Natalya and Svetlana Hlebushkina were shopping for clothes at Shopping Centre Galleria in Lappeenranta in March 2014.The flow of Russian visitors to Finland is seemingly on the wane at the eve of what is traditionally the busiest tourism season of the year, says Pasi Nurkka, the chief executive of the Lappeenranta-based research and analysis company TAK Oy.

He forecasts that both the number of Russian visitors and average spending per visitor will decline in comparison to the corresponding period one year earlier.

His forecast is ominous especially in light of the fact that the number of Russian visitors to Finland fell sharply at the end of last year.

TAK Oy reports that a total of 157,000 Russian visitors entered the country through the border-crossing points in south-eastern Finland between 27 December 2014 and 9 September 2015, representing a drop of 118,000 from the corresponding period one year earlier. Meanwhile, the average amount of money they spent in the country dwindled from 500 to no more than 196 euros.

More on the topic:

- Finland is most popular destination for Russian tourists (12 June 2015)

- Toivakka: Finland needs Russian visitors (31 December 2014)

- Decline in Russian visits hits hospitality sector (21 October 2014)

- Russian visitors to spend €100m less in Finland, MaRa estimates (22 August 2014)

- Sanctions to curb flow of Russian visitors to Finland, expert gauges (30 July 2014)

- New sanctions on Russia would be a blow to Eastern Finland (16 July 2015)

- Money spent by Russian shoppers in Finland drops (12 April 2014)

Over 90 per cent of the cross-border road traffic between Finland and Russia flows through the border-crossing points in south-eastern Finland.

Nurkka believes the declines in visitor numbers and spending are attributable to the sliding rouble rates. The European Central Bank reports that the euro has strengthened from roughly 45 roubles in January 2014 to 70 roubles in December 2014 and further to 78 roubles this Christmas.

“Russian tourism to Finland and visitor spending increased as the rouble strengthened last spring. The rouble started to weaken again at the eve of the summer, which brought about a decrease in tourism,” Nurkka explains.

He doubts a turn for the better will take place until the rouble begins to recover its losses.

“If oil prices start rising at some point, also the rouble will go up. The upcoming year is unlikely to be better than the ongoing one. The impact of other factors, besides the rouble rates, on the number of Russian visitors and spending is nominal. Or rather, they have no impact at all,” says Nurkka.

Aapo Mentula – HS
Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Photo: Johannes Wiehn