Yes – we have Luxury Tourism in Finland (Eng)

Luxury doesn´t mean same for all of us

It´s not easy to define luxury in Tourism business. We all have different kind of thoughts when thinking of luxury or deluxe. Some of you might think of Dubai and the luxurious shopping possibilities whilst someone else may think about luxurious hotels with marble, crystal chandeliers, Champagne, servants and flights by private jets. Luxury is something we don´t have in our everyday life, something special, isn´t it?

For being so personal and subjective item, it is also very sensitive branch in Tourism business to promote and sell. It´s all about customers´ needs and wishes – and once customer arrives to your place or destination,  you still need to exceed expectations. The success of Luxury Tourism requires very good image marketing – and perfect Service Design.


Rural houses in Asturias, Spain.

I had a boyfriend years ago who wanted to take me to the best five star all-inclusive holiday resorts close to golf courses for holidays and didn´t understand at all why I prefered to stay in small rural houses in the middle of nowhere.

Our expectations of luxury were different – and as you possibly guess- our relationship didn´t last for long – not only because of our different ways to spend holidays but because of our different values of life.

International definitions

I hereby sum some notes about Luxury and Luxury Tourism. I found some information about Luxury Tourism gathered in one blog  : World Tourism Forum

According to that blog  ”Luxury tourism is considered as niche tourism industry as it serves customers providing unique, authentic ‘excess’ service, so that customer won’t need to worry about the organization or lack of amenities.”

Pam Danziger, internationally known market researcher and writer has told that luxury can be separeted to ”old luxury” and ”new luxury”. According to her old luxury is something that only rich people can have, it´s  a way of life based on money and materia whilst new luxury is based on experiences and feelings.

She also define luxury as following:

Luxury should be all-encompassing, it should tell you a story, luxury need to meet the needs of the customer, it must comply with costumer values and luxury should make the customer feel special.

How about Luxury Tourism in Finland

My friend,  owner and CEO of ToolBox-travel marketing & Consulting company Kari Halonen, talked about Luxury Tourism in Matka- Travel Fair last January (2016) in Helsinki. Kari also used the definition of  Pam Danziger as base of the research he had done in Finland. You can read the results of Kari´s research in Finnish opening this link: ToolBox-travel


Sunset in Levi

While listening to him I started to think about luxury Tourism in Finland. According to the research done by ToolBox-travel there are three different kinds of Luxury Tourism:

  1. Luxury – Luxus
    • five star standard,  about the same as old luxury
  2. Incentive Luxury
    • ”once in the lifetime”- experiences, demanding money and lot of work as well as special environment
  3. Experimential Luxury
    • highlighting authenticity, based on nature and cultural values, customer service respecting the locality, first class service taking  into account the local level ( new luxury)

My experience and observation in Lapland

I was lucky to have an opportunity to visit probably the best known Luxury Tourism company in Finland, Levi Spirit Luxury Villas in Lapland. This is how they define luxury:

The definition of arctic luxury

Have you travelled the world in search of exotic experiences? Perhaps it’s time to give Lapland a chance to surprise you. Levi Spirit has all the elements that make special holidays and memorable times together. This unique resort is a combination of comfort and Arctic wilderness, which is not found anywhere else.

And yes- that´s exactly what they offer; Nordic/Finnish  -style wooden villas in Lapland. The architecture and design is simple and beautiful. Customers are connected to nature and wilderness.


Levi Spirit Luxury Villas in Lapland

The environment is excotic and the special activities can be arranged.  And then comes the main point; I think that the secret of the success lies in hospitality.

The whole customer service process is managed by one person who gets to know the customers already before their arrival – in personal way. She fullfills the customers´ wishes and needs from catering to every day cleaning, from clothing purchases to private driver and chef –  what ever is needed.


Levi Spirit – Designed in Finnish way

It´s not easy to offer luxurious service for very special customers in Levi; it is located in a small municipality of about 6400 inhabitants all together spread in very vast area. There are not, for example, so many ”five star chefs” to call at short notice.

Luxury in Levi Spirit´s  case seems to be based on local values, arctric location, nature  and the best possible service. The heart of the place is Heini, local woman who really knows how to make you feel comfortable. Her attitude and way of being is a very good example of local hospitality – she is very professional and at the same time so authentic! She tells you the story and she lets you to be part of the beautiful,  artctic story.

Thank you Heini and Pekka!
I did enjoy the spirit of Levi and the story of Lapland.


Is Finland a ”No, no” -country? At least Santa Claus says YES.


