News from Finland
Let´s talk about Tourism in Finland, again. I have been following the debate of Finnish Tourism for years. Sometimes I follow it as an outsider, comparing it to my experiences in Spain where I used to live and work in tourism industry more than ten years and still have a strong connection to Spain. Spain is one of the biggest countries in the world when talking about Tourism and we have a lot to learn from Spaniards. I have also done research about sustainable tourism in Spain years ago and it´s results had come quite often to my mind lately.
This week we followed the big event called Suomi Areena which gathers representatives of our society to discuss about the actual issues. Some of the influencial persons of Finnish Tourism industry had also attended the thematic debates of the event.
Unfortunately, I couldn´t be there and didn´t find any videos of the interviews. So, to get an idea what has been discussed is based on few posts on Twitter and LindedIn. According to them the main issue had been the need to clarify the message how to promote Finland as a Tourist destination.
Now it´s interesting to follow the next steps; we have a kind of tourism brand but we need to clarify it, specially from the responsible point of view.
During that event they also talked about Iceland and the secret of its success as a tourist destination. Hopefully they also talked about how to anticipate the problems of fast growing tourism as the success-story of Iceland has its pros and cons as we also know.
Nobody wants to be a Tourist?
There have been couple of articles I have also read during the last couple of days. One of them is this: Residents in Tourism hotspots have had enough which is basicly about overtourism.
Harold Goodwin has defined overtourism as following and I agree it: ”Destinations where hosts or guests, locals or visitors, feel that there are too many visitors and that the quality of life in the area or the quality of the experience has deteriorated unacceptably. It is the opposite of Responsible Tourism which is about using tourism to make better places to live in and better places to visit. Often both visitors and guests experience the deterioration concurrently”.
In the article linked above, the chief executive of Helsinki Marketing, Laura Aalto, pointed out this: “Nobody wants to be a tourist, everybody wants to be part-time locals. Our job is to create the kind of circumstances, conditions and platforms for visitors who come to Helsinki to meet with the locals and not go to the most obvious attractions”
Ever since I have been studying and working in Tourism industry (more than 25 years) it had been repeting the same – nobody wants to be a tourist. Sometimes one wants to be a traveller, some other moment adventurer and now part-time local?
Local meets visitor
I got the point of Laura Aalto´s opinion in the article above and I do agree many other insights in the article. Helsinki marketing is doing good job and we are happy that our opinions seem to be of our decision makers´interest.
But I somehow got stuck in the world of part-time local. When talking about encounteres the line between locals and tourists is very sensitive and personal and should always be defined by the locals. Are the part-time locals ready to follow the rules and responsibilities – do they pay for the services?
In Spain, when doing the research, most of the locals I interviewed, told that they prefer tourists to have their resorts and own areas so that locals can keep on living the tranquil everyday life. They told they are happy to have tourists and they understand the benefits. They also had interest to offer local services and share cultural specialities – when they get paid for it because Tourism is an industry where people need to earn also their living.
This is one of the views, which I as tourism professional, would like to point out now in Finland; Tourism industry must be developed in responsible way considering also the economical sustainability and fair pricing. It´s good to remember that skilled professionals are also local.
Helsinki Guides get sometimes messages where locals ask guides to inform the tourists not to enter to private gardens nor to take pictures of private homes or children playing in backyards. In wintertime we had news from Lapland about the locals tired of too many tourists in local supermarkets and pharmacies. One of the Spanish Tour Leaders told the tourists were not so happy to walk in congested streets in Rovaniemi which had been promoted as an authentic wilderness capital.
Different values mean different expectations
Of course the expectations of locals and tourists change and have been changing. The cultural evolution in our society and its influence in tourism is evident.
Transmodern tourists want to have authentic experiences together with locals, but in the other hand they do respect the rules locals want to establish, they are ready to pay for the experiences and they do respect the nature.
There are still, though, postmodern individualists, adventurers who wants to take their own way and not follow the others, those who expect to have tailor-made services, produced in customer´s terms and defenetly don´t want to be called as tourist.
There are also plenty of modern and traditional tourists willing to have the traditional sightseeing-tours and visiting the most popular sights.
It seems that Finland and Helsinki want to focus on transmodern tourists which is a good decision, as it is the fastest growing value based visitors group in the world.
Most of the visitors coming to Finland at the moment seem to be traditional and modern tourists, and we all need to work hard to get the marketing message through to our potential visitors – and meanwhile understand the expectations of different kind visitors and be ready serve them.
Arctic point of view – what is the correct price for the experience?
I also red an other interesting article: Sustainable arctic Tourism and was happy to find some very good insights about sustainability. Rauno Posio, Project director in Lapland Chamber of Commerce and member or Arctic Economic Council says as following:
”The problem is how to combine the pristine nature with tourism flows. The north will not and should not become a mass tourism destination. Instead, we need to provide high-quality services with prices that help us avoid overpopulating our tourist attractions.”
There are many other persons in industry also talking about pricing. I think it´s very important and would like to totally agree. But it´s again, a theme with pros and cons.
Finland is already known as an expensive tourist destination, Finns and specially Finnish families often travel abroad because domestic tourism is more expensive.
If we make sure the service is worth of higher prices when promoting it abroad – higher prices could be one solution. Maybe there could be other prices for domestic visitors? I have written about nature based luxury experiences and pricing in this previous post: Yes – we have Luxury Tourism in Finland
I also agree those who are telling us not to worry about masstourism in Finland; we have plenty of pace and no risk to become a masstourism destination. It´s not about masstourism but about overtourism in our case. I recommend to read the article at the end of this post for not to confuse with the definitions.
Tourism is hospitality industry where human meets human
To offer Premium level Customer Service (new luxury) highly skilled professionals are needed and at this moment there is lack of employees in Finnish Tourism industry. Hospitality enterprices refuse to pay higher salaries and offer better living conditions for seasonal employees because of bad marging. Political decisions to support the industry, high standard education and very good management is needed.
One of the projects to find solutions is the one funded by The Economic Affairs and Employment of Finland called Matkailudiili ( Tourism deal). Please, read more about it here in English: Tourism deal
So – what´s my point in all this?
I would like to point out, that Responsible way should be the only way to develop Tourism. Responsibility is about making human decisions, respect the local and understand that where ever we travel, the time and skills of the Service providers and resources of the experiences should be paid, because Tourism is industry and profession.
In Finland we need to take special care of our nature. In many destinations where overtourism is recognized as a problem, the problems have started from the sights free of charge – because that´s the way to be as a local – finding the places where the locals are – and over time they get overcrowded.
Tourism is hospitality industry where human meets human with respect. Let the locals be hosts and the visitors be guests – it might be the fairest deal for everybody. To conclude my message, I invite you to read also this very good article by Harold Goodwin resuming the history and actual situation about overtourism as it can be understood now: Overtourism
Thank you for following the blog.
Any comments are appreciated!
With arctic regards,
ps. If you read the definition of ”Tourist” of two pages (p.499-591) from the Encyclopedia of Tourism edited by Jafar Jafari (Routledge 2000) – you would be proud to be a Tourist!