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Current information about British tourism

We have collected current information, future prospects and other useful material from the United Kingdom as a tourism market for the Finnish tourism industry. The English language market review is updated twice a year.

Updated April 2024

Finland's position in the market

The UK views Finland as an efficiently run, secure, and environmentally conscious nation. While many British individuals perceive Finland as a chilly and costly Nordic destination, it is renowned for its association with Santa Claus and its dreamy winter landscapes, including the captivating Northern Lights. Finnish Lapland is continually enhancing its appeal and solidifying its status as the preferred choice for Nordic winter holidays.

In 2023, the UK emerged as Finland's second-largest source market, experiencing a noteworthy 12% YoY growth. Compared to 2019, there was a remarkable recovery in UK tourism to Finland, reaching the same level as in 2019. The UK held the third position in the market ranking in 2019.

During the winter of 2022-2023, the UK claimed the top spot as the largest market, with 349,100 overnight stays, reflecting a 2% increase compared to 2019. Lapland dominated with 88% of the winter stays. In the summer and autumn seasons, the UK ranked fourth in terms of market size. Autumn saw a new record in overnight stays by British visitors. In the summer, Helsinki dominated with 64% of the market share, while Lakeland accounted for 19%.

Among the other Nordic countries, Denmark and Iceland have rebounded from 2019 and gained market share. Finland and Norway have maintained their market share, while Sweden has experienced a decline in its market share and has not yet fully recovered its market share. Norway and Denmark dominate the summer season for UK travellers.

Finnair remains the largest carrier in the UK with four daily flights from London Heathrow and one daily flight direct from Manchester, Edinburgh, and Dublin, which serves those travelling from Northern Ireland. Norwegian flies directly between London Gatwick and Helsinki daily. There has been a 22% growth from London Stanstead due to flights continuing daily with low-cost carrier Ryanair and they fly to Tampere twice a week.

UK Media and PR results in 2023 are as follows. The number of hits was 283, and the visibility score was 64%. The brand-building effect was 3,3 bn and the publicity value was 6m€. In terms of UK PR for January to February 2024 landed with 40 hits, generating 262 million in BBE and 608k euros in publicity value.

Last year there was good coverage of Finland in the UK. Apple TV ‘Reluctant Traveller’ series, starring Eugene Levy. The last honeymoon of the weddings featured Finnish Lapland and Apukka Resort in October for the popular reality TV show ‘Married at First Sight UK’. Organically Finland has been featured on BBC One's ‘Celebrity Race Across the World’. In November 2023 Sahanlahti Resort in the Finnish Lakeland was shown on ITV Lorraine, with Tyler West's Mum & Me and videos on Instagram. Filming for 2024 NDA.

Consumer trends and behavior

The UK economic outlook has improved since December 2023, the Bank of England notes that global and geopolitical risks to financial stability remain high. Risks include potential sharp corrections in asset prices, strains in non-bank finance, and vulnerabilities from high debt levels for households and businesses.
In summary, while the UK emerged from a technical recession, the economy remains stagnant with persistent inflation risks, prompting expectations of future interest rate cuts amid an improved but still challenging outlook.

Consumer confidence and spending showed signs of improvement in early 2024, but the cost-of-living crisis continued to weigh on households. Food and energy prices eased from record highs but remained elevated, forcing Brits to cut back on non-essential spending. The housing market also cooled amid higher mortgage rates.

In terms of spending, travel is still outpacing other non-travel sectors according to Barclays recent data has reported that as many as 15% of people plan to take more holidays in 2024, on the back of a strong booking month in December. Meanwhile, one in 10 (11%) have been saving up to afford a bigger holiday this year and 10% will be taking advantage of deals in the January peak sale period.

Consumer expenditure on travel experienced a 7.8% year-on-year increase in March. This analysis, comparing spending over five weeks in February and March this year with the same period last year, revealed an 8.6% rise in travel expenditure during this time. Impressively, this growth primarily reflects an uptick in transaction volume rather than the total amount spent. This trend is consistent across the two principal sectors monitored by Barclays: travel agents and airlines.

Regarding travel booking habits, 59% of the UK book their travel independently online with an operator or OTA. Seamless digital booking, flexible payment options like Buy Now Pay Later, and mobile ordering/payments are becoming essential. The 3 most popular online booking channels in the UK as of January 2024 are, Trip Advisor and Skyscanner. Loveholidays, Expedia and TUI are popular OTA’s. It is estimated that more than a third of UK consumers used a Travel Agent in 2023.

