Finnish travel agencies have revealed that bookings for trips to Russia have plummeted in comparison to the corresponding period last year, primarily due to the actions of Russia on the Crimean peninsula and the ongoing tensions in Ukraine.
“We have cancelled a few trips: one package tour to Karelia and a couple to St. Petersburg. Altogether, [the cancellations] concern roughly 400 people,” estimates Kirsti Laine, the managing director at Saimaa Travel Net.
“Interest in leisure travel to Russia has plunged,” states Mikko Koistinen, the CEO at Aikamatkat. “For us, the drop is 80—90 per cent.”
Although other travel agencies specialising in trips to Russia provide less dramatic estimates, all acknowledge that Finns' interest in trips to Russia has petered out. “In March and April, sales have been relatively weak in comparison to last year,” characterises Maarit Haavisto-Koskinen, the sales and marketing director at Russian Tours.
Raimo Kaisanlahti, the CEO at Turku Neva Tours, says that although a couple of trips have been cancelled otherwise sales remain close to the levels of last year.
The reasons for the slumping interest, however, are obvious.
“Fear of personal violence, the rise of nationalism, the possibility of an armed conflict, imaginary problems at the border, ideological reasons, disapproval of Putin, a general wariness of Russia created by the media,” Koistinen lists, citing feedback from customers who have cancelled their trip.
“Trips even to Minsk have been cancelled due to fears of a Russian invasion of the entire Eastern Europe,” he adds.
The fears, Koistinen views, have been fuelled by the media. “At present, both the Eastern and Western media stir up prejudice with their sensationalist reports, which is bad for everyone.”
Aleksi Teivainen – HT
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Photo: Markku Ulander / Lehtikuva