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Weak rouble hits Russian tourists' wallets in Finland

Import restrictions and a weak rouble mean Russians are spendling far less in Finland than they used to.

Venäläisiä asiakkaita kassalla.
Image: Tommi Parkkinen / Yle

Russian tourists today spend some 20 percent less in Finland than they did at the start of the decade. In the halcyon days of the early 2010s, Russians dropped over one billion euros in Finland annually.

January is typically the most popular time for Russians to visit Finland, but the eastern neighbour is no longer providing the post-Christmas cash injection it used to.

Today, Russians visiting Finland will part with an average 220 euros per person, of which a whopping 155 euros will be spent on goods, leaving very little money for hotels, restaurants or services.

Pasi Nurkka from travel research company TAK said that in 2012 Russian travellers spent up to 190 euros per person on goods in Finland.

The falling value of the Russian rouble is the main reason Russian tourists are spending less, according to TAK. Import restrictions are also dampening shopping enthusiasm.

But retailers told Yle that despite the downward trend, Russians remain an important customer group. Department store Stockmann said Russians make more tax free purchases than Chinese shoppers.

Finland’s major retailers told Yle that Russian visitors load their baskets with coffee, tea, sweets and fish—foodstuffs carrying import restrictions. This year Russia cracked down on personal imports, lowering the allowed value from 5,000 to 1,000 euros at land crossings.

TAK said it believes 2019 will witness a five percent uptick in the number of Russian trips to Finland over last year. That said, this year saw a 30 percent rise in visa applications over 2018.

Meanwhile Lappeenranta, some 30 kilometers from the Russian border, has high hopes for its new airport, which is expected to serve some 160,000 travellers in 2020, half of them Russian.

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