Humak University of Applied Sciences and Jyväskylä University of Applied Sciences (JAMK) have jointly conducted a project to study the development needs of nature and culture-based tourism in Central Finland. The study is a part of Interreg Europe funded Thematic Trail Trigger project which the Regional Council of Central Finland is a part of. The aim of the study is the development of sustainable culture and nature-based tourism. Read the project report here (in Finnish).

During the project, Humak, a nationwide educator and developer of culture focused especially on mapping out the development needs of cultural heritage and cultural routes. JAMK was responsible for the management of the process, focusing in particular on the themes of nature and culture-based tourism, national parks and industry.

National Parks are the Wealth of Central Finland

During the project, the development needs of culture and nature based recreational tourism were mapped out. Identifying development needs is a prerequisite for the future development and business of areas where nature and culture-based tourism is prominent.

The five national parks of Central Finland were identified as important development targets because of their prominence. Year by year the number of visitors to national parks has increased, even the pandemic didn’t put a stop to the growing numbers of visitors, on the contrary. During the lockdown many sought refuge and peace of mind in nature, thus the visitor numbers to national parks even increased during lockdown. A few of the national park development needs were increasing accessibility, the thematic development of services and responsibility.

Many development needs were identified during the project. The general development suggestions included the development of environments, skills, travel services and routes. Other development targets included national parks, the Euro-Velo cycling network, Europe’s culture paths and UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Central Finland and the development of related cultural environments.

World Heritage Sites and Cycling Networks

The goal of the Euro-Velo project is to develop a cycling network encompassing all of Europe. The potential positive impact of the cycling network for tourism in Central Finland was identified during the project. Once the Euro-Velo cycle network is completed it could have a positive impact on tourism in Central Finland and boost its visibility both nationally and internationally. Based on the information gathered during the project, cyclists appreciate nature and good exercise opportunities, which Central Finland can widely offer.

Central Finland also hosts two of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites; the Old Church of Petäjävesi and the Struve Geodetic Arc. UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Finland have about 2 million visitors yearly, but there’s still room for improvement. The world heritage sites in Central Finland lag behind the more popular heritage sites such as Suomenlinna and Old Rauma. Nature, cultural heritage and visiting multiple heritage sites interests tourists, thus improving the conspicuousness, services, marketing and cross marketing locations hold a lot of opportunities for improvement.

The Old Church of Petäjävesi is one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites.

Making Culture-Based Tourism More Visible

A clear development need was identified during the project: the digitization of information about Central Finland’s tourism possibilities. To ensure safe travel a person needs reliable and up-to-date information about services and locations. According to the project’s findings, gathering information about nature and culture-based tourism hotspots is still random. Even though national parks and world heritage sites have a wide variety of information available, many locations—mainly known and visited by the local population—have little to no information available online and can be very hard to find.

Digital accessibility is not as good as it could be. To improve tourism digital transactions and accessibility should be consumer friendly. At present the accessibility and map information of locations cannot be found in one place. The project also details that buying and reserving travel services online is difficult because web-based services are not utilized, or the framework doesn’t exist. It is essential for sales and marketing that online channels can provide reliable and up-to-date information about tourism locations.