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No Christmas Cheer as Pandemic Batters Finland’s Rovaniemi Tourism

October 16, 2020, 10.15 PM

ROVANIEMI, – Although Christmas is coming, Finland’s Rovaniemi is in a shortage of cheer as the coronavirus pandemic is hitting its tourism sector hard.

Rovaniemi is the location of Santa’s home village in northern Finland, but unlike previous years, the flocks of tourists that usually flock the town at this time of year are not there.

Finland has one of Europe’s strictest coronavirus travel restrictions and while it has a low-level of infections, more foreigners are barred from entering the country.

Those that manage to pass through the stringent coronavirus travel restrictions can face a two-week quarantine.

Read also: Finland Travel Restrictions Reinstated as Second Wave of Infections Hit Europe

Many businesses in the northern part of Finland including those in Rovaniemi rely on tourists flying in to meet Santa Claus, see the Northern Lights or take a snowmobile safari.

With the world deep in the coronavirus pandemic, visitor numbers have plummeted.

In August 2020, foreign tourist numbers were down 78 percent from a year earlier, according to travel industry data from Business Finland.

"For local businesses, definitely, Christmas is in danger," said Sanna Karkkainen, managing director of Visit Rovaniemi tourist board.

"Christmas itself will come, but how merry it will be, that's the question mark."

Finland escaped the worst effects of the coronavirus pandemic in spring, opting for a strict lockdown, which included isolating the capital, Helsinki.

Read also: Lockdowns Battered The Eurozone Economy in Q2

Now, as in much of Europe, infections are on the rise again, hitting a daily record earlier this month, and the government is considering new measures to contain the spread of the virus.

The country of 5.5 million people has reported nearly 13,000 Covid-19 infections in total so far, including 346 deaths.

With Santa greeting kids from behind a Plexiglas screen and elves wearing masks, Christmas cheer is already in short supply.


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