Travelling from sea to fells!

Spaciousness, nature and safety attract tourists to our countryside. Sparsely populated areas cover a significant part of Finland's territory, more than 68%, but only 5% of the population live permanently in the area. The provision of nature, food, fishing and hunting tourism services creates new opportunities for entrepreneurs in sparsely populated areas and gives a new vitality to their businesses.
Hailuodossa otetussa talvisessa kuvassa meren ranta ja kalastusvälineitä sinisen taivaan alla

One of the key objectives of Finnish tourism is to create sustainable tourist destinations in Finland. Especially in nature-related tourism services, efforts should be made to develop sustainable and responsible tourism. In sparsely populated areas, however, low-carbon and recycling targets are a challenge, with access only by car, lack of effective waste management and expensive energy now hampering profitability.

Another key challenge is the creation of common service concepts. Small businesses in sparsely populated areas have a wealth of interesting services and products, but these alone are not enough to attract national, let alone international, tourists. By developing cooperation between providers of transport, accommodation, catering and software services, for example, it is possible to create interesting service packages that meet sustainability criteria. In order to develop regional and inter-regional service concepts, entrepreneurs need to know and trust each other, identify best practices and establish common rules of the game based on the principles of sustainable tourism.

MERVA - From sea to fells: promoting responsible networking among small tourism operators is a project for tourism operators that started in autumn 2022 and will continue until October 2023. The project is a collaboration between the University of Oulu Kerttu Saalasti Institute and Kajaani University of Applied Sciences. The geographical focus of the activities will be on the fell areas of Eastern Finland from the Bothnian Sea.

Our aim is to increase cooperation and networking among tourism businesses in small, remote and sparsely populated areas and to promote the learning of responsible practices and best practices. We will launch "guilds" of tourism operators to share expertise, bring entrepreneurs and other operators together, and share experiences and best practices. We will also organise visits and a study trip to the home country and northern Sweden.
We work together with tourism businesses, project managers, researchers, business developers and students.

Ulla Lehtinen, Specialist Researcher, Project Manager, University of Oulu Kerttu Saalasti Institute