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Updated October 2022
Finland is known as the happiest country, a Nordic country, a country with good education system, the hometown of Santa Claus, and a destination for aurora hunting; Finland is still considered as a nich destination; Finland is a destination which could offer once-in-a-lifetime experience.
The COVID-19 pandemic doesn't have a big influence on the position of Finland in the market. According to the latest ETC Long-Haul Travel Barometer 1/2022, Finland ranked 6th as preferred European destinations, which showed that the position was even improved. https://etc-corporate.org/reports/long-haul-travel-barometer-1-2022/. Niche destinations are generally getting more popularity as consumers would like to avoid the crowd.
In the beginning period of recovery of international travel from China market, domestic destinations, other Nordic countries (including Iceland) and big destinations (West Europe, USA, Australia) will be the competitors for Finland. Finland will be quite competitive in the winter season, while destinations like New Zealand, Iceland, West Europe are also attractive for Chinese travelers.
The current flight recovery status from China to Finland:
Shanghai-Helsinki, weekly, Saturday
HK-Helsinki，three per week, Tuesday, Thursday, Sunday
Guangzhou-Helsinki, weekly, Thursday
Shanghai-Helsinki, weekly, Saturday
Chengdu-Helsinki, weekly, Thursday
In 2019, Finnair operated flights from Beijing (two airports), Shanghai, Nanjing, Guangzhou, and Hongkong, to Helsinki. JuneYao operated in Shanghai and Zhengzhou. Tibet Airlines had Jinan-Helsinki route. Sichuan Airlines opened Chengdu-Helsinki route.
The international flight routes will grow for more than 100% in 2022 winter schedule compared with 2020. But it is still far below the level of 2019.
Visit Finland have two social media channels in China, which are Weibo (@芬兰旅游局) and WeChat (芬兰旅游局). And VF opened video account on WeChat Channels (video oriented SoMe channel and new function of WeChat) and it brought extra visibilities as well as new followers. Other Business Finland units and Team Finland players are also active in marketing in Chinese social media channels. In 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, Finland got several popular searches on social media because of the uniform of Finnish National team and gold medal in Men's Ice Hockey. The news about Finland & NATO also occupied the headlines in the news in China for a while.
Short distance trips, theme parks (Disneyland, Universal Studios and local brands), self driving trips, glamping and beachside vacation are popular in the market. Downhill ski and ski holiday are getting super popular among family and young generation. Main destinations are ski resorts in Xinjiang and North China. Even indoor ski facilities are hot especially for people living in the south who want to go for ski in the weekends. Outdoor & Sports are so popular nowadays. Certain events like a sports competition (trail run or marathon)/ music show/festival could become key motivation for traveling to a unfamiliar destination.
Social media platforms, especially emerging ones, like Tik Tok and The Red Book in China have become the major platforms for people to get the destination information and inspirations. Short video contents become the main contents for media consumption. And, social media channels are also platforms for buying products including travel packages/products, especially hotel deals, attraction tickets, etc, through live streaming events.
Because Chinese government still takes a strict approach towards COVID, travelers tend to make the bookings in the last minute.
Most of the bookings are digitalized. OTAs including Ctrip, Meituan, Fliggy, Mafengwo, etc. are the major platforms for travel bookings. Traditional TAs also operate their own shops on OTA (OTS) platforms. Most of players (OTA, TA, travel brands) invest heavily in their own social media channels, which don't only serve as a marketing channel but also a booking channel with e-commerce functions. Consumers would use multiple channels (apps) to collect information and compare the offerings before making the actual booking. It is also common for travelers to buy flight, hotel or attraction entrance ticket coupons (refundable) when OTAs or brands are on sale (for example on Double 11 shopping day), before they have a "concrete" travel plan.
Digitalization is even developed after the pandemic in travel context. Touchless experience is preferred in accommodation, restaurant, or other services. Last-minute bookings are the new normal because of very strict COVID travel restrictions. Consumers prefer shorter-period trips (weekend trip or short-distance trip). However, if they travel to a long-haul (comparably) destination (even domestic), they would rather stay for a longer period time.
Consumers are looking for nature, Aurora, exotic accommodation, snow fun, winter experience, ski, etc. in Finland.
In order to serve best the traveler from China market in Finland consider
* To speed up the digitalization in booking and service
* To produce good digital promotional materials like short videos for social media platforms
* To have flexibility for change of itinerary or cancellation
Most of the big players including traditional TAs or OTAs are mainly putting efforts on domestic travel business. Some are working with their subsidiaries or partners in USA or Europe to sell travel packages to oversea living Chinese (to Finnish Lapland in the winter). Many companies also invest in resources to develop educational travel products in nearby destinations (short-distance trip, camps) and local facilities (museum, theme park, etc).
Traditional players are quite struggling with the business model and be profitable. Loss of travel trade talents is a big issue and will impact on the recovery speed. OTAs are dominating the market and reforming to be better with the advantages of funds, tech & traffic.
Main distribution channels (biggest TOs)
* OTAs: Ctrip, Qunar, Meituan, Fliggy, Mafengwo, etc
* Traditional TOs: CITS, Caissa, Utour, CYTS, ETI, etc
Incoming agencies offer package products to travel agencies in China by collecting services from different service providers including accommodation, transportation (bus and cruise), activities, attractions. Due to the language barrier and payment term, Chinese TA/TO, especially players with big volume (mass group) tend to work with incoming agencies instead of making the booking directly. However, it is also common for smaller or tailor-made agencies to make some of the bookings directly from first-hand service providers to maximize their profits.
Easy access to the forests, Santa Claus, The land of Thousand Lakes, Lapland are the most relevant USP's.
The image of Finland in China market as a destination for Aurora hunting and hometown of Santa Claus is quite solid. The Happiest Country is also quite well-known title of Finland in the market. The image of Finland as a winter destination with exotic accommodation, Aurora hunting, and hometown of Santa Claus has proven to drive the decision making for the consumers in the market.
Finnish educational system brings many positive PR and social media buzz, which makes Finnish educational travel product quite popular among Chinese families.
The industry has started to have discussions around sustainability and many destinations are promoting sustainability in the market. Some associations are formed by travel agencies and travel advisors with a theme of sustainability. Bigger players are needed to be included into the discussion in order to get more attentions among the consumers. Chinese government has a clear goal for carbon neutralization which will push forward the development of sustainability in travel industry from a macro level.
There are many rumours about the border opening of China. It is not very likely that outbound leisure travel would be possible in 2022. Business travels are on the rise from China to Europe. The next window is Spring (around March) in 2023.
There will be Chinese, especially oversea living Chinese, who travel to Finland in upcoming winter season. The next travel season we could expect from China market is winter, 2023.
Luxury/high-end travelers, and young generation (Generation Y&Z) would be the major target groups from China in the beginning period of recovery.
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