In order for the tourism industry to respond to the changing demand and continue to grow, the development must be sustainable. To help the tourism industry in Finland to adopt sustainable practices, Visit Finland has developed the Sustainable Travel Finland -programme, designed for tourism companies and destinations in Finland.
It's time to do this together. Climate change is the biggest of the world's current environmental threats, and in the Arctic region, the climate is warming triple the speed comparing to the rest of the world. We consume natural resources much faster than these are generated. The role of tourism as part of the global economy is growing. Climate change is already affecting the tourist flows. In Finland, the biggest economic impacts of climate change are caused by permanent changes in operating environment for tourism. The most sensitive to climate change are many of Finland’s outdoor travel experiences that depend on climate and seasonal changes. Mitigation requires proactive tourism planning and management at national and regional level. That is why now it's time to do this together.
For the fifth year in a row, Finland has been named the happiest country in the world according to the 2022 World Happiness Report. We Finns largely attribute our happiness to our connection to nature. Our lakes, rivers and forests not only feed us in Finland, but also provide us with a natural wellbeing and a place to slow down. Therefore, Visit Finland’s approach to sustainability is to nurture, conserve and preserve what is most important to us; the pure and pristine nature, the lifestyle that is so strongly rooted in it, and our culture that celebrates equality. Elements such as equality, integrity, safety, social progression and freedom are the cornerstones of Finnish society.
Perhaps it comes as no surprise that the survey among tourism actors in Finland, carried out by Visit Finland in Autumn 2018, revealed that 83% of the respondents supported the idea of a national sustainable tourism programme.
However, the will for sustainability does not come only from inside the tourism industry, but a set of national strategies opt for a sustainable Finland. Our Government programme steers us towards inclusive and competent Finland, which is a socially, economically and ecologically sustainable society, and carbon neutral by 2035.
Finland is an Arctic country, and according to our Arctic policy all activities, including tourism, in the Arctic region must be based on ecological carrying capacity, climate protection, principles of sustainable development, and respect for the rights of indigenous peoples.
Finland is also highly committed to global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and has been ranked number one in an international comparison of sustainable development in 2021. The comparison assesses countries’ progress on implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, responsible for Finland’s updated tourism strategy for 2019-2028, has identified four priorities that will facilitate the sustainable growth and renewal of the tourism sector in Finland - first priority being supporting sustainable development. In addition, Visit Finland's vision is to be the world's leading sustainable travel destination and the first choice for mindful travellers. Our strategy puts sustainability in the core of all our activities.
We have taken a holistic approach to sustainable development, moving beyond environmental concerns towards more inclusive industry that secures the vitality of our communities while reducing economic inequalities. With focus on all dimensions of sustainability (ecological, cultural, social and economic), Sustainable Travel Finland programme offers Finnish tourism industry a complete toolkit to put these strategies into action.
The idea of Sustainable Travel Finland (STF) programme is to provide companies and destinations with a sustainable development path; a concrete toolkit for sustainable tourism that makes it easier to adopt sustainable practices and choices in the everyday business. Companies and destinations that undergo the entire programme are recognised with the Sustainable Travel Finland label and will have access to a continuous development model, the latest information on sustainable tourism development, and marketing support and visibility on Visit Finland channels. The goal is ambitious – to change the entire travel industry and create a new, sustainable normal.
Although Sustainable Travel Finland programme aligns with internationally known sustainable tourism standards and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), it is built for regional and national development needs. The programme was developed in co-operation with Visit Finland, destinations and companies. Initially, the current state analysis was carried out and development needs identified. The following barriers or areas for development were recognised: commitment, knowhow, planning, communication, auditing and measuring. Instead of adopting a foreign model to Finland, a national model was designed to address these needs, as well as regional differences.
The programme is free of charge and welcomes the entire tourism industry in Finland. To lower the threshold to apply for the Sustainable Travel Finland programme and the development path it provides, an educational concept facilitated by Visit Finland Academy was created. The Academy brings the entire destination and its tourism actors together to start the journey towards Sustainable Travel Finland label. For the sustainable tourism champions, the Academy provides advanced level insight.
While for the international travel trade the Sustainable Travel Finland label provides an easy way to identify a sustainable tourism provider or a destination, for the tourism industry in Finland the programme offers a complete toolkit to effectively adapt responsible practices: a 7-step sustainable tourism development path which is audited on a regular basis. This 7-step programme is traversed on online platform specifically built for the purpose. The platform is supported with an ‘e-guide’ e-learning environment, accessible only by those accepted to Sustainable Travel Finland programme.
Step 1. Commitment
• Making a formal decision to develop sustainable tourism, which for destination includes a commitment from both public sector and regional tourism company network
• Signing national sustainable tourism principles
• Appointing a coordinator for sustainable tourism
Step 2. Increasing know-how
• Active participation in sustainable tourism development e-learning
• Attending in Visit Finland Academy's Sustainable Travel Finland workshops
• Creating current-state analysis by utilisingan online-based STF self-assessment.
Step 3. Development plan
• Drawing up a sustainable tourism development plan (which closely follow the GSTC standard) with short and long terms goals and plan of action, including climate mitigation plan.
Step 4. Responsible communication
• Communicating the acts towards sustainability transparently to the public
Step 5. Certification & Auditing
• For companies: obtaining a regularly audited certificate, accepted under Sustainable Travel Finland label, that supports sustainable development
• For a destinations: 51% of the tourism companies (including the ones with highest turnover) within the destination must have Sustainable Travel Finland –label.
Step 6. Verification and measurability
• Committing to national sustainable tourism indicators, including annual data collection
• Verifying the STF programme criteria is being met in the purpose-built online platform
Step 7. Agreement & Continuous development
• Making an agreement with Business Finland / Visit Finland on the use of the Sustainable Travel Finland label
• Commitment to regularly renewing Sustainable Travel Finland label, including auditing, and updated self-assessment, development plan and sustainable tourism indicators.
• Applying for the STF label including an online audit
Climate change and the pandemic have shown the urgency for holistic sustainable travel practices. We at Visit Finland firmly believe that investing in sustainable tourism secures the long-term viability of the entire industry, creates new business opportunities and ensures the continued happiness for everyone in Finland and those visiting Finland - now and in the future.
Please find in the report below all the companies that have received the Sustainable Travel Finland (STF) label. You can search by region, industry and service area. Click for data view to see the list of companies with STF label.
Sustainable Travel Development
Outdoor activities & Sports