RIGA - Following the Latvian government's decision on Friday to re-introduce travel restrictions and a 10-day quarantine requirement for all travelers arriving from Finland, the listed Estonian shipper Tallink Grupp announced that it will suspend the operation of the Helsinki-Riga route from Sept. 28 until the end of October.
The company will review operation of the route in November and December over the coming weeks, spokespeople for Tallink said.
The Latvian government's decision comes after the infection levels in Finland have increased over the last few weeks and Finland being listed as a "yellow" country by the Latvian authorities, meaning travelers from Finland will now again be required to self-isolate after arriving in the country.
The popular Helsinki-Riga route has been operating since the end of June this year, initially daily with the company's vessel Silja Serenade and since mid-September with two return trips per week with the company's vessel Baltic Queen. At the height of the summer holiday season, the vessels carried between 1,500-2,000 passengers on every trip, but the passenger numbers started to drop from mid-August when the governments in the region issued new travel advice due to the coronavirus pandemic and advised people not to travel.
"Passenger numbers on the route have gradually declined since mid-August, but have been sufficient to maintain operations of the route without incurring losses with each departure. However, with the new restrictions announced today, it will be impossible to continue to operate the route as we know now from experience that passenger numbers will plummet immediately following the announcement of restrictions and therefore, to ensure we limit any losses for our business, we have no choice but to suspend this popular route until further notice," Paavo Nogene, CEO of Tallink Grupp, said.
"Of course, we understand the decisions and choices the Latvian authorities have to make in order to fight the spread of the virus, but considering the completely comatose state of the tourism sector and no lifelines in sight, we were hoping that exceptions would be made to tourists who arrive in the country in the morning for one day and leave the country in the evening of the same day, thus presenting a lower risk to the Latvian society than tourists staying in the country longer. A slightly more tailored approach with exceptions would have been a significant help for the region's tourism industry and would have enabled us to keep the transport route between Latvia and Finland open," Nogene added.
"As ever, we are always ready to review and revise our decisions, should the virus and restrictions situations change and, circumstances allowing, we will be happy to re-open the route or operate special cruises on the route towards the end of the year so that Finnish travelers would have the opportunity to experience Riga in beautiful Christmas lights," he said.
All customers with bookings for Baltic Queen departures on the Helsinki-Riga route in October will be contacted as soon as possible by Tallink customer services teams to discuss booking change and refund options.