Leisure travel is continuing to boom in the UK with consumers focusing on domestic, sustainable, experiential, and digitally enhanced trips that align with travellers’ values and desire for unique cultural connections. Short-haul travel has recovered since 2019 and Beach, city breaks, and adventure holidays are the top types of holidays, whilst Spain, France and Italy are the most popular destinations in Europe for UK travellers in 2024. More than half (54%) of families and multi-generational travellers are planning to take a holiday this year, with a slight increase in spending.

Staycations remain popular for Brits who are both conscious of cost and the planet. All-inclusive and package holidays are in demand. Other hot trends include solo travel, secondary city travel, luxury Travel, cool-cations, milestone event travel, bucket-list travel, gastronomy (local food and drink experiences), and set-jetting to favourite film and TV locations. Dark skies and Astro-tourism are also a hot trend.

Environmental considerations are increasingly influencing travel choices, especially among younger age groups, which feel conscious about flying and impacting the environment. Alternative ways to travel by train and ferry, cruising is gaining popularity. According to ClearSight which conducted research on UK Holiday trends at the beginning of the year, 71% of the UK population is concerned about the environment.

ClearSight revealed Finland would be the 13th choice of destination when considering a holiday in the next 12 months. Finnish Lapland is in the top 25 ‘bucket list travel destinations. Interestingly, there is an even split between the age groups considering travelling to Finland.

The over 60’s in the UK who are mortgage-free and time-rich, have lots of spending power and are looking for luxury and memorable experiences. However, it is crucial to contemplate holidaymakers with varying budgets that require careful consideration of year-round packages offered at different price ranges.

Flexible booking conditions remain paramount for both agents and travellers alike. In Finnish Lapland, early pricing availability for bookings extending well into 2025/26 is essential for travel companies to efficiently confirm arrangements for their clients.

Industry update and distribution channels

Most UK travel companies are flourishing thanks to the surge in outbound travel within the UK over the last year. UK companies have had to adapt their businesses to accommodate the change in booking patterns and trends. Companies are investing more in online booking and digital communication. TUI and Trailfinders are opening more high-street shops to meet the demand of their clients wanting face-to-face service.

Travel agents are providing valuable services that online booking cannot, such as detailed advice, navigating complex travel itineraries, and acting as a safety net when issues arise. This is driving more customers, including younger tech-savvy travellers, to use travel agents. Travel agents are key with more than a third of UK consumers using their services in 2023 and making up half the sales workforce for a Tour Operator., Expedia, and Last Minute are major OTAs in the UK. TripAdvisor, Skyscanner and Travel Supermarket are the top aggregator sites.

Key TOs that are operating in Finland are TUI (including TUI Crystal Ski, and TUI Tours), and Hotelplan (Inghams, Santa’s Lapland brands). Canterbury Travels and Destinology, (both part of Brooklyn Travel group), Artisan Travel Company with brands (Aurora Zone, Activities Abroad), Transun.

Other key companies include Magic of Lapland, Best Served Scandinavia, (Wexas), Discover the World, Arctic Direct, Magnetic North Holidays, ITC Regent Holidays, Exodus, Baltic Travel, Nordic Experience, Jules Verne, Trailfinders, Sunvil and Elegant Resorts that started their production last September. Abercrombie and Kent, Audley Travel and Sustainable Travel Journeys all have new Finland programmes.

Most UK travel operators serving the luxury market work directly with hotels in Finland, as well as partnering with local DMCs. This allows them to meet the high service levels expected by their discerning clientele. The DMCs' deep local knowledge and relationships are invaluable in delivering seamless, high-end travel experiences. Smaller UK tour operators, and those less familiar with Finland as a destination, also rely heavily on DMCs. The DMCs' expertise helps these companies navigate the complexities of planning travel in Finland, from accommodations to activities, ensuring a quality experience for their customers.

In terms of flight accessibility, Finnair are increasing their flights from the UK to Helsinki for the winter. There will be 29 flights a week from London Heathrow. A double daily frequency will run from Manchester from October and Edinburgh will have two extra flights per week, totalling up to six departures a week. Finnair is also increasing flights from Dublin to from eight to ten a week.

Rail and ferry travel is becoming interesting for the operators, who are seeing their customers enquire and want to travel more sustainably and many see trains as a romantic way of travelling. Operators are offering flightless routes to Finland, for example, Discover the World and Byway Travel.

