I have contacted all the relevant Travel Bodies: ABTA, AITO, ANTOR and got their press releases regarding the situation. I have also been in touch with the most important tour operators to Finland.
Though there will be changes in the future which might impact on travel in general like Visa, European Health Card, currency, cost, compensation policy, the only thing being affected for the time being is rate of sterling that makes the holiday and flights slightly more expensive.
The general message is that there is no need for an alarm. Finland is winter destination, Christmas being the volume producer in package holidays to Lapland. Most of these packages have already been sold as are the majority of winter activity packages. Tour operators have prepared themselves well for the eventuality that became a reality by stocking currency well in advance. However, this is for the coming season and no one can predict what 2017 will bring.
Here are some of the quotes from the operators to see what operators have posted on their website and to their customers:
“Much has been said about the value of sterling following the EU referendum and especially about rising holiday costs. The good news for you (and us) is that we hedged our bets and have enough currency tucked away to ensure that we do not need to apply immediate price increases. Essentially, until our currency stocks are exhausted, the cost of our holidays will remain unchanged in the countries where we send the majority of our clients.”
“Sadly, all good things do come to an end and unless sterling stages a dramatic recovery, we will have to increase prices eventually. Our fabulous Northern Lights holidays have continued to sell like hot cakes since the referendum so we would advise anybody who wants to book one of them to put a deposit down as soon as possible”
“From our business perspective, it is indeed scary and uncertain but it has remain business as usual. We are expanding our team as we speak and investing in new product – both of which carry risk. We will continue with our growth plan and hope that the economic landscape can support it. We will need to work harder and smarter and bring in more clients from overseas to ward off any negative effects in the UK. There are practical issues such as taking on further interns from Finland (an EU funded project) as well as increased travel costs potentially. But we will deal with that as and when.”
“Overall sales have been strong for Finland next season – we’re keen to ensure this continues, even over more uncertain times than we might have expected. Anything you can do to support this would be great.”
“I am happy that we target the higher end of the market who will be more affected by confidence rather than the financial pressures so hopefully more resilient. The longer term impacts could be on the regulation of our industry (e.g. PTD) and commercial terms such as VAT (TOMS) so there is potentially a lot of uncertainty in the longer term. If barriers are raised to doing business with and buying services from EU countries such as Finland then of course it may impact our business, driving Nordic travelers to our other areas of operation such as Iceland and Norway. It will be interesting to see if it has any impact on the VAE project. Only time will tell but I believe we are in a strong position as a company to weather the potential storm and remain committed to growing our business significantly with our Finnish partners.”
“We as a company are quite well insulated in the short term against the currency fluctuations as we have got a lot of foreign currency held, taking advantage of the strengthening pound last week. As such this week I am continuing with business as usual and my directors are very bullish about this… “Chaos is not a pit, it is a ladder..”, that sort of Game of Thrones sound bite. In the next few weeks in my honest opinion, the continuing political uncertainty will mean the pound continues to remain weak and overall everything will become more expensive reducing travel to Finland from the UK. Funnily enough it may work in the favour of a smaller company like ourselves because our clients are less price conscious, it may be the second holiday middle income families who decide not to travel to Finland this winter, hitting the bigger companies instead.”
“Of course it will settle down and whilst nobody can know just yet, what will and won’t change, we are not concerned. Bookings are at their highest level for some years and Santa Claus is preparing for a busy Christmas season! It’s very much a wait and see situation but the “panic” being created on TV and in the newspapers is not helpful for anybody. I am sure things will become clearer over the coming months.”
“For us it’s business as usual, with some selected offers about to be communicated. The E rate is around 1.20 which is where it was same time in 2014, a good year for us. Obviously if sterling stays weak for an extended period then this will have an impact on pricing and should the economy suffer then it may mean that some people will be disinclined to travel for a period. However, I don’t really feel that this will make a significant difference in the long term.”
In my opinion, reassuring and encouraging feedback. Business as usual and Finland stays a firm favourite for Santa and winter holidays. For summer success we need to continue to work hard.
Hope this helps you to visualise where we stand today regarding travel to Finland.
Riitta Balza, Visit Finland