Visit Finland used this week’s ITB Asia event in Singapore to officially launch its Stopover Finland campaign.
Aimed at encouraging Asian travellers to pay a visit to Finland while travelling to and from Europe with Finnair, the campaign has been gradually been introduced to the Asian market throughout 2016, prior to its official launch this week.
Speaking to Travel Daily at ITB Asia on Wednesday, Heli Mende, Stopover Finland’s program director, explained how the country was promoting the initiative to the Asian travel trade.
“We first targeted travel agents and tour operators in China with our Visit Finland roadshow at the end of May, and then in September we did the same in Japan and Korea. And now we are here at ITB Asia and we hope to get our message across to the whole of Asia,” Ms Mende said.
“We’ve done search engine optimisation in China, Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong, and Finnair has also done its own stopover marketing campaign in Japan and China, so we are working on many fronts.”
Visit Finland has also spent the last 12 months developing a series of experiences for stopover visitors, with more than 100 now available.
And while the most popular option is still a simple one-night hotel stay in Helsinki, Ms Mende revealed that other more niche experiences are now being offered. One of these allows guests to go jogging around Helsinki in the company of a guide, as Ms Mende explained: “So you can change into your running clothes at the gym and go jogging around Helsinki, then return to the gym, have a sauna and a shower, get back into your business clothes and continue on your way,” she said.
The programme also offers the opportunity to explore further afield in Finland, and Ms Mende revealed that, according to Visit Finland’s online data, the Northern Lights generates a lot of interest.
“There are lots of clicks for any package and service featuring the Northern Lights. But of course they are not the cheapest [packages] so people hesitate before buying them. But I think it will come,” she said.
Santa Claus is “always popular”, according to Ms Mende, and easily accessible; from Helsinki it’s only a one-hour flight to Rovaniemi – the “official home” of Santa Claus. “So you can do that in one day,” she added.
While the Stopover Finland campaign is still in the early stages, Visit Finland has already seen a 23% jump in Asian travellers stopping at Helsinki for more than 24 hours in 2016. Overall visitor numbers to Finland have increased by about the same amount.
“We have very high hopes for next year,” Ms Mende said. “China and Japan are the biggest [source markets], and South Korea is increasing. Singapore is still very small in terms of numbers, but the growth is big – 44% from January to July this year compared to last year. Indonesia is interesting; there is some growth and we’re following that, and numbers are growing from Australia as well.
“One trend is clear: that Finland and the Nordic countries are becoming more and more interesting for Asian travellers,” she concluded.
The stopover campaign is being driven by Finnair’s strategy of providing an east-west bridge between Europe and Asia. Utilising its brand new fleet of Airbus A350 aircraft, which are now flying to five Asian cities – Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore and Bangkok – the national carrier is aiming to double its Asian passenger traffic by 2020.