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rovaniemi reindeer Sprint race The 11th annual reindeer sprint race to take place in the centre of Rovaniemi Rovaniemi’s traditional spring market week, which runs from Tuesday to Thursday, will culminate in the annual reindeer sprint race on Friday, 25 March. The reindeer and their drivers will be charging the course from Pohjanhovi to the Lordi Square from 18:00 onwards. The Rovaniemi Reindeer Sprint Race is an invitation-only event, with invitations issued to the season’s top-ranking reindeer and their drivers. It is run as an elimination race, with three reindeer in each heat competing for a place in the next round. The three fastest competitors will go through to the final. The Rovaniemi race is the first and oldest of its kind in the world. It made history in 1928 when the clause banning reindeer driving in the city centre was overturned.


Santa’s Hotels launched in Finland The Santa’s Hotels brand is all about uniquely Lappish, cosy and approachable, yet international, chic and stylish hotels. The interiors and colour schemes draw on the themes of Santa Claus and Lapland. Santa’s Hotels’ Hotel Santa Claus in Rovaniemi offers guests the opportunity to experience the unique atmosphere in the immediate vicinity of Santa Claus’ grotto. “The opportunities Choice were offering no longer complemented our business and we found that their profile was low, particularly in Finland. In fact, we were their only hotel in the whole country. We looked at the different options available to us and, in the end, decided to start our own chain. It allows us to be more flexible, expand our range of services and really make the most of our Finnish identity,” explains Maarit Salminen, Santa’s Hotels’ Managing Director. Of the three hotels currently in the portfolio, Hotel Santa Claus was completed in late 2001 and Hostel Rudolf in 2003. Hotel Tunturi in Saariselkä was first inaugurated in 1968 and has since been renovated and extended on a

number of occasions. The latest expansion was in 2008 when a new building named Gielas opened its doors. The most recent renovation took place last summer when 68 standard rooms were renewed. The Santa’s Hotels chain has a permanent staff of 83, which doubles during the high season at Christmas and spring. At Rovaniemi, international guests make up 75% of all visitors and just over half at Saariselkä, meaning that plenty of work remains to be done to attract Finnish custom. To that end, the chain has recently extended their meeting and conference offering. Santa’s Hotels’ parent company is the highly diversified Sava Group, which, in addition to hotels and restaurants, is actively involved in engineering works, land remediation and property investment. In 2009, the group had a turnover of EUR 20.7m and it employs a staff of 150. Sava Group is a Laplandbased family business owned by Seppo Aho and his family.


rovaniemi’S reputation aS tHe oFFicial Home oF Santa clauS now tHat little bit more oFFicial When Santa Claus declared Rovaniemi his new home town at the inaugural celebrations for the new and bigger city of Rovaniemi on New Year’s Eve 2005, not even the man himself in his wildest dreams would have expected how far and wide the city’s new status would be recognised. Across Finland, his announcement was familiar news but, happily, the rest of the world are now cottoning on too. The City of Rovaniemi was previously granted a European Union community trademark as The Official Hometown of Santa Claus ®”, reflecting European recognition of Rovaniemi’s status. The trademark has now been registered in the United States and Japan, meaning that the city’s reputation as the home of Santa Claus is being cemented far beyond

Europe’s borders. Work is also currently underway to register the trademark in Norway, China, South Korea and Russia, meaning that the good news will soon be familiar virtually across the globe. Santa Claus now lives at the Santa Claus village all year round and is occupied fulltime in his vocation of fostering good and

kind behaviour in children and adults alike and spreading the Christmas message of love and goodwill across the world. Every year, Santa Claus receives hundreds of thousands of visitors and letters from all around the world.

rovaniemi due to be SHowcaSed at alanya, turkey Rovaniemi will play a significant role at a cultural and tourism festival to be organised in its twin city of Alanya in Turkey at the end of May. A large delegation from Rovaniemi will be flying to Turkey to take part in the four-day event and to promote the city to its Turkish friends. The delegation will be headed by Santa Claus himself, who will be participating in the festival opening ceremony and festival procession, which will weave its way through the city following the ceremony. Santa Claus will also have his very own grotto at the festival, where he will be welcoming young visitors. A string quartet from the Lapland Chamber Orchestra will be showcasing Finnish and

