Comment: Look north – and tap into the potential of Scandinavia

Tricia Handley-Hughes, founder and director of Pinpoint Britain, urges inbound operators not to ignore the Nordics.

From gin to football, there are plenty of ways to woo the Scandinavians, as I discussed at last week’s UKinbound Nordics seminar.

I joined an expert panel to talk about trends and views with an audience looking to tap into the Scandinavian market.

The well-attended event heard from Deirdre Wells (UKinbound), Gary Robson (VisitBritain), Tom Cassidy (Liverpool Football Club) and me.

We all agreed the market is small compared to others, as the population of the Nordic countries totals just 25 million – but numbers to the UK are growing and they offer plenty of opportunities for inbound operators.

Sweden is the largest, with a population of nine million, while Norway has 4.9 million.

The Nordic market to the UK grew by 2% year-on-year in 2017, with an expenditure figure of £949 million from January to September.

The average spend was £600 per short visit, with 67% of them being repeat visitors to the UK.

Scandinavians normally take several short breaks a year and UK is one of their favourite destinations.

They enjoy the diversity and range of cities but are increasingly looking at out-of-town options to get a culture fix.

Country manor hotels providing locally-sourced food; pubs that allow visitors to immerse themselves in a community; and shopping for international brands that cost less than at home are all attractions that will win their attention.

As they are experienced travellers, many are seeking alternative experiences.

Operators need to stretch their creativity when developing itineraries and suppliers need to do more to offer experiential options.

We try to offer “behind-the-scenes” experiences and opportunities to interact with the local community.

Gin is widely popular, so gin-tasting and gin-making are experiences that go down well. The Scandics just love our quirky Britishness.

Gardens and castles are among the most popular spots on UK itineraries, but football remains high on the priority list for the Scandinavian men.

Liverpool and Manchester United benefit from their Scandinavian fan-base, and if match tickets are unavailable, then visitors will stay in a nearby town or city that allows them to watch a match locally, but visit the club museums pre- or post-match.

Scandinavians may be among the highest spenders, but beware, because they still seek value for money.

Efficient, good quality and clean hotels appeal, but not necessarily luxury.

And as a tech-savvy nation, they will have researched their information before booking, so they are well-equipped with information before they arrive in the UK.

Overall, Brexit and terrorism have not deterred travel to the UK and 2018 has started with immense interest.

So, if you want a slice of this lucrative Scandinavian business, look at creativity and differentiation in your itineraries.

Picture by Steve Dunlop.