Travel intermediation has lived in transition already for a long time. It is not only about digitalization, new online actors and direct bookings. In addition, customers have changed. They do not choose anymore the intermediator only by the quality of its services. Instead, customer behavior is steered by megatrends that are e.g. sustainable development, responsibility and digitalization. The world’s oldest tour operator went bankrupt because it did not consider digitalization in its distribution channel choices. However, Thomas Cook’s Nordic subsidiary companies had understood the importance it. Additionally, motives impacted in the bankrupt were also tour operator’s own airline and the unclear Brexit.
Tour operating in Finland
Internationally, the popularity of package holidays is diminishing slightly, but the demand in Finland has been stable due to the constant economic development in the country. Finns make about 800 000 packaged holidays annually, that is about 10% of all our trips to abroad.
Customers of Finnish tour operators appreciate quality and reliability, however, their consumer behavior follow trends that also tour operators should recognize. Sustainability and responsibility are already visible in the marketing communication and tour operators develop their digital services, emphasizing experiences from the beginning of the purchasing process.
According to AFTA’s, Association of Finnish Travel Agents, survey conducted in October 2019, especially responsibility steers Finns’ travel choices. The most important topics included human rights in the destination as well as the respect of the local culture and nature and environmental protection. Climate change and the impact of travelling in it are hot topics, especially in the international discussion; however, “flight shame” is an issue in Finland as well. Tour operators in Finland, such as Aurinkomatkat and TUI, have emphasized sustainability in their TV commercials. Yet, environment was in focus already in the 1980’s in the Finnish tour-operating scene: Tour guides took water samples on the popular beaches and headquarters waited for Thomas Cook to introduce their environment classification for hotels and/or destinations.
What is the next trend in tour operating? Sport organizations and individual athletes have discussed ethics when countries like Qatar and Turkey have hosted big events. This discussion has not been very notable this far in tour operating. When Turkey marched over the Syrian border to create their desired security zone, tour operators followed Foreign Ministry’s country notifications, but did not state any political opinion on the action itself. Perhaps, they should do it next time.
TOURIST project: The aim of the project is to create competence centres for the development of sustainable tourism and innovative financial management strategies to increase the positive impact of local tourism in Thailand and Vietnam.