
Cottages along Haapasaari island. Image: Mikko Savolainen / Yle

The Otava can carry about 130 people, including crew members and around five cars, which can fit atop the ship's deck during the summer, depending on their size.

Haapasaari island is inhabited year-round, but is also a popular place for summer cottages. Otava's ship manager, Tommi Rapp, said that activity on the island can be seen in the piles of cargo headed there.

"There's been in particular more renovation of cottages and yards this year. We've hauled a lot of building materials and soil there. Roughly estimated, the number of passengers during the early summer has been about 10 percent more than last year," Rapp told Yle.

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Haapasaaren osuuskauppa.
Haapasaari island's cooperative shop which has been operating for more than 110 years. Image: Mikko Savolainen / Yle

Tuuli-Anne Klaavu, a merchant from the island's cooperative shop which has been operating for more than 110 years, also said she noticed an increase in visitors since schools closed for the summer break.

Klaavu noted there was an increase in business at the shop during the coronavirus spring as seasonal residents came to work remotely at their cottages.

Otavan liikennöintireitti.
Map of Kotka and outlying islands, including Haapasaari, just a few kilometres from Russian territory. Image: Otso Ritonummi / Yle

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