Fewer Russian New Year tourists than a year ago
Ten per cent decline reported from last season
Fewer Russian tourists are coming to Finland to mark the New Year than in previous years.
The Finnish Tourist Board estimates that about ten per cent fewer Russians will spend the holiday in Finland this year than in the 2008-2009 sesason.
Last year, more than 100,000 Russian citizens travelled to Finland to mark the New Year.
Russians have become an important part of the Finnish travel market, comprising more than one in three foreign travellers arriving in Finland.
The amount of money spent by Russian visitors was greater than their proportion in the nationality mix of foreign tourists; last year they left nearly EUR 600 million in the country.
In spite of the difficulties, companies in the business still believe in Russia. In Rantasalmi in the south of Savo, a row of luxury holiday homes stand near the Linnasaari National Park. In spite of heavy snowfall, the shore of the Saimaa waterway can just barely be discerned from the windows.
The Järvisydän holiday centre has invested millions of euros in recent years in facilities, including eight holiday homes with 220 square metres of floor space each. The most recent one was completed in September.
The target groups for marketing include Finnish corporations and Russian holidaymakers.
“It is a possibility for all of the east of Finland”, says CEO Markus Heiskanen. “It is likely that investments into tourism of in all of the east of Finland would be much smaller if the Russian market did not exist.”
Currently, one in seven customers at the holiday centre come from Russia, but the owners hope to increase the proportion through marketing.
The Russian dream holiday in Finland includes a peaceful cottage, outdoor activities in a snowy landscape, and shopping. However, tough economic times have led to changes in habits.
“Clearly, people are asking for value more than before. The price is getting to be the decisive factor, while it used to be of little importance for the Russians”, says Laura Puustinen, sales chief at Savonlinna Travel Ltd.
Arto Asikainen, regional director of the Finnish Tourist Board, says that the economic crisis has forced the Russian middle class to cut back on spending. The board believes that growth will resume next year, but not everyone is as optimistic.
“I predict a very difficult year for the business”, says Jari Laine of the Restel hotel chain.
Heiskanen of Järvisydän is optimistic. He believes that the worst is over.
The New Year holiday looks good: all of the holiday homes are full of Russians. Even the new buildings have been booked - the ones which cost EUR 2,500 a week to rent.
The price might seem steep, but Järvisydän sales secretary Katja Priborovitš notes that Finnish rental cottages compare well with what is on offer in Russia.
“In Russia, the quality is lower, but the prices are higher.”
Previously in HS International Edition:
Russian-born investors to open spa & wellness hotel in Kirkkonummi in January (5.11.2009)
Finland continues to attract Russian tourists, but next year looks bleaker on the incoming front (15.12.3008)
Record number of Russian tourists this year (12.11.2008)
Finnish Tourist Board (MEK)