The COVID pandemic has had a massive impact on the travel industry… the travellers themselves included! Below, we highlight precisely how the luxe-loving Finns have been affected regarding their travels to Africa – from the types of experience they’re demanding to typical travel behaviour that we can expect from them going forward.
1. Demand for types of experience
Considering how cautious the Finns have been regarding international travel up until now, most aren’t too fussy about how they spend their trips. They are simply happy and relieved to be revelling in the freedom of the experience.
Generally, though, most Finns prefer to focus on holidays that allow for laid-back, relaxing leisure experiences, often steering clear of getaways with a strong focus on staying active. This is due, in large part, to Finns taking part in many outdoor activities and exercise back at home where nature and wide, open spaces are abundant.
2. Marketing consumption
According to research, the vast majority of Finns are influenced significantly when hearing about the unique travel experiences of their friends, relatives, colleagues, and acquaintances. They also spend a decent chunk of their time exploring potential destinations via social media before making decisions about where to go and what to do.
Marketers hoping to successfully target this source market must be aware that the Finnish population does not ordinarily engage in ‘small talk’. It’s in their nature to be straightforward and, as such, they’re less likely to spend a long time reading a descriptive, ‘wishy-washy’ blog post about why it’s a good idea to travel to Africa. Instead, they’ll usually prefer a more factual article with bullet points, embellished with emotive imagery for that extra impact.
3. Travel behaviour
According to Statistics Finland, since the start of the pandemic, Finns have been focusing primarily on domestic travel, with domestic trips increasing by nearly a third during the country’s warm summer season this year. Before COVID, Finns generally embarked on equal amounts of domestic and international vacations. However, as of 2021, international trips account for less than half a million holidays, compared to almost 3.3 million domestic getaways. The stats relating to international travel are almost exactly the same compared to this time in 2020. In short, Finns are being cautious, and most have chosen to ‘wait out the storm’ before they feel comfortable to start getting back to ‘normal’ once again.
Typically, people from Finland travel for rest and relaxation and are often more inclined to spend extra money on luxuries to amplify their experience, whether that be upgrading to business class for their flight or staying at a 4- or 5-star hotel.
“Unfortunately, few Finns think of Africa first when considering an international vacation, largely because of a lack of awareness of what this type of getaway entails. Further to this, the African continent, and South Africa in particular, received a lot of bad publicity throughout the COVID pandemic and especially when the Delta variant made its presence known, leaving many prospective visitors uneasy about turning their African travel visions into reality,” says Timo Sarresalo, Managing Director at Starlight Tours Finland.
Interestingly, although the agents have indicated a resistance from the market to book, the number of wetu itineraries created indicates there is still interest in the destination. Although there may be some hesitancy, the requests for quotations are on the rise and recovery from this source market seems to be looking positive.
4. Traveller preferences
As mentioned, Finns enjoy indulging in luxury travel and leisure experiences. They prefer a slow-paced approach to their holidays and have an affinity for activities such as laid-back safaris, wine tasting, golfing etc. It’s also safe to say that the weather is a major selling point for people who spend the vast majority of their days back at home bundled up in heavy boots and coats.
5. Planning to book
At the moment, bookings from Finland to South Africa are few and far between. However, demand is expected to pick back up from the middle of the year next year as vaccinations rates rise and traveller confidence increases. As such, advance booking is set to dominate for a long time to come.
6. Tips for adapting to the needs and demands of the Finnish source market
Due to the cautious nature of the Finns throughout the times of COVID, it’s vital for all marketing messaging to be very specific about why it’s now considered ‘safe’ to travel to Africa.
“All travel suppliers must communicate details regarding COVID protocols and provide regular updates on vaccine numbers to offer potential Finnish travellers the reassurance and peace of mind that they need to take the plunge and book that holiday,” comments Johan Groenewald, Managing Director at Royal African Discoveries South Africa.
7. Obstacles to reaching the Finnish source market
Africa remains a relatively unknown, ‘unitary’ destination within the Finnish market. This means that most Finns view the African continent as a singular experience where culture, activities, etc. are all the same across the board. In order to attract more interest, work needs to be done to highlight the diversity that exists between the different regions and countries, as well as to offer a combo holiday packages that make it safe, easy, and convenient for Finns to explore more than one African region.
Unfortunately, the government remains largely uninvolved when it comes to putting in the work to attract the Finnish source market specifically. As such, a government campaign on COVID-related policies could go a long way towards improving traveller numbers amongst people from Finland. Furthermore, above-the-line marketing must become a bigger priority going forward to maximise awareness.