P&O Cruises will start their new sailings with ships Arcadia and Aurora Britannia starting in the Summer and sailing from Southampton to Helsinki.

Finland travel USP's

The key unique selling propositions in the UK market include Santa Claus, Finland's goodwill ambassadorship and what drives most Lapland family bookings in December. Easy access to the forest with activity, nature, and wellness holidays. and the land of a thousand Lakes. Responsible travel is a strong driver for the UK market. Finland owns Santa Claus and its extraordinary accommodations.

In terms of regional USPs, Lapland’s are in line with what the UK traveller is seeking: Santa, Reindeer, Sami Culture, and Incredible Light. Lakeland is a region that is growing, and the wildlife and lakes bring nature, berry picking and soft adventure, sauna culture, perfect to explore all year round. Helsinki is the perfect city break for leisure travellers. Design, architecture, urban nature, and Helsinki can be designed on your terms. It provides a world-class environment for Business Events organising conferences or incentives in the city. Coast and Archipelago USPs sea-facing towns, artisan villages, and the world’s largest archipelago are perfect for exploration by land and sea.

There has been a surge in digital interest from the UK, with the country emerging as the fourth-largest target market in 2023, experiencing a robust 12.5% year-on-year growth. UK travellers exhibited a keen interest in seeking accommodation options and gathering general information about Finland. Remarkably, there was a substantial increase in searches related to tourist activities, comprising 47% of the total inquiries. Among the top search topics by British travellers were holiday packages, skiing opportunities, encounters with Santa Claus, and experiences with saunas. Furthermore, searches for cities, hotels, ice hotels, glass cabins, and the Northern Lights also witnessed significant growth compared to 2022.

The Northern Lights serve as a significant draw for British travellers, especially heading to Lapland out of high season However, there is a necessity for greater brand awareness regarding the optimal viewing periods. Furthermore, there's formidable competition from neighbouring Nordic countries Norway and Iceland.

There is an increased demand for outdoor nature-based and adventure travel among UK travellers, and is expected to continue growing in 2024 and beyond. Factors driving this trend include increased interest in active holidays, a focus on sustainability, and a diverse range of outdoor activities available. Businesses and destinations catering to this market can expect to see sturdy growth and interest from UK adventure-seeking tourists.

Luxury travel is still growing, and the key trends among UK luxury travellers, include a focus on unique, immersive, cultural, and sustainable experiences; a priority on wellness and rejuvenation; a desire for personalised and curated offerings; and a willingness to travel for longer duration. Businesses catering to this market need to adapt to these evolving preferences. Sustainable luxury accommodations, as well as private villas and chalets in secluded locations, are highly appealing to UK luxury travellers. Luxury incentive travel is also trending with a traditional leisure operator that has started to organise some small incentive groups for companies.

Sustainability is a key priority for UK travellers, who are increasingly demanding Eco-friendly accommodations, sustainable transport options, responsible tourism experiences, and sustainable food and dining choices when planning their trips.

Future outlook and upcoming season

Travel companies have reported that sales to Finland have been slower at the start of 2024 compared to the first quarter of 2023. The main reasons are there is less pent-up demand, and Easter was early this year. However, the start of Q2 is busier for the operators and last-minute winter season bookings as well as interest in Summer and Autumn travel.

For the Summer ahead, flight data to Finland from the UK for June to August 2024, indicates that the UK is the fifth market and seat capacity has increased by 6% YoY. Seat capacity is still down 31% compared to 2019, so there is work to achieve the same levels of capacity in the future.

In terms of products, the UK seeks direct flights preferably and staying in premium accommodation that provides 4–5-star facilities. There is a wide variety in Finland to offer the travellers' requirements. Travel companies are seeking authentic experiences for their travellers, which are sustainable. Interest in nature activities and wildlife, plus fly drives are increasing in demand for the summer and Autumn months.

One of the key operators for Winter Finland is in the process of launching its new Finland Summer Portfolio. New premium products for the Lakeland region are in the pipeline after a series of media to target their FIT clients looking for a unique fly-drive destination. May and September would be ideal times for their traveller demographic.

The demand for summer nature activities and experiences is booming, prompting travel operators to enhance their offerings. From bear-watching to hiking and fishing, travel companies are introducing or reintroducing these programs to meet the rising demand. Group travel is becoming popular again, so Finland’s strong group proposition should benefit. Food and drink-based tours are also in demand and twining cities and destinations with train and ferry travel. Additionally, there is a noticeable surge in interest in sustainable products and DMCs.

UK as a source market

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