By Marie Mannes and Rachel More
LONDON (Reuters) -Tourists and tour operators are expected to head to northern Europe in the future after a summer of crippling heatwaves hit southern Europe and left travelers wondering if cooler temperatures might suit them better.
The Mediterranean region has remained Europe’s most popular summer tourist spot, but bookings to countries like Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden are on the rise compared to 2022, according to Mastercard data.
Factors such as cheaper airfares and weaker currencies in Scandinavia could play a role, but one of the world’s biggest tour operators TUI said on Wednesday that climate change will also drive more tourists northbound.
The firm could see its travel season shift to start earlier in the spring and end in the fall, TUI’s Chief Executive Sebastian Ebel told reporters. It could also offer more holidays to the Nordics, the Netherlands, Poland and Belgium, he said.
“We will go into Greece to middle of November and I actually asked my colleagues, maybe we should open it until the end of the year, until or after Christmas,” Ebel told a media call.
“It gives us more opportunities for growth,” he said.
Ebel was speaking after TUI announced it could face 25 million euros ($27 million) in costs tied to wildfires in Rhodes, Greece.
Tour operators in places like northern Norway also see an increased demand.
The regional tourist information for Vesteraalen, an island district in Northern Norway, said it had guests from central and southern Europe who came to Norway to escape the heatwave.
This had resulted in more direct flight routes to Northern Norway being created, it said.
Fabio Scaglione and Diego Bruno visited Stockholm from Turin in Italy last week with around 20 others in a trip organized by an Italian travel agency.
“Last year we went to the South of Spain and it was very hot, this year we decided to go to a cooler place,” Bruno said.
Heather Storgaard, a Scottish tourist, planned her summer vacation this year in Denmark, with a stop in Northern Germany. The hot weather has prevented her going south for the past five years, she said.
“Previously we’d been to France, Italy, your normal summer destinations and we were getting to the point where I was actually feeling ill,” she said.
“Even Germany and Switzerland are too far south – that was last year’s attempt and it was still far too hot.”
Margit Wissenbach, a German living in Denmark, visited Sweden this year with the plan to go hiking whilst also taking trips in cities such as Gothenburg.
Wissenbach is often in Italy due to work but said she preferred the north for holidays. “I would rather walk around in the rain than in an oven,” she said.
($1 = 0.9109 euros)
(Reporting by Joanna Plucinska, Marie Mannes and Rachel More, additional reporting by Alberto Chiumento, Editing by Rachel More, Mark Potter, William Maclean)