Between November and March, Finland’s far north usually throngs with international holidaymakers who visit to experience a snowy wonderland of reindeer rides, ice castles and the “real” Santa’s grotto.
However, despite record visitor numbers in the past few years, the COVID-19 shutdown would leave many of Finnish Lapland’s tourism businesses facing ruin this winter.
Many fear that government moves to ease travel restrictions in the Nordic country would not go far enough to offset the damage.
Tour operator Sini Jin said that her firm faces hard times if business does not pick up.
Jin has run Nordic Unique Travels for five years, offering northern lights safaris and expeditions into the Arctic wilderness to thousands of travelers from Europe and Asia every season.
“Now we’ve had one or two bookings a week, and mostly we’re just doing refunds,” Jin told reporters in Rovaniemi, an Arctic Circle town that markets itself as “the official hometown of Santa Claus.”
Her firm would only employ “two or three” seasonal staff this year instead of the normal 80.
Jin’s company received emergency financial aid after the Finnish government put aside more than 1 billion euros (US$1.18 billion) to help businesses.
A loan has come through that would see her firm through December, but the future is still precarious.
“Everything we’ve worked for will be gone so quickly if we don’t get help,” she said.
Her predicament is shared by tourist companies across Finland’s vast Lapland region, where the sector supports 10,000 jobs and generates 1 billion euros of annual revenue.
A tourist board survey found that without international visitors this winter, about 60 percent of tourism companies expect to lose at least half their turnover and three-quarters would have to lay off staff.
“We’re not hopeful of getting any significant bookings,” Husky Park managing director Kaj Erkkila told reporters.
The 10-person family firm has been a popular dogsledding destination for “many decades” and keeps 109 Siberian huskies.
“If this winter’s revenue stays low, we might not be able to operate in 2021-22 either, as maintaining the dogs is very expensive,” Erkkila said.
Tourist board head Nina Forsell said that the situation is make-or-break for many firms.
“If companies go down this winter, it will take a long time for them to rise up again,” she told reporters.
While many EU countries are tightening lockdown rules as COVID-19 infections rise, Finland’s center-left government last week eased travel restrictions to boost the tourism industry.
Yet the measures have been branded “a big disappointment” by industry bodies in Lapland, who have said the rules are unworkable.
Arrivals from countries such as the UK and France, which are among the largest visitor groups to Lapland, can avoid quarantine if they visit for fewer than three days and travel with an organized group.
However, tourism bosses have said that many trips to Lapland are longer — and these would require visitors to quarantine and undergo further testing.
“Are these measures enough to meet demand and keep businesses going here in Lapland? I’m not convinced,” Visit Rovaniemi head Sanna Karkkainen told reporters.
Tourist providers worked with health experts to draw up safety procedures, which they said should allow for quarantine rules to be relaxed.
Finland’s COVID-19 infection rates remained among Europe’s lowest over the summer. Of the 9,000 confirmed infections, just 243 have been recorded in Lapland.
“We’re not giving up and we’re trying to get the politicians to see there is a better way,” Forsell said.
Some large companies, such as Rovaniemi’s Santa Park attraction, have already decided not to open this winter.
The park usually employs 400 staff and welcomes 120,000 visitors each season.
However, many smaller providers have said they would do all they can to stay open for business and hope that the government would allow for more international visitors.
“We are dealing with the highest possible demand for Lapland travel, that’s the heartbreaking thing,” Sanna Karkkainen said. “We really need this industry in order to build a future for Lapland, and letting it go is not an option.”
WIN-WIN SITUATION: Customers, products and client portfolios of the companies are complementary, allowing for inroads into new fields, Chipbond’s chairman said Chipbond Technology Corp (頎邦) yesterday said it plans to acquire about a 31 percent stake in Orient Semiconductor Electronics Ltd (華泰電子) in a cash-and-share deal, aiming to make inroads into flash memory-chip packaging. Chipbond said the strategic alliance would open the door for the company to enter the flash memorychip packaging and testing market, which is a new business for the Hsinchu-based company. Chipbond primarily provides testing and packaging services for driver integrated circuits that are used in flat panels. BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY “Except for flash memory chips, we also saw a lot of new businesses that require the technologies of Chipbond or Oriental
MOMENTUM: While next-generation smartphones feature more semiconductors and vendors increase their inventory, the chipmaker remains focused on production in Taiwan Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC, 台積電), the sole chip supplier for Apple Inc’s iPhone series, yesterday raised its revenue forecast again, saying that robust demand for 5G smartphones and high-performance-computing (HPC) would help boost revenue this year by 30 percent in US dollar terms. Three months ago, the chipmaker estimated that revenue would grow 20 percent this year from last year, reaching its long-term growth target of 15 to 20 percent annually. “Moving into the fourth quarter, we expect our growth in revenue to be supported by strong demand for our industry-leading 5-nanometer technology driven by 5G smartphone launches and HPC-related applications,”
Luxury hotel Mandarin Oriental Taipei (文華東方酒店) plans to reopen its guestrooms in December to take advantage of a boom in domestic travel. The reopening would come six months after the five-star facility suspended room operations to cut costs as countries across the region impose border controls to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, diminishing demand for business travel. “We are delighted to share that Mandarin Oriental Taipei will resume room operations on December 1,” the hotel said in a statement yesterday. The hotel in Songshan District (松山) said it would adopt stringent health and safety practices to ensure the well-being of its guests and employees. It
India’s COVID-19 economic gloom turned into despair this week, on news that its per capita GDP for this year might be lower than that of Bangladesh. “Any emerging economy doing well is good news,” Kaushik Basu, a former World Bank chief economist, said on Twitter after the IMF updated its World Economic Outlook. “But it’s shocking that India, which had a lead of 25% five years ago, is now trailing.” Ever since it began opening up the economy in the 1990s, India’s dream has been to emulate China’s rapid expansion. After three decades of persevering with that campaign, slipping behind Bangladesh hurts