Finland beckoning Indian travellers with lakes, saunas and Santa

August 20th, 2008 - 1:46 pm ICT by IANS  

Helsinki, Aug 20 (IANS) The picture postcard land of lakes, reindeers and the mystic Santa Claus - Finland - has caught the Indian traveller’s fancy. Statistics reveal that the number of Indian tourists to the small Nordic country has jumped by over 50 percent in the last one year.A country with a population of just over five million people, Finland wears completely different looks in its four seasons, winter, spring, summer and autumn. The starkest difference, of course, is between summer and winter - which is also reflected in the people’s nature.

The summers are vibrant with long, warm days of sunshine - when the sun is high up in the sky even in midnight - and people celebrate the midsummer festival on the decks of their country cottages on the summer solstice on June 22.

In winter, Finland is a world apart.

As the soft snow envelopes the country, the warm cheer of Christmas and Santa in his home up north in Lapland fills these senses. Even as darkness prevails around, the yellow lights in the houses dotting the entire place gives it a fairytale look.

Papori Bharati of the Finnish tourism board in India said that although they try and promote Finland in all seasons, it’s the summers that seem to be attracting most of the Indian tourists.

“An analysis of the number of tourists travelling to Finland from January to April this year shows that Indians seem to prefer the warm Finnish summer months over the winters.

“In January this year, 4,684 Indian tourists went to Finland while the number went up to 5,789 by April,” Bharati told IANS.

Going back a little more, 39,513 Indian tourists visited Finland in 2006. The numbers went up to 49,598 in 2007 - an increase of 25.5 percent.

“And the response this year has been even more heartening. If you compare the number of Indian tourists who went there between January and April last year and this year, you will see that there is a leap of 50.6 percent,” Bharati said.

Between January and April last year the number of Indian tourists going to Finland was 14,007. The numbers this year in the same period went up to 21,098.

Taina Tornstrom, a senior official with the Nordic airline Finnair, which operates regular flights between India and Helsinki - seven times a week to and from Delhi and five times a week to and from Mumbai - said that the visas issued to Indians by the Finnish embassy in India had also increased from 40,000 in 2006 to around 60,000 in 2007 to reflect the growing interest in Finland among Indians.

The land of Nokia - Nokia also happens to be a small town in Finland about 200 km from Helsinki - Finland is an example of a technologically savvy country with a high standard of living, without compromising on its natural wealth of flora and fauna.

Finland, because of the more than 100,000 lakes that it has, is also referred to as the Lakeland.

Kuopio, one of the Finnish cities in eastern Finland, has a chunk of the country’s lakes. Kallavesi, one of its lakes, is as big as 515 square kilometres and although its water looks black, they say that it is so pure that you can simply dip your glass and drink it.

“We have Santa. We have lakes. We have saunas. We have the reindeer. We have northern lights. The interest (for Finland) is really growing (in India),” Tornstrom said.

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