Hey traveller, want to be sustainable or unsustainable, responsible or irresponsible?

How many of us have lost our hearts to a travelling destination and dream of one day going back? Probably quite a few. And how many have stopped to think whether that place will remain as beautiful, clean, versatile, or even exist in the future? Hopefully more and more.

During the Sustainable Production Development project, which is a part of our studies, we were able to dive deeper into the different aspects of sustainable tourism in the Arctic for the Grude project. The importance and timeliness of sustainable tourism dawned on us in the early stages of our work, when we realised how easy it was to find well-informed partners.

Communicating about sustainable tourism became the core idea of our project. The subject was discussed from different points of view in a four-part podcast series and the culmination of the whole project was a two-hour webinar. During the webinar, experts opened the concept of sustainability to the audience through presentations about the Sustainable Travel Finland label (STF), certified entrepreneurship and regenerative tourism. Concrete and practical examples brought the topic closer to the participants and created a good interaction between the presenters and the audience through questions and discussion.

The people living in the world today, need positivity, continuity, and reliability. Finland has every possibility to be one of the most sustainable tourist destinations in the world, says Visit Finland’s Virpi Aittokoski. This is because we are already good, so why not be the best?  The idea behind Visit Finland’s STF certificate is to create a new standard for sustainability, a key factor in the tourism industry that covers the social, ecological, economic, and cultural aspects. With the STF label, an entrepreneur or destination gets the tools to build their own business in a direction that withstands a high-level international review. This is a perfect continuation on the international path Finland is already proceeding after being selected as the happiest country in the world and the best country for people’s well-being.

If there is a genuine will, the busy everyday life of an entrepreneur does not prevent development of operations in a more sustainable and responsible direction. It is understandably important for local people and entrepreneurs that their own living and operational environments remain in good condition, as Reijo Lantto of Himmerki Tourist Center summarized. The STF certificate awarded to Himmerki, is seen in the everyday life of the company as a positive branding tool, a marketing advantage, and a clear attractiveness-factor, especially among the international tourists. In practice, the STF brand, which stands for sustainable and responsible operations, is a marketing advantage today, but will certainly become a prerequisite for successful business in the future.

But what do we find behind the beautiful sceneries and holiday villages? The concept of regenerative tourism was a whole new thing for us and caught our interest immediately. According to Mood of Finland’s Anu Nyholm, regenerative tourism takes sustainability thinking a step further and goes naturally alongside it, complementing it. The conscious traveller today and in the future, wants to see the bigger picture beyond the beautiful landscapes: the real life in the destination, the threats, and problems it faces. Regenerative tourism is based on the idea of improving and supporting, rather than just trying to avoid more harm. Regenerative tourism is feasible for any of us. For example, we can support locals by purchasing their sustainable services, or instead of physically travelling, how about making an armchair trip to the nature destination of our dreams that is relaxing and saves the destination’s delicate nature and our own purse. Regenerative tourism is limited only by our imagination.

We want to thank all our partners: you made our project – podcasts and webinar –possible. With the experience gained through this project, we cannot imagine making other than sustainable and responsible decisions, whether we travel near or far.

Thank you to the municipality of Posio, a small but brightly shining star on map of STF.

Many thanks to the entrepreneurs at Posio, Kota-Husky and Lomakeskus Himmerki, you gave the voice of the entrepreneurs’ busy everyday life under the STF brand for those who joined our project.

Visit Finland, you opened the content, purpose, and goals of the STF label to us, thank you very much for it!

Olli Järvenkylä, a specialist of outdoors traveling, thank you for your golden tips on how we can hike more responsibly from now on!

Many thanks to Anu Nyholm / Mood of Finland for telling us about innovative tourism and the examples that have already been put into practice.

Thanks also to the Grude project and Lapland University of Applied Sciences for the interesting assignment, background support and guidance.

Blogtext by,
Elina Elsinen, Heli Heinäaho, Päivi Kahelin, Tanja Satta ja Niina Viitanen
Lapland UAS Master School students