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Finland is a strong leader when it comes to clean, green living and is widely known for its unspoilt nature and unique culture. We have already highlighted Visit Finland's 7 Step Approach to Designing a Sustainable Nation, tackling the challenge of sustainability from both an ecological and sociological viewpoint, nationwide, and we are looking forward to hearing more detail from Liisa Kokkarinen, Regional Partnership Manager, at #DTTTGlobal in Finland. In the meantime, we caught up with Liisa for a little sneak preview. 

1. Hi! Please introduce yourself and your DMO.

Visit Finland works to develop Finland’s travel destination brand, marketing Finland to travellers abroad and help companies in the travel industry in Finland to go global. We cooperate with travel destinations, regions, businesses in the travel industry and other export promoters and embassies, Visit Finland is part of Business Finland.

At Visit Finland I work in the Product & Content team and collaborate with the travel industry partners in Finland. I head our sustainable tourism programme, with an aim to shift the travel industry in Finland towards even more sustainable stage. In addition to my work for sustainable tourism, I also act as a Regional Partnership Manager for destination Lapland. This role includes tasks such as product development and branding work as well as the coordination of joint marketing and sales promotional activities with the local DMOs in Lapland.

2. What does sustainable tourism mean for Visit Finland?

Visit Finland’s sustainable tourism initiative is designed to nurture, conserve and preserve what is most important; Finland’s unspoilt natural environment, as well as the Finnish culture and lifestyle which is rooted in the country’s pure and pristine outdoors. We need to work pro-actively in order to save our beautiful country and culture for future generations. For tourism to be sustainable, cross-industry collaboration is needed, as well as everyone’s involvement. Every action matters, and for this reason we are encouraging everyone to get involved. This is what sustainable tourism means to us, particularly in Finland.

For tourism to be sustainable, cross-industry collaboration is needed, as well as everyone’s involvement.

3. Without giving too much away, please can you give us a brief overview about Visit Finland’s 7 Step Approach and the Sustainability Label AND How did you go about developing this initiative and engaging DMOs within the nation?

At Visit Finland we have developed ‘Sustainable Travel Finland’ concept, a low threshold development tool to assist Finnish travel companies and DMOs to adapt sustainable practices and follow SDGs. Initially, we research the will and obstacles in tourism industry to adapt sustainability, the created a programme that eliminates the obstacles and releases the willpower. This means requires commitment, increasing know-how, developing an action plan, responsible communication, certification, verification and measurability.

After benchmarking many national and international systems, the concept was developed in collaboration with many stakeholders such as DMOs, certification systems, tourism companies, NGOs, world heritage sites and Parks & Wildlife Finland. We then invited DMOs to apply in the pilot programme and were stunned by the response. We received almost as many applications as there are known destinations in Finland! This tells something about the eagerness to act in sustainable fashion in Finland.

In piloting stage we have 12 destinations –together with their tourism business network- to test the concept, and in this way, we have access to direct feedback and can held a constant dialogue with the DMOs.

4. What were the biggest challenges? 

Time and resources. As explained above, the willpower is there, and this is a great starting place. However, in today’s world, everyone lacks the time and available resources, and going sustainable does not happen in overnight but requires dedication and multi-stakeholder approach, while getting everyone aboard takes time and resources.

5. What can we expect from your talk at #DTTTGlobal? 

I am excited about the event, as I have not attended before but heard great feedback from my industry colleagues. By showcasing the Finnish approach to sustainable destinations, I do hope to encourage others to take initiative too, and truly realise the importance for a sustainable tourism industry. As the tourism industry grows, so does the importance of developing tourism in a sustainable way and realizing the role of tourism to achieve SDGs and tackling the climate challenge.

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