Finnish holidaymakers have started dipping their toes into the warm waters of the Mediterranean again, as the first charter flights full of sun-seekers arrived in Greece.
Travel agency Tui had enough demand for flights last week they put on an additional plane heading south to Greece.
“First we had Crete and Rhodes and they were sold out, and then we added another flight and it was sold out. We have two destinations and they are super popular because they are the first destinations the Finnish government opened up” to traditional package holiday travel, explains Laura Aaltonen from TUI.
Speaking to News Now Finland from Kolimbari on the northwest coast of Crete, Aaltonen says Finnish holidaymakers will find the local tourism industry is very enthusiastic to welcome them back.
“Everything here in Greece is super organised. At the hotels there’s no buffet tables but the staff is giving the food. They’re cleaning all the time, all the staff wear gloves and masks and it’s super safe” she says.
“There there’s a two metre social distancing between sunbeds on the beach, and the biggest thing you see you have to wear a mask when you fly, and here when you’re indoors or in public places like a bus” Laura Aaltonen explains.
Tour companies shifting their business focus
The number of Finnish tourists heading to the Mediterranean region for summer holidays has been growing in the last few years, with an increase in trips to Spain, Italy and Greece in particular.
This year the summer holiday season was canceled before it began due to the coronavirus pandemic but it’s meant that travel operators have to be creative and try to shift their business around.
“Many tour operators managed to move holidays of their customers, groups and individuals, until this coming autumn and winter and now they follow very carefully how the Covid-19 situation develops in different markets” says Heli Mäki-Fränti, Managing Director of the Association of Finnish Travel Industry SMAL.
“We all hope that there will be no new wave of Covid-19 and the customers’ confidence on travelling will be re-gained again” she adds.
Travel agencies have also been introducing flexible booking conditions, to let customers know it’s possible to change their holidays booked for the peak summer months to other times because of the uncertainty over the virus situation.
Winter holiday outlook
While this summer’s traditional foreign holiday might have been replaced with a domestic staycation for many people, others are looking towards the autumn school holidays, and then further ahead to winter.
Tour operators are selling holidays to winter destinations, even if they’re unsure what the situation will actually look like at that time.
“In winter let’s hope we can open our biggest destinations like the Canary Islands, Gran Canaria, but Spain is still not on that list from the Finnish government, but we are selling it. And we are also selling Thailand holidays for winter” says TUI’s Laura Aaltonen.
Another of Finland’s biggest travel operators Tjäreborg are also opening up their Greece package deals from the end of July, and Cyprus from the end of August, but concedes that travelers are in a wait-and-see mode while the coronavirus situation is still developing.
“I think people are probably looking more further ahead right now, planning winter holidays, and maybe they will get a couple of months to see what will happen with coronavirus” says Jessica Virtanen from Tjäreborg.
“From our point of view the quite normal destinations are selling well, like the Canary Islands which haven’t had a big problem with the coronavirus, but of course people will wait to plan holidays in the United States or South America.”