The story behind Santa Claus’ bankruptcy in Rovaniemi

If you like Finland, you probably already know that the Santa Claus in Rovaniemi, the one that takes his photo with you (or vice versa) and talks to you a bit (he’s polyglot), went bankrupt for not paying his taxes. If this were any other blog, we’d be happy re-giving you the news and that’s it. But since you’re on Big in Finland, we believe we can add to it with our experience and perspective on the topic.

First things first, the news, an then you have my comment on it. If you didn’t read the story yet, I’m pretty sure you’ll like it.

Santa Claus and the kids
“This Christmas I want a better taxation system”, he seems to say. Source (CC: by)

Santa Claus in Rovaniemi

The Santa Claus of one of the Rovaniemi attractions owed the Finnish government around 200.000 € in due taxes.

The Santa Park business, the place where our beloved character goes to work (punches in) every day that isn’t the 24th of December, makes its money through the souvenir shops and being able to take your photo with Santa. He is the king of the Finnish Christmas.

But then, how come he didn’t pay his taxes?

Finns and money (and taxes)

Not too long ago, we released a post about the standard of Finnish Morality. In this post we discovered that one of the main things that Finns condemn the most is cheating on your taxes.

Furthermore, your financial data isn’t secure in Finland, as every year the list of how much each person on the country earned is made public and sold to magazines. You can even search the database for the name of the person you are interested in.

10 euro bills
A money bouqet. Source (CC: by-sa)

This is seen by some as transparency down to the last citizen. Others see it as an infringement of the EU directive on data protection. Some others feel that it leads to a state of “neighbor against neighbor”, where envy and other less-than-pure-feelings make Finns do the government’s dirty work, reporting one another based on suspicion. And they all have their fair share of truth.

That’s why, when the most internationally known Finn gets caught without paying taxes, some reactions were pretty clear: “He’s earned it, put him in jail”.

The rise and fall of Santa Claus in Rovaniemi: the bankruptcy

Dianordia Oy is the company that manages the Santa Park, the Rovaniemi attraction where Santa Claus works.

Pretty much every year, I visit the ITB Berlin, the world’s biggest tourism fair, and I always pass by the Finnish stands. Some years ago I met someone who was partially in charge of the marketing of this Santa Claus attraction, and when he was describing it to me he called it “a money-making machine“.

And it is true: the tourists are already there and Rovaniemi is a small town where, in the end, there are only a small number of things to do: check out the Kaamos: the polar night, go and see some reindeers in the area … and see Santa Claus. Going all the way to Rovaniemi, Lapland, to the Santa Park, and not taking a picture with him and the kids is unforgivable. When else are you going to take that photo? And all for – if I recall correctly – 40 € a pop.

Santa Park - Santa Claus little village
This is where Santa Claus works in Rovaniemi.Source (CC: by)

This is why, when I saw that he was bankrupt, I was surprised. A money-making machine bankrupted? Then I saw the second surprising part: it was due to the most unforgivable thing a Finn can do – evading taxes. You can read the full story here. The most interesting part, for me, was this one:

“Last year, the Santa Claus office in Rovaniemi made almost 2 million Euro, with 20 employees.”

And in this other article they say that the number of visitors per year is is 300.000. It is hard to wrap your head around why they owe so much money to the tax office.

As the president of the Rovaniemi Tourism and Marketing Ltd (translation of the original name of the company, which is a Finnish “Oy”. I first actually thought that it was an United Kingdom-registered corporation, a place with a more “relaxed” tax system, specially for “Limited responsibility companies”) puts it: it is sad news for the tourism of the area.

But another company rescued Santa Claus

Finally, at the last minute, another company called Lapland Safaris – which does “tours” in the area with reindeers, huskys, etc. – bought the majority of the Dianordia Oy shares and thus Santa Claus and the Santa Park will remain open throughout the whole year.

I guess they quickly understood that, without the birdcall of the most international Santa of the city (there are others, but not as well known abroad), there would be a huge drop in tourism – something that was already happening with the drop of Russian tourists.

Therefore, and for not losing the people that were going to see Santa Claus in Rovaniemi – people that Lapland Safaris could also sell their own products to – Santa Claus was bought. After all, buying a company that has an income of 2 million Euro per year (we should see the costs as well, but with 20 people working there I am not sure how high they would be) doesn’t seem like a bad choice.

Christmas came early for the Santa Claus in Rovaniemi.

A photo with Santa Claus in Rovaniemi
A photo that comes in very handy to this blogpost. Source (CC: by)

Have you ever visited Santa Claus in Rovaniemi? After being aware of this story, does it change your perception of the Christmas tourism in Lapland?

I've been writing about Finland for 8 years. In these articles I am trying to transmit my passion for Finland, its marvelous nature and cities, its people and the culture of the country. Thanks for reading!