Lappish music, while Rockcorn, winners of a music talent contest held in Rovaniemi in 2010 will be performing music of a somewhat different genre. The programme will also include a range of dance performances, including both traditional and modern disciplines. A Lapland-themed evening will offer the ideal opportunity to put Lappish food culture centre stage. The event will take place at a beach-side restaurant and will feature a menu of flame-grilled salmon and other Lappish delicacies prepared by a two-strong team of professional chefs. The delegation are currently drawing up plans to conclude the evening with a traditional midsummer dance, including a kokko bonfire, on the beach.

On the visual arts front, Rovaniemi will be bringing an exhibition by Andreas Alariesto, an environmental exhibition showcasing snow and ice construction by Timo Jokela, Dean of the Arts Faculty at the University of Lapland and an industrial design exhibition curated by the same faculty. Younger residents’ voices will be heard in the Rovaniemi through Our Eyes exhibition. It consists of works by the Ounasvaara lower secondary school and features images of Lapland’s nature, winter, snow and aurora borealis projected onto a large video screen.


electric SnowmobileS – experience nature tHe natural way witHout noiSe and FumeS

Rovaniemi University of Applied Sciences is developing an electrically-powered snowmobile designed for the tourism industry. A prototype was launched in early 2011 using a standard Lynx chassis, which will undergo further testing and development over the next three years. Once the R&D phase has been concluded, it is envisaged that the model will be ready for mass production. Local tourism businesses are enthusiastic about a snowmobile that will allow their visitors to experience Lapland’s unique nature in peace and quiet. Another benefit of the newstyle zero-emissions snowmobile is that it allows those riding behind the lead snowmobile to enjoy the experience without being forced to inhale exhaust fumes. The track will still emit some noise although this will be practically drowned out in deeper snow. Jyrki Niva, Managing Director of Lapland Safaris and a snowmobile trailblazer, says his dream is a production-ready model that would lend itself to three or four hour half-day safaris, including a one-hour outward journey, an hour’s activities and an hour’s return journey. The research is funded by Tekes, the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation, BRP Finland, a snowmobile manufacturer, Fortum, a Nordic energy provider and local electricity distributors. Lapin Kansa Oy

barentS centre appointS new managing director Barents Centre Finland Oy has appointed economist Martti Hahl to serve as Managing Director. Announcing the appointment, Mauri Gardin, Mayor of Rovaniemi and Barents Centre Chairman advised that the company had received thirty-four applications from extremely high-calibre candidates, which led to the recruitment process taking longer than had been initially envisaged. The board confirmed that their unanimous decision had been based on Mr Hahl’s extensive experience and demonstrable expertise in marketing and strategic communications in Russia. A St Petersburg-based consultancy, founded

by Mr Hahl in 1995, offers services to Finnish and international business ranging from SMEs to listed corporations. “We are confident that our appointment will serve to boost the profile and reputation of businesses and other organisations in our region and will help to launch them into the North West Russian market,” Mr Gardin concluded. The Barents Centre will officially begin operating on 1 February 2011 and will be based at the Lapland Chambers of Commerce offices in Rovaniemi.

The Centre was founded to facilitate the region’s economic Barents strategy and programme of action, which have been drafted in close co-operation with a wide range of Northern Finland-based stakeholders, experts and local businesses. The Centre’s aim is to support Finnish businesses and other entities in accessing the North West Russian market, where Finnish and Northern Finnish specialist expertise is very much in demand.


