Stelios Lund, director of sales and operations at destination management company (DMC) Via Hansa & Borealis, says New Zealanders tend to visit for the northern lights but there are many more options – including summer excursions, that can easily be put together.
‘A typical summer itinerary would take in the capital cities and fjords and involve very little flying,’ says Lund.
One of seven operators involved in the Nordic and Baltic Travel Workshop in Auckland late last week, Lund says an easy 10 to 12-day journey would involve starting in Copenhagen, an overnight ferry to Oslo, then a train to the fjords, a flight to Stockholm and overnight ferry to Helsinki.
In the winter a popular option is flying into Helsinki, spending time in a Finnish countryside town at a sauna resort, then staying in Finnish Lapland at an igloo resort. He also recommends seeing the less commercial area of Swedish Lapland.
At any time of the year, clients can add a pre and post trip to Iceland or the Balkans, he says.
‘It is such a compact area that visitors can easily explore many different cultures and attractions. For example there is a two-hour ferry from Estonia to Finland seven times a day. Even if a client doesn’t want to do a cruise they will find easy connections and affordable travel and that’s one thing I have been emphasising to agents.’
Eveliina Korhonen, director of sales at Santa Hotels, Lapland is another who encourages agents to look at opportunities beyond the August to mid-April northern lights season.
‘May to August is the midnight sun season, which is a great time for families, active adults and seniors. We have hiking, electric bikes, guided mushroom and berry picking, kayaking, canoeing and rafting. In the winter there are snow mobile safaris and reindeer sleighs so there is plenty to do year-round.
‘It is a different kind of European experience – our igloos and hotels are designed to make guests think they have checked into nature.’
The Nordic and Baltic Travel Workshop at Four Points by Sheraton Hotel in Auckland was the first of its kind for the northern European region, but it is likely to be repeated next year.
Organiser Kari Halonen of ToolBox Consulting Ltd says a select and enthusiastic group of travel agents had fruitful face-to-face meetings with eight exhibitors at the event.
‘We need to review everything after the event, but the exhibitors are saying they have had a positive response.’
Holonen says the main aim of the excerise was to encourage agents to think about new ways to sell the destinations and to package up itineraries.
‘We think the market out of New Zealand is mainly FIT and high end, with some group travel as well.
‘The Baltic Sea and Fjords are the world’s third biggest cruise area, but we are providing ways to see the destinations by land too.’
Exhibitors included DMCs and hoteliers, while Qatar Airways was the airline partner at the event.