Tui is reviewing its Lapland holiday programme and offering customers the chance to amend trips for free to next winter due to current travel uncertainty.
The move follows this week’s decision by Santa’s Lapland to cancel all its December 2020 trips to see Father Christmas following concerns that increasing Covid-19 safety measures and travel restrictions would take “too much away from the magic of the experience”.
Tui is currently assessing whether its trips to Lapland can go ahead following new entry rules for Finland, which allow UK visitors to travel to the destination for up to 72 hours without having to quarantine on arrival, provided they have a negative Covid test up to 72 hours prior to arrival.
The operator said it had taken the decision to “proactively” contact customers who have booked Lapland for this winter and stressed its trips would only go ahead if the company felt they would be “enjoyable”.
In a statement the company said: “We are continuously monitoring government travel advice and reviewing our holiday programme in line with this.
“We are proactively calling our Lapland customers for December 2020 to offer them the option to amend their holiday for free to winter 2021, as we know there’s still uncertainty about whether these holidays will go ahead this year.
“We know how magical a trip to Lapland is and we are working through the finer details of how we can operate our trips in a Covid-safe way, and in line with Finnish government guidelines. We’d like to reassure our customers that Lapland holidays will only go ahead if we believe they will be enjoyable. We’ll provide more information once it is available.”
One of the largest UK travel agencies to specialise in Lapland, Santa Claus Trips, said many customers expected trips to be cancelled. It has already managed to rebook 70% of customers affected by the cancellation of Santa’s Lapland trips.
Brian Wright, marketing director of parent company Brooklyn Travel Holdings, said many clients were happy to reschedule.
He said: “We are right in the middle of contacting all affected customers. It has to be handled sensitively. Customers are disappointed but understanding. Around 30% had pre-empted it and been in touch over the last few days.
“We are looking at a rebooking success rate of 70% into next year. Some of the prices may be higher next year, especially if children fall into a higher age category, which may make it a harder sell for some of the trips but some are the same.”
Lapland trips are a “big and growing part” of the group, which also owns agency Stewart Travel and operator Canterbury Travel, which is in turn assessing its own Lapland programme.
Other operators have also cancelled their Lapland programmes. Newmarket Holidays shelved its programme two weeks ago while Regent Travel cancelled group tours in September.
Newmarket’s head of trade sales Richard Forde said the operator took an early decision to cancel trips to Pajala in Swedish Lapland ahead of this month’s balance due dates to avoid the need for refunds.
He said: “We listened to customers. We were not confident about giving the right experience. We switched 80% to next year and did it early to save agents a job.”
Regent Holidays ditched its group tour allocations when it became clear it would not be able to fill its 80 spaces across four tours and where it had “financial commitment”.
But brand manager Andrea Godfrey said private, tailor-made trips would go ahead thanks to new entry rules allowing UK visitors to stay up to 72 hours in Finland from November 23 without quarantine. Godfrey said Lapland suppliers were “flexible around any [potential] changes” and would provide refunds or rebookings if necessary.
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