Passengers at Helsinki Airport on Thursday, 14 April 2022. (Heikki Saukkomaa – Lehtikuva)

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THE UPCOMING SUMMER is expected to be better for tourism than the two previous ones, with coronavirus restrictions easing and people acting on their pent-up desire to travel despite the Russia-related uncertainty arising from the war in Ukraine and Nato debate in Finland.

“It luckily hasn’t had a direct impact at least yet, but uncertainty is of course high and people are considering things,” Kristiina Hietasaari, the head of Visit Finland, told YLE on Tuesday.

A survey conducted by the travel promotion agency, she told, found that a third of its member companies have received some number of cancellations. Most of the 200 companies, though, reported that bookings are coming in at or almost at the usual rate.

Timo Lappi, the managing director of the Finnish Hospitality Association (Mara), stated to the public broadcasting companies that cancellations have come from, for example, the United States.

“How much Russia’s threats will ultimately affect international tourists remains to be seen. We’ve received a lot of enquiries about the issue, but there aren’t enough cancellations yet that we could talk about mass cancellations,” he said.

Despite the uncertainty, the upcoming summer is expected to be better for tourism than the two previous ones. Lappi reminded YLE that although last summer was good for many localities despite the pandemic, the lack of international travellers had a negative impact particularly on the capital region.

“This year, the expectations are high also for it.”

Finns are set to travel both abroad and domestically, in part due to what is expected to be a healthy offering of events in Finland. The Finnish tourism industry is nonetheless expected to feel the shortage of visitors from Asia and Russia, particularly when compared to the pre-pandemic situation.

“The jump as such isn’t massive, but tourism won’t recover as quickly in this situation. We’ll have to look for travellers from Europe, particularly from Great Britain and the United States – from markets where the competition for customers is considerable. It’ll be more difficult to get every single international customer here than previously,” said Lappi.

Hietasaari echoed the assessment. Competition for American and European visitors is tough, particularly given the still limited recognisability of Finland.

“Investments are being made in Europe. There’s enormous growth potential there. And it’s wonderful that there has been growth from the US market,” she stated to the public broadcasting company.

Finland, she added, can lean particularly on its good reputation: the country is viewed as a safe and functioning society. The threat of the coronavirus will also encourage people to favour destinations that offer space, safety and clean nature.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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