Tour operators report heavy demand for last-minute summer package trips | News

Besides late-summer getaways, holiday packages for next winter are selling like hotcakes.

The Greek island of Rhodes remains a perennial favourite destination for tourists from Finland. Image: AOP

The recent spell of cool, damp weather has spurred many in Finland to seek getaways to sunnier climes. Tour operators say that the remaining offerings for this summer are slim due to high demand as travel restrictions are scaled back.

They report only a few slots still left for southern destinations in late July.

“Demand has been enormous this summer. We haven’t had to offer [discount] sudden departure offers like in previous years,” said Mia Kopola, the director responsible for hotel purchasing at tour operator Aurinkomatkat.

“In terms of customer numbers, we are not quite at the normal level yet, but some weeks we do sell holiday trips at the same rate as before the pandemic, said Laura Aaltonen, TUI Finland’s communications manager.

“Everything that we have, will sell. One of the reasons is that in the aftermath of Covid, we have fewer available spots than normally,” said Satu Kontulainen, marketing manager at Apollomatkat.

Pandemic changed booking habits

Traditionally, sales of summer holiday trips have started in January. This year, travel bookings only started to pick up after Easter.

The pandemic has caused people to delay booking trips, Kontulainen said.

“Even though we are in the midst of the hottest summer holiday season, people would be willing to book and leave for a holiday within just the span of a week,” she explained.

After the travel restrictions have been lifted, the number of bookings has slowly increased. The tourism sector is returning to normal, as customers once again are daring to make longer-term plans.

“We’re already busy booking autumn vacations and next winter’s trips. The booking trend is clearly changing. Now we’re already thinking about Christmas, New Year, [February] ski holidays and next summer,” said TUI’s Aaltonen.

Higher prices don’t deter travellers

Due to strong demand and the general rise in price levels, package tours are also costlier than in the past.

“The increase in costs naturally affects the price level. The demand this summer has been huge, which has a direct impact on our prices,” according to Kopola of Aurinkomatkat.

Apollomatkat’s Kontulainen noted that while there is upward pressure on travel prices for the coming winter, trips are selling well.

“When you’ve had to wait a really long time for a trip, then maybe you compromise on something else,” Kontulainen suggested.

The most popular package holiday destinations for Finns are still the largest Greek islands.

“Crete and Rhodes are always of interest regardless of the global situation. The smaller islands of Greece have also attracted more interest than normal, as people have perhaps sought slightly more relaxed holiday destinations,” said Kontulainen.

Winter getaways sales picking up

Package tours are still available for August. For example, Apollomatkat offers several different destinations in Greece, as well as in Italy. There are also trips to Madeira, Mallorca, Turkey, Croatia and Cyprus.

Still, Kopola of Aurinkomatkat recommends planning winter holidays soon.

“Yes, there are still trips available for the summer, but if you want to book a certain hotel for a certain time period for the winter, then you should start seriously thinking about it,” she advised.

According to Kopola, Aurinkomatkat is already ahead of previous years in terms of winter sales. TUI Finland has added two new holiday destinations for next winter: Jamaica and the Dominican Republic.

Meanwhile, Apollomatkat is already planning for next summer.

“Plans for this summer were made a year ago, when the crystal ball was still really blurry. Planning is getting easier all the time and now it seems that we can plan for next summer on a normal basis,” Kontulainen said.

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