When one thinks about travel to Europe, iconic destinations like England, France and Italy often come to mind. But what about Scandinavia? The fascinating countries of Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden hold just as much appeal for travellers, and now is the time to visit, says Walter DeMirci from the Scandinavian Tourist Boards. We ask him about tips on how to sell and package the region, what’s new and what agents can do to familiarize themselves with the destination.
1. Can you briefly describe the Scandinavia Specialist Program?
The Scandinavia Specialist Program provides travel agents with a unique opportunity to get in-depth knowledge on four countries in one training session, and become a certified specialist on Scandinavia as a whole rather than having to do four different individual country programs.
The Scandinavia Specialist Program is web-based and agents can sign up on their computer or on any mobile device at scandinaviaspecialist.com.
The program also allows agents to get an edge by learning about an off-the-beaten-path European destination and sell Scandinavia more effectively, increase the number and value of Scandinavia bookings, and maximize commissions by learning how to book all commissionable products prior to their client’s trip. Certified Scandinavia Specialist agents also get access to professional benefits and resources that will help them better sell travel to Scandinavia.
2. Of all the Scandinavian countries, which is the most popular? And what initiatives are in place to boost arrivals for the other countries?
Denmark and Sweden tend to record a greater number of bed nights because of Copenhagen’s and Stockholm’s popularity with pre- and post-cruise tours. But Norway has been quickly catching up as North American travellers discover its natural attractions and opportunities for adventure. Disney’s film ‘Frozen’, which is inspired by Norway, certainly helped!
The Scandinavian Tourist Boards work in close cooperation with North American tour operators and travel agents to help boost sales of travel to Scandinavia, communicating the best products and attractions the region has to offer, providing them with the assistance they may need in crafting unique, multi-country itineraries for their clients, and offering destination training to their sales teams. We also participate in major industry events like the annual USTOA Marketplace. Our Scandinavia Specialist Program, with over 1,000 graduates, has proved to be a great platform to train and educate travel agents, providing them with all of the tools they need to sell multi-country packages to Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden.
3. What’s one thing most travellers would be surprised to learn about Scandinavia?
That Scandinavia is a year-round destination. Summer is the most popular time to visit. But late spring, with flowers and trees freshly in bloom, and early autumn when the leaves are turning to hues of gold and red are also great times to visit. A winter visit allows clients to experience cozy Christmas markets and traditions, and even an entire Santa Claus village in Finland! Late fall and the winter months are also ideal to view the Northern Lights. And temperatures in the Scandinavian capitals during the coldest months are milder than in most major Canadian cities. Visiting off-season is also ideal for those looking to avoid the crowds.
4. What’s the biggest news coming out of Scandinavia for 2016?
We are very happy about the increased and upgraded air links between North America and Scandinavia that are making it easier for Canadian and American travellers to visit our region. In addition to new routes that were opened over the past two years, many more are planned for 2016, mostly out of the U.S. SAS Scandinavian Airlines and Norwegian (Air Shuttle) will offer nonstop service to Scandinavia out of Boston starting this spring, which provides an easy connection for Canadians looking to fly to Scandinavia from Eastern Canada.
We are also pleased that Air Canada has upgraded its product on their Toronto-Copenhagen route to a 787 Dreamliner that now operates year-round, which is also proof that the service is performing well for the airline.
5. What tips would you give travel agents on how to package Scandinavia?
Scandinavia is best packaged as a multi-country destination. They’re four distinct yet complementary destinations with strong cultural and historical ties. It’s extremely easy and convenient to travel throughout the region – by plane, train, ferry and/or self-drive – and there are no borders between the countries. And with the increased air links from North America to Scandinavia, it’s easier for agents to book open-jaw tickets and have their clients fly into Oslo, for example, travel throughout the region and fly back out of Helsinki.
For more information on travel to Scandinavia, visit goscandinavia.com.