Finland prepares for an increase in the number of tourists from Russia. More than 10 million of our countrymen visited the Northern country last year. Majority of them – residents of St. Petersburg and the Leningrad region.
Next year this figure could increase by 15%. Today the Finnish consulate reported at a press-conference that it estimates 1.2 million Finnish visas to Finland to be given to residents of St. Petersburg next year. Our northern neighbors are neither put off by a sharp increase in the number of those willing to visit the land of the Santa Claus nor by potential abolishment of the visa regime with Russia. Border checkpoints are already considering measures to avoid long queues at the interstate border.
Sami Henttonen, captain of Finland’s border and customs unit: “We’re currently going through modernization and renovations, which will help passengers to avoid issues at the border. After we finish modernizing the Vaalima, Nuyamaa and Imatra checkpoints, we will post online some photo and video materials on how to pass the border routine”.
47 new booths will be installed at the checkpoints after the renovation. Special designated lanes for those tourists who have no need to fill in customs papers will also be created. They would then be able to pass the border without even leaving their cars.
Last weekend the border checkpoint at Svetogorsk saw a traffic jam of 270 cars. The Finns admit – the checkpoint’s throughput capacity is 2.5 times lower than it should be. And that’s before the high tourist season even started – traditionally it is during the winter and New Year holidays. 77% go shopping and 23% for vacation. 90% travel to Finland by car, 4% choose train or ferry, and only 2% prefer traveling by plane.
Soon the passenger flow could increase two-fold, at the minimum. The Finnish authorities have already sanctioned a 72-hour visa-free policy for tourists, but the EU is blocking a complete border-free regime. That’s for now, at least. In order to avoid traffic jams at border checkpoints now, the Finnish border unit advises approaching the checkpoints at night, when there are less cars, and keep track of the traffic flow at a designated website - granitsa-online.com.