Fostering sustainable tourism

Metsähallitus has partner companies in the Archipelago Sea biosphere reserve that are committed to sustainable nature tourism in the Archipelago National Park. Among other things, companies receive important training from Metsähallitus environmental specialists, for example in matters related to the flora and fauna of the Archipelago Sea region.

The basic precondition for companies in the Archipelago National Park is completely rubbish-free operations: everything that is brought in to the park is also brought out. Special attention should also be paid to mobility throughout the national park. Getting from place to place in sustainable tourism must avoid jeopardising these areas, and this is achieved by developing good practices and paying attention to paths and routing, for example.

“I would say that as a rule all entrepreneurs appreciate nature, but more information is needed to better assess company performance in relation to the environment. Our task is to help them become better informed about nature-friendly values”, says Laura Lehtonen, senior planning officer for nature tourism and customer communications at Metsähallitus.

In recent years, information and training have been given with the aid of educational initiatives such as joint excursions to the Archipelago National Park for entrepreneurs. During the excursions, attention was paid to traditional landscapes, for example, and to the wellbeing of waterways. Everything is done with a pragmatic approach, avoiding the conventional lecturing mindset.

“In the context of nature tourism, we also do a certain kind of hidden advertising for nature conservation. In particular, we want to highlight the actions that individuals can take for the good of the environment. Entrepreneurs and travellers often have a great desire to take action to prevent the loss of biodiversity, but it can be difficult for them to assess the environmental impact of their own actions. For example, when out in the wilderness one can see why pollinators are vital to the environment and how their numbers can be increased even in one’s own back yard”, says conservation biologist Maija Mussaari, who specialises in nature management in the archipelago.

Lehtonen agrees: “I dare say on behalf of entrepreneurs that nobody is in favour of mass tourism. Everyone would much prefer quality and small-scale tourism operations to maintain a balance with the environment. We are not yet at the extreme end of sustainability, but now we need methods for assessing the impact of tourism and for making plans for which areas tourism can be promoted in”.

“At the moment, people are very interested in climate change and we have good channels for sharing information at our sites. We can show how it is possible to tackle global environmental problems by investing in the right kinds of actions”, Mussaari says, adding that entrepreneurs have shown genuine interest in environmental issues.

Coastal Bootcamp promotes micro-business collaboration

In the near future, education and cooperation will be further deepened by a tourism development project funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.

“The Coastal Bootcamp project started in the Archipelago Sea, and we are involved in the project. Also included are the municipalities of Kemiönsaari and Parainen, and the Yrityssalo company. The project will give a renewed boost to business cooperation, with sustainable tourism as one area”, Lehtonen says.

In addition to sustainable development, the project aims to support small businesses in the region, for example with the aid of digitalisation. Another goal of the project is to develop current and new nature routes and experience and theme routes for different target groups together with various operators in the region. Cooperation with primary producers in the region will also be intensified through the parallel RannikkoLIFE coastal life project.

Coastal Bootcamp’s target group is micro-enterprises in the tourism industry in the region. With the aid of workshops, courses and networking events, the aim is to stimulate debate on the potential for greater integration of tourism across the region.

“On the Finnish scale, no region has a strong profile as an area of sustainable nature tourism. We want to discuss this with entrepreneurs. At its best, the project will reach nearly 500 small entrepreneurs, and through collaboration with them we can jointly create a new profile for the area, if there is interest in doing so”, Lehtonen says.

Sensible development on Nature’s terms

It is not the intention to make the Archipelago National Park a major attraction for mass tourism. Naturally, there is interest in promoting and maintaining the life of the archipelago, but this cannot be done at the expense of the unique nature found there. With a few good marketing concepts, both goals can be achieved.

“The natural environment of the archipelago cannot sustain large masses of people. On the other hand, we have strongly culturally influential sites that already have the necessary infrastructure for tourism. Growth in these areas could be possible as long as planning is based on sustainable tourism”, according to Mussaari.

Lehtonen agrees: “I dare say on behalf of entrepreneurs that nobody is in favour of mass tourism. Everyone would much prefer quality and small-scale tourism operations to maintain a balance with the environment. We are not yet at the extreme end of sustainability, but now we need methods for assessing the impact of tourism and for making plans for which areas tourism can be promoted in”.

Further information

Laura Lehtonen
Senior Planning Officer
Metsähallitus | Parks & Wildlife
0206394659 | laura.lehtonen@metsa.fi

Maija Mussaari
Conservation biologist
Metsähallitus | Parks & Wildlife
0206394681 | maija.mussaari@metsa.fi