A region must satisfy a total of seven requirements to earn the newly introduced label, including showing commitment to national principles on sustainable travel, supporting the development of sustainability expertise in local businesses and having an up-to-date development plan.
Liisa Kokkarinen, sustainable travel manager at Visit Finland, revealed that the requirements were inspired by international sustainability programmes but tailored to the needs of Finland. The goal, she added, is to ensure various aspects of ecological, sociocultural and financial sustainability are taken into account while enabling companies to meet the demand for sustainable travel services.
“Studies show that travel service customers are, in ever-increasing numbers, demanding sustainable services in which the environmental burden has been minimised and benefits to the local culture and economy have been maximised,” she said.
This requires commitment from both public and private sector operators, according to Marja Hannula, the municipal travel coordinator of Posio.
In Posio, sustainability has been an integral part of the operations of travel companies for years: Holiday Village Himmerki, the largest accommodation provider in the region, has a staff consisting predominantly of local residents who are employed all year round. Kota-Husky and Ylitalo Reindeer Farm, meanwhile, have designed their operations with consideration for animal welfare.
“For them, each husky and reindeer is a family member,” said Hannula. “As a result of the Sustainable Travel Finland programme, other sustainability measures, such as saving energy and water and increasing the use of local food, have become part of the companies’ day-to-day operations.”
The small municipality is unperturbed by its status as a relatively unknown travel destination as its strategy is not to attract visitors in large numbers, but rather to appeal to travellers in search of authentic experiences.
Its commitment to sustainability has also been recognised internationally. Posio was recently placed on the 2020 Sustainable Destinations Top 100, a listing of travel destinations taking concrete steps to promote sustainability by Green Destinations.
Finland, overall, has seen its stock as a travel destination continue to rise recently, in spite of the restrictions imposed by the pandemic.
Condé Nast Traveler in October revealed Helsinki was voted as the eighth best big-city destination in the 33rd edition of its readers’ survey, describing the city as at once cosy, stylish and sophisticated. Rovaniemi, the capital of Finnish Lapland, was recently selected as the best winter destination in Europe by Lonely Planet.
Visit Finland and Finnfacts, the publisher of Good News from Finland, are both part of Business Finland.