Author: Sanja Stamenkovic
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The number of nights spent by Russians at tourist accommodation establishments in Barents Finland continued to decline at the beginning of 2016. Norway, on the contrary, had an increased number of guest nights by Russian visitors this year.

January is usually the most popular month of the year for Russian visitors to travel to Northern Finland, measured by the number of overnight stays. However, this January, in most regions of Northern Finland the number of Russian tourists decreased by more than twenty percent, compared to January 2015.

As data from Statistics Finland shows, this January, the most significant drop (25.6 percent) was registered in Northern Ostrobothnia, where the number of nights spent by Russians went down from 19,380 to 14,427. Lapland also faced a decline of 23.7 percent – from 29,109 to 22,201 overnight stays. The only region in Barents Finland that experienced a slightly positive change was Kainuu, with a growth of 1.9 percent (from 17.482 guest nights in January 2015 to 17,807 in January 2016).

It is worth noting that this year’s decline was not as drastic as the year before. In January 2015, Northern Ostrobothnia had a drop of 29 percent compared to January 2014. At the same time, Kainuu registered a drop of almost thirty percent, while Lapland – nearly forty percent. The last figure was the most dramatic in Northern Finland.

Unlike Finland, Barents Norway attracted an increased number of Russians in the beginning of 2016. However, the number of nights Russians spend in Barents Norway is significantly lower than the number of nights they spend in Barents Finland. Accordingly, Nordland county registered 82 guest nights in January 2015, and 176 nights in the equivalent period of this year, which was the most considerable increase in Barents Norway. In Troms, Russians spent 534 and 541 nights, correspondingly, and in Finnmark, 212 and 308 nights, shows Statistics Norway.

Last year, Patchwork Barents reported that the tourist flow from the Kola Peninsula to Finland decreased in December 2014, when the ruble faced a sharp downturn. Several border checkpoints located in Northern Finland registered a dramatic reduction in border-crossings. Thus, at the Lotta border crossing point, the number of border-crossings was reduced by 47 percent, and at Salla by 45 percent, compared to the previous period.

With a decreasing demand for Finnish visas, the number of nights spent by foreign visitors in the country has also shortened. According to an earlier story by Patchwork Barents, the figure for Barents Finland totaled 1,377,644 nights in 2014, and 1,420,716 nights in 2013. The most considerable reduction happened in Lapland, where the number of nights went down from 1,027,064 to 1,001,400.