Forest figures, outlet villages, Tallinn travel downtick

Finnish forests are rapidly growing, outlet villages are coming and travel to Tallinn has lost some of its appeal, according to papers.

Finland is internationally renowned for its forests and lakes, and fresh figures from the Natural Resources Institute (Luke) indicate that forests here are still growing at a faster pace than the current rate of felling.

In 1990 there were 1.9 million cubic metres of trees in Finland. Between then and 2018 the same amount of forest has been felled. Despite the huge scale, Luke research shows that Finland now boasts 2.5 million cubic metres of forest and so traps carbon dioxide more effectively than ever before.

Luke presented the new stats to the parliamentary finance committee in mid-November. On Tuesday opposition MPs Satu Hassi of the Greens and the Left Alliance's Hanna Sarkkinentold Aamulehti (AL) that the numbers do not convince them.

"I can't speak to the veracity of these claims, but I've heard researchers wondering what this estimate is based on," Hassi said.

"We have based our programme on data from other research institutes and a climate panel," Sarkkinen added. "We have not had the chance to look at Luke's new results."

Both the Greens and the Left Alliance are committed to a carbon-neutral Finland by the year 2030, which entails strict climate protocols, AL writes. Both Hassi and Sarkkinen say that instead of clear-cutting, the government could fell forests with precision to encourage even further forest growth.

The most important thing, says Sarkkinen, is that Finland's dense carbon sinks do not begin to shrink.

"The government programme's climate and energy strategy even states that net emissions will not go down if clear-cutting is increased," she said.

Villages of shopping

While scientists and politicians are mulling the uses of natural resources, the import-export sector is looking to bring a commercial phenomenon to Finnish shores for the first time.

Outlet villages are centralised locations where manufacturers and brands sell their wares for cheaper than elsewhere.

Helsingin Sanomat (HS) writes that the first three such villages are expected to open their doors in the next few years. The Zsara shopping centre is set to open next week in Vaalimaa on the Russian border, and one village is under construction in Vantaa, Southern Finland – and will nonetheless be named "Helsinki Outlet Village" to draw consumers, HS writes.

Work on the third luxury village, Old Port in the city of Kotka, has barely started but the outlet is set for a 50-year lease. Main investor Cameron Sawyer says it's not surprising that several special mega-malls are being built around the same time.

"It's stranger that there aren't any outlet villages in Finland at all yet," he said in HS. "There are more than 100 across Europe."

The Kotka and Vaalimaa village directors both say Russian tourists will be their number-one draw. Finnish manager of the Vantaa/Helsinki village, Tuija Postari-Kivistö has a different plan.

"One third domestic, one third Nordic and one third international," she said.

Worrying drop in trips to Estonia

Speaking of international relations, tabloid Ilta-Sanomat (IS) runs a piece on a trend that is worrying people on both sides of the Baltic Sea. According to the article people from Finland are visiting their immediate southern neighbour capital, Tallinn, less often than usual.

Estonian entrepreneurs in Tallinn have implored Finnish travellers to return, and cultural affairs coordinator Tapio Mäkeläinen from the Tuglas Society said in IS on Tuesday that the unfortunate backslide has been going on for years.

"Prices have gone up steadily. If you walk even a couple hundred metres away from the main square in Tallinn, beer starts to cost a whole lot less than in the tourist hub. Elsewhere in Estonia prices are far, far lower still," Mäkeläinen explains.

In August IS reported that Finnish booze trips to and from Tallinn had gone down by a fifth since the previous year, and Estonia has tightened its alcohol taxation. But that's not why people are visiting less often and less broadly, Mäkeläinen says.

"Estonia is badly marketed to Finnish people. The free brochures on the ferry are crumpled and thrown away; if they cost even a few euros people would be more likely to actually use them."

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