rovaniemi SixtHFormerS raiSe FundS to build ScHool in drc A Rovaniemi sixth form college has raised funds to build a school for 400 primary school pupils in Kubagu in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The school’s inauguration ceremony was held last autumn. The school has since then seen a rise in its pupil numbers and attracted teaching staff from a near-by town. The initial fundraising idea came from the Lyseonpuisto Sixth Form’s own history. When the Rovaniemi-based school was founded more than a century ago, it, too, was built using donated funds. This inspired the current cohort of pupils to mark the centenary with a similar fundraiser of their own to support education in the developing world. The pupils worked hard to raise the necessary funds, organising plays, music recitals, an art exhibition, performances at morning

assembly and a bazaar. The School for Africa project inspired a huge number of pupils to take part. A number of other schools and local businesses also came onboard to offer their support to the venture. In the autumn of 2008, the pupils organised an art exhibition, entitled Dark Continent with profits going to the fundraising pot. The works on display were created by the school’s own art students. All the events and activities raised a total

of EUR 45,000, which were used to construct a comprehensive school in the DRC. “This has been the best kind of global action a school could take,” commented Anu Turunen, Careers Advisor at Lyseonpuisto school. YLE Lappi/ Jarmo Siivikko

witH goodwill From nyc to rovaniemi Two years ago, the Long family from New York City visited Rovaniemi on their way home from a visit to Mrs Long’s native country of Lithuania. Their first visit to Finland, a stop over at Helsinki Airport, with its reindeer displays, reindeer pelts and books and images about Santa Claus and Lapland, made such a lasting and inspiring impression on all four members of the family that they decided to return to that magical land – and Santa Claus’ hometown of Rovaniemi to be specific. “We have travelled extensively around the world but had never been to Finland. Two years ago we bought some Lappish souvenirs at Helsinki Airport that we absolutely loved and they inspired us to visit Finland and experience Lapland’s wintery wonderland of goodwill for ourselves,” Bill Long explains. And so the Long family booked a sixday holiday in Rovaniemi to experience the true spirit of Christmas and the Arctic beauty of Rovaniemi.

bringers of goodwill The Long family were keen to include a visit to a Finnish school during their visit, as their

two daughters are both school age. Rovaniemi Tourism & Marketing stepped in and made their wish come true with a visit to Rantavitikka Comprehensive, where they were welcomed by Headmaster Esa Pasma. According to Pasma, the school receives a number of international visitors every year but this particular delegation was a little bit more unusual. “When we were in the process of trying to co-ordinate our diaries with Bill Long’s secretary, they also asked for our pupil headcount. It turned out that Mr Long is a toy manufacturer based in the Bronx, NYC and as a token of goodwill and Christmas cheer from New York to Rovaniemi, he sent us a huge parcel of New York-themed Christmas gifts

for our pupils,” Mr Pasma says, a little overwhelmed by the unexpected gesture. For Bill Long, it was obvious that when travelling you act like a local. In Rovaniemi, the home of Santa Claus and the magic of Christmas, that meant bringing his own dose of Christmas cheer and happiness. “That is the reason I wanted to bring these small gifts with us. I want to do good and this is a great way to make a difference,” he concludes.


water under tHe microScope at SinettÄ ScHool Rovaniemi’s Sinettä School has been running an EU-sponsored eTwinning schools portal project, in which a number of schools across Europe work together to investigate water in its different physical states. At the Sinettä School, pupils are naturally turning their attention to its solid states; ice and snow. “The theme can be explored during natural sciences lessons but can also be taken up through languages or art. In Physics, we have compared the way light and laser beams refract through lenses and spectra made of glass

and ice, explains Sinettä Headmaster, Mikko Lumme. Pupils across the school’s different year groups have taken part in the project and created an ice monument and ice installations in the school playground. “We have manufactured ice here at the school and have also collected trailer loads of ice from the nearby Ounas river,” Lumme continues. The project has proved hugely popular among the school’s pupils and may well be

continued next year. Alternatively, it may be turned into a cross-curricular Comenius project. “The project was initially drawn up in the eTwinning portal by our school and our partner school in Latvia. We now have partners from six different countries taking part,” Lumme concludes.


rovaniemi conFirmed aS baSe For new mining agency Rovaniemi has been announced as the new base for the Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency (Tukes) mining unit. Tukes Director General Seppo Ahvenainen made the announcement on the YLE Radio 1 morning news programme. Staff from the Tukes mining safety unit and the Ministry of Employment and the Economy will relocate to the new centre.

