The Finnish travel industry is gradually picking up after a few years of restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to experts, rebuilding travel sustainably in the wake of the pandemic has become a priority for the industry. In fact, Finland is aiming to become the most sustainably growing tourist destination in the Nordics, which is stated in the national tourism strategy for 2022–2028.
“Finland has already worked for years to be a benchmark of a sustainable society,” wrote Kristiina Hietasaari, senior director at Visit Finland. “Our vision is to be the world leader also in sustainable tourism.”
One of the ways to future-proof tourism is digitalisation. For example, Finnish flag carrier Finnair has long been at the forefront of digital innovation and considered it a tool for achieving world-class operations and delivering a unique customer experience.
Moreover, digitalisation acts as a driver of decarbonisation, helping travel players in lowering their carbon footprint. This, paired with a strong focus on providing authentic tourist experiences, protecting natural environments and empowering local communities, are the key elements of sustainable tourism in Finland and globally.
Below is a quintet of Finnish ways that cover the A to Z of travelling from point A to point B.
Founded in 2016 on the idea that “no one wants to be a tourist any more”, Doerz offers offbeat new ways to experience travel destinations through the eyes of locals. The digital platform, designed for selling and buying experiences, has gradually evolved into a community building a bridge between travellers and locals, including private individuals, small businesses and municipalities.
When the global travel industry got hit by COVID-19, Doerz proved to be creative and resilient by rapidly adapting its business model to address both the challenges and the opportunities created by the crisis. The company expanded its portfolio to include also virtual experience services, resulting in an uptick in sales and website traffic.
“Virtual products are not only easy, but also environmentally friendly,” founder and CEO Tomi Virtanen highlighted at the time. The pandemic also strengthened the company’s confidence in its business approach.
“Locality and authenticity have long been strong trends in tourism. COVID-19 has emphasized the importance of locality even further,” he said later. “However, the basics are still the same. They’re curiosity about the new and the innate need we all have to create stories.”
The popularity of bicycle tourism is growing rapidly both in Finland and globally as cycling is rightfully considered a great way to encourage regional travel, support small businesses, preserve the environment and, at the same time, promote a healthy and sustainable lifestyle.
With this in mind, the Finnish Centre for Cycling Tourism launched in 2021 a new website with the goal of making Finland an attractive bike travel destination among both Finns and international cyclists. The Bikeland website contains information on cycling routes across the country, covering mountain biking, bike touring, bike-packing, downhill biking and winter trails. Moreover, it’s a useful source of information on bike friendly services and events.
“Cycling tourism is developing into a mainstay of Finnish tourism, which appeals to both recreational and fitness enthusiasts,” said Henna Palosaari, an expert at the Finnish Centre for Cycling Tourism. “Finland is already a unique bicycle tourism country, and wonderful route projects and active development work will raise Finland to the next level in the upcoming years.”
Founded in 2015, this Lapland-based company has come up with exciting ideas for all nature lovers, no matter their physical location in the world. On top of relaxing tours in the family-owned forest, offline and online, HaliPuu offers its customers a unique opportunity to adopt an Arctic tree. In the turmoil of the COVID-19 pandemic, the company also released HaliPuu – Forest in your Pocket, a mobile application bringing the great outdoors to people’s fingertips.
“It’s a way to create an escape for people who might not have an opportunity to visit a forest otherwise,” explained founder Riitta Raekallio-Wunderink. “For a lot of people, the everyday life can be very detached from nature and they have no time to stop and breathe. The still presence of trees is a reminder of the connection we should have with our environment.”
This year, HaliPuu made headlines after hosting the third annual Tree Hugging World Championships in August and winning the Global Culinary Travel Awards for its Campfire Barista, the unique concept of a coffee sled serving artisan coffee specialities prepared on open fire in Finnish Lapland.
Founded in 2019 by a Canadian-Finnish duo, Jeffrey Meneses and Kiia Koistinen, Taiga Times is a travel company specialised in helping foreign and domestic tourists to explore the many wonders of Finnish nature. The company’s location, however, is not in some remote part of the country, but right in its heart, proving once again that in Finland, nature is always close.
“We wanted to operate in Helsinki because there are good nature opportunities nearby and from Helsinki you can organise day trips for those on a city vacation,” explained Kiia.
“We use the term camping holiday: you have to carry your own pack, but we take care of food, transport and routes. We want people to enjoy camping without it being boring,” she added.
Awarded Visit Finland’s Sustainable Travel Finland label, Taiga Times offers adventurous excursions of various types, including berry and mushroom picking tours and unique nightfall experiences. Moreover, even those who arrive in Helsinki for just a connecting flight at the revamped airport can get a breath of fresh air and enjoy the lake views, providing their layover lasts for at least five hours.
Finland continues to garner significant international attention for its quality education, with the value of education exports hitting nearly one billion euros in 2019. With more and more foreign visitors seeking to experience first-hand what the Finnish education system is like, many Finnish companies have recognised the need to cater and package educational tours. One of the trailblazers is VisitEDUfinn.
Established in 2016, this expert in organising inspiring school visits, study tours, diverse educational events and teacher training programmes, as well as a wide range of online services, has made it its mission to promote the good practices of Finnish education among professionals from around the globe. VisitEDUfinn has also become the first Finnish company in its field to be acknowledged by Visit Finland for its commitment to sustainable tourism.
“Finnish school system has a lot to offer to the whole world,” enthused Aulis Pitkälä, VisitEDUfinn’s chairperson of the board and former director general at the Finnish National Agency for Education (OPH). “I think, the best way to get acquainted [with it] is to visit Finnish schools and day care centres.”