Jarkko Saarinen: The sustainability evaluation of the tourism sector should not be based on individual SDGs

Professor of human geography, Jarkko Saarinen, is the leader of the new profiling theme called ‘FRONT’ (Profi 7), which aims to advance resilience research and find new solutions to sustainability issues. While on his travels, Saarinen answered a few questions regarding his research focus and the GenZ profiling theme.
Jarkko Saarinen is a professor of human geography (Tourism Studies) at the University of Oulu. He is the leader of the new profiling theme ‘FRONT’ (Profi7).

What is your background and current research focus?

- I am a human geographer. My research focus is on sustainability, tourism and regional development, resilience issues and climate change adaptation.

What kinds of research topics are you and your team tackling currently?

- Several different topics including sustainable tourism, resilience building, Sustainable development goals (SDGs), tourism in protected areas, regenerative development, resilience, climate change adaptation, social innovations, regional and local development, community studies, critical tourism geographies.

What are your team’s working methods and main activities?

- Research meetings, collaborative research and funding applications, as well as co-teaching. We write some of the funding applications collectively and engage in collaborative research projects.

What is your most fruitful and impactful recent research outcome?

-I would definitely say that receiving the Profi7 funding for resilience research has been a great recent research outcome.

What are some of the research findings that you have so far?

- This is of course a broad question. But regarding the relationship between climate change and UN’s sustainable development goals (SDGs), there is a clear need for a reset in the ways in which the industry and the policy-makers frame and practice sustainable tourism. This calls for disruptive thinking and radical policy making and changes. This is also why the sustainability evaluation of the industry should not be based on individual SDGs as silos. The SDGs are an interwoven system, and focusing on individual SDGs separately has created conflicts between them. Overall, there is a need to rethink tourism and its relation to sustainable development beyond destinations.

How has the GenZ profiling theme promoted your research?

-The GenZ profiling theme has enabled the funding of key recruitment and establishment of new collaboration within the University of Oulu. The profiling theme has overall advanced human-centric digitalisation research at the University of Oulu. The research questions of the profiling theme call for a multidisciplinary approach, and GenZ has provided a great platform for research collaborations between humanities, business studies, ICT scholars, education studies and human geography.

What would you like to research in the future?

- I first joined the GenZ project because I saw that it offered interesting new research avenues in resilience research. In the future, I would like to contribute to the development of resilience research specifically pertaining to the question of how to measure resilience.

Last updated: 23.1.2023