The Ministry of Employment and the Economy unit has a staff of 13-15 employees. Tukes is currently the agency responsible for mining safety in Finland. According to Ahvenainen, the relocation is designed to create a brand new centre to oversee the Finnish mining sector. The decision to relocate to Rovaniemi has been given the go ahead at the Ministry of Employment and the Economy, Ahvenainen confirms. “One of the key reasons for the relocation is that it was felt that the agency should follow the industry. The regionalisation report found Rovaniemi to be the optimal location,” Ahvenanainen concludes. YLE Uutiset

HouSe-building booSt For rovaniemi Rovaniemi has seen a resurgence in construction locally, following two relatively quiet years. In the past twelve months, planning permission has been granted for 190 detached homes, 15 semi-detached homes and seven residential blocks. The largest increase was seen in the semidetached sector, with planning permission levels rising five-fold on the previous year. Permissions granted for detached homes rose by a fifth and doubled for residential blocks. “The number of permissions granted for detached homes is very significant, if you compare it to the average figure over the past few decades, which stands at around 130 houses annually,” says Erkki Lehtoniemi, Head of Environmental Supervision at the City of Rovaniemi, clearly pleased at the way things are shaping up. As Lehtoniemi points out, what makes the figures all the more impressive is that they were not generated by a major release of land in a single location. “If you look at the figures, it is the Län-

sikangas and Vennivaara areas that have been the drivers for this growth. In part, the figures also reflect the notices to build issued for undeveloped land in Ylikylä and Saarenkylä,” Lehtoniemi continues. Ensuring that land is brought forward for development is one of the cornerstones of Rovaniemi’s economy, both in terms of its direct and indirect impact. “This level of construction activity is a huge boost for the whole city. If you assume that a detached home costs on average EUR 200,000, private home builders have contributed some EUR 40m to the city economy this year alone. We are confident that the figures speak volumes of Rovaniemi’s reputation as a dynamic and attractive location,” he concludes.


2010 excellent year for Rovaniemi tourism Visitor numbers to Rovaniemi began to improve during the spring and the growth continued rapidly until the end of November. The disruption to airline services dented the figures somewhat and, for December, visitor numbers were down by more than 3%.

More than 470,000 overnight stays were recorded in Rovaniemi in the past year, representing an increase of 6.6% on the previous year. Domestic and international overnight visitor numbers grew by 5% and 8% respectively. More than half of all visitors spending a night in Rovaniemi came from outside Finland. Russian, German, British and French nationals formed the largest visitor groups by country. Overnight stay numbers grew across all the key market segments, with the largest increases seen for Russia and Germany. The number of British and French over-

night visitors dropped slightly. The second largest number of international overnight stays nationally were registered in Rovaniemi, with Rovaniemi retaining its title as the second most popular destination for international visitors to Finland. The occupation rate for all hotels and other overnight establishments was 49.3%, exceeding the national average. 2010 saw the rate increase by 2.7 percentage points, with the average cost of an overnight’s stay also increasing slightly.


Lapland-based gaming company set to collaborate with Hollywood star The Rovaniemi-based gaming company Lapland Studio is due to release a mobile game with action film star Wesley Snipes. Snipes can also be seen in the action-packed Julius Styles: The International, due for release this spring. From June, the game will also be available as an iPhone and iPad games app and will later be released for other platforms. Lapland Studio Managing Director Ilkka Immonen sees this as a great PR opportunity. “It’s huge news for us to have such a big name Hollywood star onboard. The company name will now be appearing on top-rated gaming sites, which in itself will significantly raise our profile. “”This is by far the biggest thing we’ve ever done. There isn’t a single other outfit in Finland who have had a similar venture with a Hollywood star,” Immonen says

but immediately adds a word of caution against excessive expectations. “We are aiming big”, he says but admits to viewing the whole project with a typically Finnish mixture of pessimism and realism. “We are just going to take this one step at a time”.