I have been thinking about the discourse hold by John Swarbrooke couple of months ago in Jyväskylä, in central Finland. John Swarbrooke´s book Sustainable Tourism Management is one of the few books I had time to read from the beginning to end during my studies in ”Finnish University Network for Tourism studies” in early 2000´s. As I have special interest in Sustainable and Responsible Tourism in my academic studies I was so happy to meet mr. Swarbrooke.

tammi tallinna pieni mökki ja saari

So I did have the oportunity to meet him, but he didn´t say a word about Sustainable Tourism. He was talking about changes in Global Tourism business which was pretty interesting too.

He also talked about customer service in general and in particular in Finland. He has visited Finland so many times that he is quite experienced tourist in Finland. He shared his experiencies with us; he said we have  no, no – culture in Finnish customer service.


One example Mr. Swarbrooke gave us was about getting the shirt ironed at the hotel. He has asked in many hotels if he could get his shirt ironed; not for free but paying for that service. And he has always got the same answer; no – we don´t have a service like that. Of course he could have sent the shirt to laundry but it had taken more time and would have been useless as the shirt was clean.

Sounds familiar – if we ask something out of the normal service the answer is very often NO.  Well, I have to say, it´s not only in Finland, I have heard that word in some other countries as well.


The brand of Finland says it is the country of problem-solving. Tourists want the problems to be solved and have fun! It´s easier to convince  tourists that the problems are solved if we start with YES instead of NO.  Sometimes we really can´t solve the problem, but at least we can say yes, we do our best. Let´s be active in this process! In Finland we should be very good at starting with YES.

In Jyväskylä we had the right dress code; at least matching the chair.

In Jyväskylä we had the right dress code with Reija Sandelin ( Haaga-Helia) ; at least matching the chair.


We went with my colleagues to have a lunch in a restaurant operated by students. It was five minutes before the closing time ( time till when one can enter to have the lunch) and the students were already collecting food away. So I asked if we still could have the lunch. The students didn´t say anything but were looking around a bit confused.

So the teacher came and told us that  ”NO,  you can´t”  because we have started to take everything away”. Now I was confused but accepted the answer. When going out of the restaurant I said to my colleagues that it´s a pity that written principles and reality don´t meet;  that school (as almost all schools in Finland) declairs to be proud of the sustainable development programme –  but they prefer throw the food away instead of selling it to us.

The teacher heard my comment, asked us to come back and told the students to serve the lunch. She acted in correct way; she admitted in front of the students  that she was wrong and then gave them a good example how to solve the problem and be kind to customers.

Next step could be that the students (future professionals)  dare to make the decisions by themselves, without any doubt, by a smile on the face.

I have learnt that we shouldn´t so easily accept ”NO” – answers but try to negotiate in a positive way. It probably helps – maybe not always but in many cases.


I had a very good friend of mine from Sweden visiting us with her 8 year old son. We had great time with kids enjoying the snow and walking in forest. As well we had a nice stop in a playground which has three different parts; one for very small children, one for those of school age and the third one for kids from +12 years where we stopped. It was the most normal thing for us to play with kids and not just stand and look at them playing – we were having fun together!

Sometimes No-No -culture spoils a good moment in everyday life.

Sometimes No-No -culture spoils a good moment in everyday life. Fun for kids can be fun for adults.

But then one lady started to shout us from the dog park next to the playground. She said ”hey – no, no.. you are not allowed to use it, it´s only for kids.”  I tried to tell her that well.. I´m quite sure that the Finnish quality ensures that the park can be used by adults as well ( equipment made by Lappset) and there might be children who weight more than us…. but NO – she told us not to be there.

We didn´t want to irritate the lady and  went to play to a forest nearby. The kids didn´t care and me either. But afterwards I went to the website of Lappset;  fortunately they have been thinking of adults; they seem to  understand that there are plenty of adults who want to join the joy of playing with the kids. It doesn´t make sense to have playgrounds where adults stay passive!


During my empirical research and in my everyday life I hear YES as well, of course!  I would say Customer Service is a huge potential when making Finland known as attractive tourist destination and we are good in many senses.  By the way, Mr Swarbrooke also asked us to be proud of our odd way of being and not to apologize the originality.

I hope Finland is soon known as a country of YES – YES – attitude. At least there is one who said Yes to me! I wrote an article about climate change and Santa Claus: Will climate change kill Santa Claus. Santa Claus had read it – or the representative of his did and then they contacted me.

It took only one week for Santa Claus to say YES. Santa Claus said YES to the idea of being a goodwill ambassador when talking about climate change. He also told that he already has started to act in this theme.

Hopefully we find the way to collaborate! The Finnish Fair Tourism Association is interested in  to be involved. Would you like to join us as well?

I  keep you informed!

I´ll write soon about Finnish Tourism Trade hold in Helsinki in January 2015.