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Aloittaja Jaaks, joulukuu 25, 2003, 23:18

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Santa's elves get the sack

SANTA'S workshop may not be the joyous place of years past for the tens of thousands of tourists expected in northern Finland during this Christmas season.

Many of the elves who work at the SantaPark attraction near the Arctic Circle, 840km north of Helsinki, are spending the last few days before Christmas twiddling their thumbs. Santa laid them off to cut rising costs.
"I feel really dejected, because being an elf is part of my identity," said Milja Vilmila, who was told her job as an elf helping Santa no longer existed. "Something will definitely be missing this Christmas."
Business is booming in Lapland, a vast area known as the last wilderness in Europe where traditionally nomadic Samis ? or Lapps ? herd reindeer. But SantaPark, which has accumulated $US550,000 ($743,000) in debt in its five years of operation, has only seen visits decline.
"The work is seasonal so we have to cut costs in all possible ways," Wille Rajala, the managing director of the tourist attraction, said.
SantaPark is open from November to January, and briefly during summer for visitors who want to see the area during the period when the sun does not set for several weeks.
The park is a vast cave which doubles as an air-raid shelter and contains a carousel, elves' booths that sell trinkets and souvenirs, and a restaurant.
It has yet to make a profit.
Company officials are confident that Santa lovers will respond. For now, they have little choice but to tighten Santa's belt. "We used to have 120 people on a monthly salary, which was ridiculous. Now we are down to three full-timers," Mr Rajala said yesterday. Only 12 people staff the park now.
Finnish children believe Santa hails from a mountain in Lapland. And the Nordic country has cultivated the idea that Santa is Finnish and makes toys there.
Last year, more than 600,000 people visited Lapland ? three times the number of those who live there. Santa's post office in Rovaniemi, the capital of Finnish Lapland, received 600,000 letters from around the world.
The number of registered hotel-nights spent by foreign visitors in Lapland during December and January has jumped from 76,700 in 1995-96 to 215,000 last year.
Tourism officials expect a new December record this year of more than 100,000 foreign visitors, with at least 380 chartered flights, mostly from Britain. Last December, 52,000 British tourists spent US$13.6 million in Lapland.
When it was still in operation, even Concorde flew direct from London to Rovaniemi on the Arctic Circle, which has a runway equipped for military aircraft that patrol Finland's border with Russia.
But that has not helped SantaPark, which has been accused of overstaffing and mismanagement. Tourists are checking out Santa's post office, the Arctic museum and reindeer farms instead.
Darren Allsopp paid $US1,240 ($A1,675) to bring his wife and two children from Nottingham, England, on a day trip to visit Santa and see Lapland.
"The world has changed quite a bit ... not always for the better," Allsopp said. "The most important thing is to find peace and calm and think about what you can do to help others."

Associated Press
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Tämähän taitaa olla sitä laihialaisten säästöä säästetään 20e kenkiä ottamalla pitkiä askeleita ja siinä askeltaessa repeää 100e housut. Tällainen säästö politiikka nykyajan suomessa on jokapäiväistä eli kansalaiset kiltisti odottaa joka paikassa kun ei ole tarpeeksi henkilökuntaa turvaamassa palvelua valitettavaa mutta totta