Tuesday 30 May 2017

Santa in the red as economic slump puts skids on business in Lapland

The Santa Claus Office had some 300,000 visitors last year and revenues of about £1.5m. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
The Santa Claus Office had some 300,000 visitors last year and revenues of about £1.5m. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Ben Farmer in London

Santa Claus risks becoming the latest victim of the European economic crisis as falling numbers of visitors from Greece, Spain, Italy and Russia mean his Lapland office could go bust.

Finland's Santa Claus Office, which receives hundreds of thousands of visits each year from children wanting to visit Father Christmas, faces bankruptcy as it struggles to repay £140,000 (€191,000) of debts.

The office has less than a week to come up with the money and an internet campaign has been launched to raise cash to keep it afloat.

The attraction has been hit by the double blow of the European economic crisis and then tensions over the Ukraine. Takings were first badly hit by declining numbers of visitors from austerity struck southern European countries. Russians, who were until recently the most numerous visitors, then also began staying away as Western financial sanctions imposed after the annexation of Crimea have started to bite.

The office, in the town of Rovaniemi and close to the Arctic Circle, also attracts thousands of British visitors each year, mainly in December, when children hope to press their case for presents and assure Father Christmas of their good behaviour.

Jarmo Kariniemi, chief executive officer of Dianordia Oy, which runs the office, said: "The state of the global economy makes a big difference to our business".

Most of the company's debts are owed to the tax man.

He said his company is "not yet bankrupt, and we are confident a solution will be found".

Tourism officials say the office is only one of several Santa Claus-themed businesses in the region and the rest remain open.

The Santa Claus Office had some 300,000 visitors last year and revenues of about £1.5m.

A post on its Facebook page says: "Santa is here, every day, like he has been for the last two decades, meeting friends and visitors from all around the world. We are a small family company, and times are not easy in (the) global economy for us either, but we keep working for the spirit of Christmas."

In an accompanying video, Santa Claus acknowledges his office has "faced some trouble recently," but says he is confident a solution will be found.

The page has been deluged by offers of support and an internet fundraising campaign has been set up to try to raise money to pay the debts.

The organisers say they are looking for "small donations that will hopefully solve this urgent problem".

Before the conflict with Ukraine, Russia represented about 20pc of Dianordia's revenue. That's now dropped to just under 15pc, Mr Kariniemi said. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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