As the rouble continues to strengthen its presence on the exchange market, Russian tourists return to travelling abroad. In March 2015, the Consulate General of Finland in Saint-Petersburg recieved twice as many visa applications as in the beginning of the year.
Head of the visa department, Kari Lehtonen, says that in March the consulate processed 49,000 applications, which is double the amount processed in January. Lehtonen also mentioned that the growing interest in Finnish visas is connected to the strengthening of the rouble. For example, if at the beginning of the year one euro cost more than 80 roubles, by April the rate went down to 50 roubles for one euro, reports Interfax with reference to the Finnish news media YLE. Nonetheless, according to the consulate, current visa issuance rates are “considerably slower than last year’s”.
The Finnish consulate branch office in Murmansk also reports an increase of visa applications compared to the beginning of the year. However, if one compares current data with that of the previous year, the demand for Finnish visas has shortened almost thrice in Murmansk Oblast, writes Severpost. In general, the decrease of interest in Finland among the citizens in Northern Russia has been observed since the beginning of 2014. According to the statistics published by Patchwork Barents, last year Finnish visas in Murmansk were issued only to 47,163 people. As a comparison, by the end of 2013 the figure was 64,056. The latest data released by the consulate shows that since January 2015, the visa department has processed 3,339 applications, while in the same period in 2014 there were 9,485 applications.
The tourist flow from the Kola Peninsula to Finland decreased in December 2014 when the rouble went down sharply. In particular, the most significant reduction of border-crossings was registered on checkpoints located in the North. Thus, on “Lotta” the number of border-crossings was reduced by 47%, on “Salla” by 45%, compared with 2014.
With a decreasing demand for Finnish visas the number of nights spent by foreigners in the country also shortened. According to Patchwork Barents, the figure for Northern 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.