Finland’s Plans: Resolving Border Tie-Ups and PR of ‘Allegro’

Alena Donskaya, 18.03.2014 09:00
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It is hoped in Suomi that the economic crisis will not affect the number of Russian tourists visiting Finland’s regions for the traditional holidays and shopping. The Finns are willing to ease the border regime and increase the number of trips of the speed train ‘Allegro’.

Despite the troubling forecasts of a brewing economic crisis and Russians spending less on tourist trips, Finland hopes that the Russian tourist flow will at least remain the same during 2014, reports the TRN correspondent.

However, the statistics for the first two months hardly make for a positive forecast: according to the report of the Finnish Border Guard, during January-February the number of Russians crossing the south-eastern border of Finland dropped 3.7% compared to the same period of 2013.

During two months 1.45 million Russians crossed the Finnish border, as opposed to last year’s 1.5 million. The biggest drop was detected at Nuijamaa (Brusnichnoye) crossing point, where passenger flow decreased 12.4% (470 thousand crossings compared to last year’s 537 thousand), Vaalimaa (Torfjanovka) lost 5.5%. Only the crossing point in Imatra (Svetogorsk) saw a slight increase – here the passenger flow grew 9%.

At a journalist meeting  Finnish Consul General in St. Petersburg Ms. Pirjo Tulokas  said that automobile queues at the borders were one of the possible culprits responsible for the drop in the tourist flow: at weekends and during holidays a tourist bus or a car may be stuck in such a queue for 6 or more hours. Finnish authorities are working on solving this problem. For instance, border crossings in Vaalimaa and Nuijamaa are being broadened, with construction slated to be finished at the end of 2015. An electric queue management system will possibly be implemented in the future. In total there are 12 million border crossings a year, and Russian tourists account for 10 million of them.

According to the diplomat, right now the Suomi authorities see no reason to worry about the drop in the Russian arrivals: the tourist season has not started yet, and nor has the ferry service between Russia and Finland.

Also, much untapped potential remains in the speed train ‘Allegro’. Its popularity grants Finns the ability to make positive forecasts as regards the Russian tourist flow. By the way, the number of trips the train makes is planned to be increased in the future. “This process can be expedited if Russia switches to the railway across Sverdlovsk and Kamennogorsk for its freight transportations,” said Ms. Pirjo Tulokas.

According to her, the most frequent tourists to Finland are traditionally people from St. Petersburg: 1.5 million Finnish Schengen visas were given out in Russia in 2013, and 1.2 of those were issued by the Consulate General in the northern capital, which is an absolute record.

Tourism remains an integral sector of Finland’s economy. According to the Ministry of Economy and Trade, the jurisdiction of which includes tourism, the country’s travel industry yields EUR 13.3bn a year, which exceeds the profits from the banking or forest sectors. The global annual growth of tourism profits is 5% a year, while in Finland during the period from 2007 to 2011 this indicator was growing 21% a year.

Experts say that it is much too early to speak of a drop in interest in the Finnish destination.

School holidays are right around the corner, and it is the period when a traditionally large number of tourists from St. Petersburg frequent Finland for holidays and shopping. It is true that the rise of euro rate has had a bit of a negative effect on the general situation, but on the whole we do not expect a significant drop in the number of those who wish to spend holidays in the neighboring country,” VIP-Karta travel company told TRN.

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