A Christmas phone call The joint venture with Mr Snipes came about after Immonen had spent a couple of years making contact with celebrities of his calibre. Snipes was one of the people he approached. “Mr Snipes rang just over a year ago on Christmas Day and said he was interested.” The agreement was signed six months ago. For about a year now, Immonen has been on the phone on a daily basis to Britain and the States, as they are designing the story and

visuals for the game. The main character, Julius Styles, is an international secret agent, who doesn’t necessarily always reach for his gun but uses his wits to his advantage. The game is fast moving, requiring a sharp mind and fast reflexes. According to Immonen, the majority of the game’s content has been created by Lapland Studio’s 12-strong team. Snipes came up with the initial idea and the team went to work creating the game around it. Lapland will feature in the game and other settings include Venice, Italy and North America. The aim is to get a choice of games into production as the agreement with Wesley Snipes covers a number of years. © Lapin Kansa Oy

Norwegian to take flight in Rovaniemi The arrival of budget airline Norwegian has been a source of great excitement at Rovaniemi. The company would not be drawn on advance booking numbers but confirms that they have been very encouraged by the response they have received. Norwegian is serious about its bid to enter the Rovaniemi market. Åsa Larsson, Norwegian’s Head of Communications in Sweden confirms that demand for the services to Rovaniemi and Helsinki has been steady. “We are genuinely looking forward to launching our new routes to these excellent destinations,” she says. Norwegian’s Rovaniemi-Helsinki service will commence in late March and will operate

once daily, seven days a week. Larsson cannot yet be drawn on further possible routes. “We have certainly not ruled out further routes at a later date but it would be premature to discuss the issue at this point. We will start small and see how things go,” she confirms. Larsson is keen to stress that they are serious about the Rovaniemi market as the

city is centrally located and the company is keen to make cheap flights available for the locals. “The city is a real visitor magnet, particularly in winter and our flights will offer Rovaniemi’s residents a great opportunity to travel to Europe much more affordably.” YLE Lappi / Matti Konttinen


ounaSvaara SixtH Form – doorS open to tHe world Ounasvaara sixth form college in Rovaniemi has been blazing the international trail in recent years. The school’s participation in a number of cross-border projects has attracted a regular stream of exchange students from as far a field as Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States and during last year’s autumn half-term, the school’s German and History teachers organised a trip to Berlin, designed to give pupils an introduction to German culture and history and offer them the opportunity to put their language skills to the test. A joint EU-sponsored Comenius project with E Ferm School in Mantua, Italy has ensured that the Rovaniemi youngsters have had ample opportunity for getting to know

this Mediterranean country beyond its pasta, pizza and football. “Last spring, three of our pupils went off to Italy on an exchange programme, while two Italian pupils came to stay with us here in Finland, to learn more about our school system and culture,” says Ari Sirviö, Careers Advisor at the Ounasvaara Sixth Form. The Italian IPM pupils spent a total of three months in Rovaniemi and at the Ounas-

vaara school and lived with local host families for the entire duration of their stay, something Ari Sirviö applauds. “By staying in local families, they were able to get a better feel for Finnish culture and Finnish lifestyle.”

Fc Santa clauS continueS to make waveS in europe poSt-cHriStmaS There are no signs that the whirl of publicity enjoyed by “Santa’s football club”, the Rovaniemi-based FC Santa Claus, is on the wane following the end of the festive season. Indeed, Spain’s largest sporting title MARCA featured a two-page spread on the club in their fifth issue of the year. Each issue of MARCA reaches a readership of three million, making it Spain’s number one daily newspaper. The article covered FC Santa’s history, current activities and investors and re-lived the dramatic twists and turns of last autumn’s 1st Division qualifiers. Furthermore, it touched on snow football and described the City of Rovaniemi and the club’s involvement in the Unicef cities project. Until now, Finnish football has gone virtually unacknowledged by MARCA. Finnish footballers playing for European clubs have

sometimes received a mention but for coverage of this kind, you would have to cast your mind back to Jari Litmanen’s time at Barca. “”It’s just snowballed. Since the first articles appeared, we’ve been contacted quite a few times for e-mail interviews,” Jukka Markkanen from Santa Claus says. In his piece, MARCA’s David Ruiz even suggested that Spain’s legendary Espanyol club might want to pay a visit to Rovaniemi for a match against the Santas. On Monday 10 January, Romania’s premier sporting title ProSport, which attracts a readership of some 60,000, dedicated a whole page article to Santa Claus FC. The piece covered much of the same ground as the other European features but picked out some interesting trivia on their hometown

