Tourism in southern Lapland has dropped to almost zero during the corona epidemic, and no glimmers of light are visible.
Icebreaker Sampo canceled the winter cruises.
The snow castle remained unbuilt.
It has been replaced by the smallest castle in 25-year history inside the adventure spaces.
As in previous years, Asian tourists do not appear on the streets of Kemi and on the ice of the Gulf of Bothnia.
Susanna Koutonen, CEO of Kemi Travel Company, is already trying to reflect on the time after the corona, which, according to her, may loom around Christmas 2021.
- The services of winter 2021–22 have been opened for sale.
It is hoped that in December 2021 at the latest, the time after the corona will be experienced in international winter tourism.
As long as the epidemic situation is out of control and the constraints of different authorities change, we strive to minimize risks and costs.
No plans can be made without additional financial support.
Now we are working on a very short view.
The icebreaker Sampo has been cruising the Bay of Bothnia for more than 30 years.
This winter's cruises have been canceled. Photo: Ville Honkonen
Koutonen does not believe that not building a large snow castle will create an image disadvantage for Kemi's tourism, as international tourism is frozen elsewhere.
- The construction history of the snow castle will not be broken, but the smallest castle in history will be found in Kemi this year.
If a miracle happened and international tourism were allowed as early as summer, we would have a snow castle open.
The experience space has natural snow and ice and the temperature is -5 degrees, he points out.
According to Koutonen, Kemin Matkailu Oy has invested and developed many services in recent years without any development or investment support.
The entire business is based on our own sales.
He therefore hopes that decision-makers will provide financial support for reopening services and recruiting staff.
- We have laid off staff, restructured investment loans, cut costs and revised prices.
We hope that the vaccinations will lead to domestic travel for work and leisure.
Read more: Essi and Ville build a snow castle in Kemi in the middle of horrors - “A unique workplace”
Heli Eilittä, the restaurant manager of Hotelli Merihovi in the center of Kemi, uses the words lousy, bad and horrible in his description of the situation.
Before the corona, the utilization rate of 60 per cent felt good, now we are aiming for a utilization rate of 15 to 20 per cent at best.
- It's been pretty miserable lately.
The situation is absolutely horrible for entrepreneurs in the area.
We had to close the hotel doors for Christmas, and it was the first time in decades, Yesterday regrets.
In addition to tourists, the 71-year-old hotel lives heavily with the daily lives of the Kemi and Tornio factories.
When something happens at Stora Enso, Metsä Group or Outokumpu, Merihovi's life comes to life.
- There is one bright spot left in this misery, and that is Metsä Group's bioproduct factory project in Kemi.
It is expected to hold your breath, Eilittä says.
Merihovi has tried to survive the crown of the corona by living on the nerves of time.
According to Yesterday, it has meant a quick response to any change.
The hotel’s 69 rooms have been occupied.
The downstairs restaurant Ankkuri is also still open.
The second floor restaurant is by appointment only.
- There are now about twenty staff, all part-time.
Breakfast is served in the rooms.
Every day new solutions are invented.
Domestic tourism brought relief to an awkward situation only for a moment in the summer.
According to Eilitän, room prices have been considered affordable for Finnish travelers.
The trips of southern Finns to the north can be seen as booking spikes in a chemical hotel.
- Usually the price of a double room is 127 euros, now it is 95 euros.
The number of guests at the former Tornio City Hotel, now the Park Hotel, is strongly influenced by the limited situation on the western border. Photo: Suvi Kärenlampi
Heidi Ylläsjärvi, Park Hotel Tornio's hotel manager, closely monitors the corona epidemic situation and the restrictions on the western border.
According to him, border traffic largely determines the number of tourists in the Tornio Valley.
- When the border is closed and border traffic is quiet, the number of tourists decreases dramatically.
The situation does not look positive from any angle, he says.
The former Tornio City Hotel has 98 rooms.
The occupancy rate is so low that Ylläsjärvi doesn't even want to talk about it.
He estimates that there will be no signs of improvement during the spring.
- Plans change hour by hour.
It is hoped that the locals will use the restaurant services to the extent that the head stays afloat.
It is not easy for anyone.
The first snow castle was built in Kemi in 1996. The picture is from the castle of 2015. Photo: Vesa Ranta