I wondered into our Tourist Info on Friday afternoon to educate myself about our summer visitors. I was whisked into a myriad of fantastic vacation stories in just two hours’ time.
Intrigued by the history of the old Finnish town Vyborg, British Anne travelled into Lappeenranta to take a visa-free Saimaa Canal cruise to Vyborg, Russia some years ago. She has now returned to our shores for seven vacations. Anne enjoys the small big city where she can easily walk around, its beaches, the surrounding nature and the pleasant atmosphere that keeps on bringing her back. This time she tried a new way to travel into Lappeenranta: she took the Brahe cruise of Saimaa Travel from Helsinki to Lappeenranta. It was a terrific way to see the coastal Finland and Saimaa Canal, she smiles sprinkling the conversation with some Finnish words. Anne is truly on top of things as she advised me for some good material bargains.
Bicycling around the Lake Saimaa
Lake Saimaa pulled in a German couple in love with Finland. They are here already for the tenth time with their car and bicycles. This summer’s aim is to bicycle around Lake Saimaa, the sporty pair was ready to explore Via Karelia.
Next I met a Dutch couple who had happily explored the Fortress and the Harbor and done the Lake
Saimaa cruise on their two-day-getaway. They found the center just a perfect weekend destination.
Then there was a French pair from Perpignan located just 50 km away from the Girona’s airport. These brave people had seen Lappeenranta listed as a destination, and just decided to check it out. They were very pleased they did and were now interested to explore the nature further next time.
Last but not least I spoke with newlywed Americans. They currently lived in Germany and were touring Scandinavia with a camper after their wedding in Denmark. They were on their way back following along the eastern side of Finland after visiting the North Sea. These honeymooners were simply glowing and my cheeks were hurting from constant smiling.
What do the Tourists seek?
Tourist Info’s helpful ladies meet the following repeating inquiries. German, Swizz and Spanish tourists ask for bakeries and Italians ask for good coffee (Finnish medium roast is not my favorite either). Luckily we have them and satisfied customers show widely recognized thumbs up-sign from the Café Alexander’s terrace. Russians ask for buffet lunch and seem to have taken a special liking to restaurants like Anna-Maria and Café Isac, where the owner her- or himself is present telling about the menu and bringing the home brewed beer (kotikalja) or plate to the table. Europeans seek the Russian restaurant that we oddly still do not have on offer. Visitors also seek Internet cafes and maps, and especially Russian tourists are pleasantly surprised to find free maps. Most of the tourists are interested in cruises and crossing the border.
It seems that the visa-free cruises to Russia are becoming a recognized hit. In addition to Finns, more are more Europeans
are travelling to Lappeenranta for an easy entry to Russia. I also learned that we need to improve the communications about early booking to ensure that the trip can be made within the vacation. The passport information is required three days in advance to travelling and the trip to St. Petersburg takes 72 hours.
Flights bring Visitors
It is clear that the new flights between Girona and Bergamo have increased tourist inflow in addition to already returning Germans and Dutch, the visits of each of these nationalities have increased at the Tourist Info when compared to last year. Also Israelis have ventured into Southeastern Finland due to new direct flights between Tel Aviv and Helsinki. When here for a just a weekend getaway, like the happy-go-lucky Dutch couple, tourists suddenly discover new things to do such as the Visa-Free trips to Russia or hiring a cottage nearby. We are happy to welcome them back.
Our Southeastern border remains busy with the new record of over one million crossings during July. As the tourists inflow from the east continues to increase we can also see a growing mix of visitors. Further which other city has a tourism product called St. Petersburg for its guests?