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Rovaniemi, Santa’s official home, captivates Indians seeking white Christmas, northern lights


Mumbai: More Indians headed to Santa Claus’s home this winter, with Rovaniemi witnessing a 20% uptick in visitors from the country. These comprised high net-worth individuals (HNIs), honeymooners and families looking at the Finnish destination to experience not just a white Christmas, but also the northern lights and Arctic activities.

Rovaniemi is the capital of Lapland, Finland, and is located on the Arctic Circle. It was recognised as the official home of Santa Claus in 2010, but it’s also home to 12,450 reindeer. The tourism growth this Christmas season was about 20%, while the entire winter season is about 10% higher compared to previous year, according to Sanna Karkkainen, CEO, Visit Rovaniemi. When it comes to Indian travellers, there has been a 154.7% increase, measured by registered beds, though Indians make up 1.3% of its total visitors.

“We are witnessing increased interest not only from family/multi-generational families, but equally from India’s millennials, couples/honeymooners, HNIs and UHNIs seeking that once-in-a-lifetime experience that money can’t buy,” says Rajeev Kale, President & Country Head – Holidays, MICE, Visa, Thomas Cook (India), adding that Indians are increasingly becoming discerning travellers and the YOLO (you only live once) mindset is creating strong demand for destinations like Finland. “Our data shows a 20-30% YoY uptick in demand.”

“Finland is a new luxury destination for Indians and is well known among Indians as ‘the happiest country in the world’. Tourists consider Finland a safe destination,” says Erik af Hallstrom, the Consul General of Finland in Mumbai.

Sleigh all day
Mishti Bose, CEO, Quintessentially India, says the luxury concierge service is seeing a 10-15% increase in trips to Rovaniemi and “the main reason in winter is Santa, but also all Arctic winter activities are less expensive than other Scandinavian destinations”.

“Generally, the young people who are looking to enjoy snow activities are very keen for such holidays that also offer Christmas markets, igloo experiences and much more,” says Bose.

The Northern Lights, Christmas celebrations, Santa Claus and special accommodations such as glass huts are of interest to Indians, and in the summer, it’s Helsinki and Lakeland that are gaining popularity.

Daniel D’Souza, President & Country Head – Holidays, SOTC Travel, says that the popular winter destination witnesses its highest demand in the run-up to Christmas. “Rovaniemi witnesses 20-30% higher demand for Nov-Jan period compared to summer months and is sold out during this period. The ratio of requests handled for winter vs summer months is 60:40, respectively,” he says.

Winter 2024 is also going to be record breaking, according to Erik af Hallstrom, who says that annually Rovaniemi expects around 300,000 visitors. “The number of international travellers to Rovaniemi is expected to increase 20% from last year,” he shares. While you can fly to Rovaniemi from many international destinations, four new international routes are opening this year. And the larger aim is to make Rovaniemi an all-year destination. “Rovaniemi and the whole of Lapland have two very unique seasons. Winter has traditionally been the high season, as it is then when the northern lights shine in the sky. But summer is also equally special, that’s when the sun does not set at all,” he says.

According to Bose, social media and word of mouth are the biggest promoters of Rovaniemi. “Indian celebrities, such as Sonakshi Sinha, Rakulpreet, Rajkumar Rao, Chef Ranveer Brar, Deepti Bhatnagar have chosen Lapland as the destination for their winter adventures,” says Erik af Hallstrom, adding that due to its unique aesthetics, Lapland is an increasingly popular filming destination as well. “In 2019, the Bollywood movie War directed by Siddharth Anand was partly filmed in Lapland. We know that our colleagues in Lapland would be very keen to expand cooperation with Indian filmmakers!”


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