of Rovaniemi, including the record-breaking temperature of -47.7 degrees Celsius recorded in January 1999. “Without a doubt, this has given the city of Rovaniemi a lot of excellent publicity,” says Markkanen, clearly very pleased. On Wednesday, Finland’s own Helsingin Sanomat picked up on the story, commenting that Santa Claus was catapulting Finnish football to international fame and fortune. The article also relishes the idea of a visit by Espanyol. “Let’s not forget, a lot of people both in Finland and further afield associate Santa Claus with Rovaniemi,” Markkanen points out. Lapin Kansa Oy


tiet ruiJHaan – roadS to ruiJa – veien till ruiJa

Provincial Museum of Lapland special exhibition at Arktikum 23 September−30 October 2011 From the early 18th century onwards, the inhabitants of northern Finland, would seek their way to the abundant fishing waters of the Arctic Ocean. The Norwegian coast from Tromsø to Kirkkoniemi was to them the promise of a better life, an aquatic Eldorado, known as Ruija. Repeated crop failures forced a motley crew of Finnish fortune seekers, adventurers, layabouts and ordinary people facing starvation to take to the road. They included significant numbers of highly-skilled workers, both men and women, who would go on to establish thriving fishing communities amongst the coastal Sami. Hundreds ended up working down the pit at the Kåfjord mine or continued onwards across the Atlantic to the United States.

The pioneers travelled along two ancient routes, via the waterways of the Tornio river valley and across the fell trails to Jyykeänpohja or Skibotn, the other taking them from Lake Sompiojärvi in central Lapland along the Ruija trail across the Saariselkä fells to Ivalo river, across Lake Inari and further onto Näätämö. Vesisaari, or Vadsø to give it its Norwegian name, came to be known as a hub for the Finnish incomers. In the 19th century, the journey would have taken some three weeks and required capital, stamina and determination. Many took the journey for the summer and worked as deckhands on the fishing boats, returning home with their generous pay packets at the end of the season. However, a significant

number of those who journeyed to Ruija settled there permanently and came to be known in Norwegian as the kven. They were known for being dependable, hardworking and skilful, their Finnish forefathers having introduced log construction and animal husbandry to the area. The Roads to Ruija exhibition offers a lively account of the lives of the Finns who took the Ruija journey and who settled on the Norwegian coast. The exhibition in produced in co-operation with the Ruija Kven Museum, the Provincial Museum of Lapland and the Norrbotten Museum.


Jukka Honkavuori to compete in mrF Formula cHampionSHip in india Rovaniemi-born racing driver Jukka Honkavuori’s career is shifting up a gear as he hits the track at the MRF Formula Championship in India. The two-time Finnish champion was invited to take part in the series sponsored by a tyre manufacturer and known for its excellent atmosphere. There are no teams and mechanics draw lots to see which driver they will be working with. The central organisation is responsible for maintaining all participating vehicles. The

winner goes home with USD 50,000. The Championships take place in February and October when it will culminate in conjunction with the Indian Formula One Grand Prix at the brand new track at New Delhi. Honkavuori says the invitation came as an ”an extra”. “Every time you get out there on the track, you’re learning and picking up skills and this is a great opportunity, so it was great I was

able to fit it into my schedule,” he commented on the news in his press release. Honkavuori now has his sights set for the FIA Formula 2 series. The young driver is currently on the lookout for financial backers for his bid.

Rovaniemi Tourist Information Maakuntakatu 29-31 FI-96200 Rovaniemi Tel. +358-(0)16-346 270 travel.info@rovaniemi.fi

Rovaniemi Regional Development Agency Ainonkatu 1 FI-96200 Rovaniemi Exchange +358 20 152 5000 Fax +358 16 347 351 rovaniemenkehitys@rovaniemi.fi

Lapin Kansa Oy


Rovaniemi City News 2011/1