Thursday. 30.11.2023

Largest Nordic tour operator seeks safe corridor with Canary Islands

Nordic Leisure Travel Group, the leading Scandinavian tour operator, plans to bring 179,000 tourists from the four Nordic countries to the archipelago from October to March.

Canary Islands authorities and the tour operator study the possibility of co-financing PCR tests for tourists.

A couple takes a selfie while sunbathing on Las Canteras beach (Gran Canaria). Photo: Borja Suarez/Reuters/File photo.
A couple takes a selfie while sunbathing on Las Canteras beach (Gran Canaria). Photo: Borja Suarez/Reuters/File photo.

Nordic Leisure Travel Group, the main Scandinavian tour operator, is negotiating with the regional government of the Canary Islands (Spain) an agreement to save the winter tourist season.

The project, consisting of establishing safe corridors between the Nordic countries and the archipelago, would allow tens of thousands of tourists to enjoy a safe vacation and secure a large number of jobs.

According to a press release issued by the Spanish Tourist Office in Helsinki, the regional minister of Tourism of the Government of the Canary Islands, Yaiza Castilla, and the CEO of Nordic Leisure Travel Group, Magnus Wikner, held a web meeting on Wednesday "to agree on measures to boost sales of travel packages to the Canary Islands for the winter season and the establishment of safe corridors."

For the Scandinavian company, the Canary Islands is now the "only sun and beach travel alternative fro the winter months," but the current incidence rate of the coronavirus in the islands must be reduced.

Sweden is currently the only country that has not adopted restrictive measures for travellers upon return from their trips, while Norway, Finland and Denmark require a standard 14-day quarantine after returning from Spain.

However, Scandinavian tourism companies are urging the governments of Denmark, Norway and Finland to modify their restriction criteria in order to assess regions instead of the whole country, where the overall incidence is higher. They hope that a difference is made regarding the Canary Islands, once the number of infections drops.

Flexibility and safety needed

Magnus Wikner explained that in a survey conducted among the Scandinavian population, 36% stated that they did not plan to travel in the next six months, while the rest did, but subject to flexibility when booking the trip (possibility of cancelling and getting a refund) and to the safety and confidence measures inspired by the destination.

Wikner said they are convinced that there will be demand for travel from the Nordics to sun and beach destinations with safety conditions and European sanitary standards for the coming months, an alternative that only the Canary Islands can offer.

In this sense, they plan to move 179,000 tourists from the four Nordic countries to the Islands from October to March, 50 % less, however, than they had planned before the outbreak of the pandemic. Of this number, 129,000 would go to the province of Las Palmas and 50,000 to Santa Cruz de Tenerife.

PCR tests to raise confidence

Both Yaiza Castilla and the CEO of Nordic Leisure Travel Group were convinced that the establishment of mandatory PCR tests for tourists would raise confidence in travellers, so the possibility of co-financing these tests was also discussed.

The Spanish tourism authorities believe that the Canary Islands have a very high potential for the Nordic market provided that the mandatory quarantine is lifted upon return.

In this regard, Castilla points out that “we are the perfect destination, almost the only one in the middle distance for winter sun and beach vacations, since our competing destinations (Thailand, Caribbean, etc.) are all long-distance and their epidemiological situation, as well as their health systems, do not generate the same confidence as the European ones at this time”.

"This means that this year, the Swedes (the only ones, for the moment without quarantine) either come to the Canary Islands or spend the winter in their country," she said.

Nordic Leisure Travel Group is the main tour operator in the Scandinavian area. It was born last year, after buying the Nordic division of Thomas Cook. Its main brands are Ving, Spies and Tjäreborg and it has the charter airline Sunclass Airlines (formerly Thomas Cook Scandinavia).

Largest Nordic tour operator seeks safe corridor with Canary Islands