Kojamo Podcast Episode Notes
Even with a demand way above supply and tough climatic and geographic situation, The Tourism industry in Lapland still experience competition, yet it is incidental. Every hotel and tour company manage to reach above 90% of capacity during the winter season, from late November until the end of March. This low level of competition allows the tourism industry to stay strong and very healthy. The first point being that most of the companies will not cut prices and deliver a good product, making the low-cost tour operators in Lapland offering a product that could already be flagged as luxury (example: the travel agency Thomas Cook used to sell 8 days tours in Lapland for a price revolving around 2500€, but the hotels and the services where way above the price in terms of quality, yet this business was highly profitable.). However, having competitions, even at low level, forces the companies to keep reasonable prices, and not increase drastically their selling prices because of the lack of competition.
Following this, and because the demand is higher than supply, the attitude of companies toward each other are more oriented to a collaborative/cooperative way, and this even with direct competitors. In fact, most of the big companies see their capacity fulfilled during the whole season and will most of the time turn the customers their cannot take to their direct competitors. Now speaking of cooperation, big business such as Lapland Safaris or Safartica cooperate with small business and their whole business model depend on that. These big company usually do not own and run typical activities of Lapland such as reindeer farms and husky rides and will cooperate with small companies to have them run those activity for them. In a way, the big companies are the core of the business, centralizing the customers, organization and operations, and the small business are the branches, offering the content and generating the revenue.
The notion of business is also very different there in Lapland. While in the rest of Europe a small business will operation 12 months a year for the most cases, Business in Lapland is strictly seasonal for the most case. With over 900 H&T (hospitality and tourism) companies in Lapland, the average size of these companies is only 1.4 employees on a full time equivalent. And if it wasn’t enough, after removing the big companies such as Lapland Hotels or Ski resorts, this number falls at 0.7 employees. The reason for that is that most of those companies are small family owned business that only operate few months in the year and usually on a part-time model (Justice and Ethics in tourism, Tazim Jamal, 2019). And for a fact, most of these family owned small business have another activity, different from tourism, that keep most of their time during the year, resulting that these people are generally not business minded, didn’t had a business education and on top of that happen to have a cultural mindset in which they find satisfaction in little things and minimum requirement. These holistic points help the maintenance of this cooperative model between business in the H&T field in Lapland.
All this result to a healthy business where company lives in symbiosis, small companies couldn’t survive without the big operators bringing them tourists and taking care of all the business aspect such as logistic, planning, marketing and pricing. And big business, on their side, survive and grow thanks to small business that are in fact families of locals who will share their experience, culture and skill to foreigners for a price.
“A good experience from Lapland was when I encountered this knife seller in Levi back in 2016. She had no idea of marketing or selling work, in fact she never had any kind of business education in her life. However, she was a local woman, who knew a lot about the culture of the Finnish knives, how to use it and the story behind it. She was really happy to sell her knives during Christmas to make some money and meet new faces and all the tour operator where happy to send their customers to her because they wanted to help each-other as locals. The funniest part was that she was only selling those knives for a few weeks in the year, the actual first time I met her was during an acting class, she was a professional and full-time drama and acting teacher. It just seemed after that, that all the local H&T workers were in fact professionals of other field and were just participating few times a year to the regional economy.” – Tao Daniel, 2020.
Sustainable development means fulfilling the needs of the current generation whilst preserving recourses for future generations. Sustainable development can be divided into three categories: economical, social and environmental. Sustainable tourism means taking into account all of these categories while trying to create a meaningful experience for the tourists. According to WTO sustainable tourism is “tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry the environment and host communities”. (UNWTO, n.d)
There has been increasing amount of discussion about sustainable tourism and for example Tampere tourism strategy for 2020-2025 is called sustainable steps. One of the visions is to make Tampere known for its sustainable growth. Practical steps towards the vision are a different topic, but already acknowledging sustainability as a part of strategic planning and future is a crucial step for cities and countries. Some of the objectives of the tourism strategy are extending the stay of tourists, straight flight connections and sustainable, functional public transport. One of the objectives is also increasing the cooperation with local companies, which is the foundation for sustainable tourism. according to Business Tampere. (Business Tampere, n.d )
In 2013, the emissions from tourism are about 5% of global emissions. The amount of tourism is predicted to increase; hence it is more important to find more sustainable methods and solutions for the field. (Hammond, 2013) A big trend in a year 2019 was a flight shaming movement started by Greta Thunberg. This movement, which affected mostly to the younger generations, increased the growth of Europe´s largest international passenger rail company by 10%. The idea was to not to travel at all or to replace all the possible flights to traveling by train. (Abend, 2019)
There are emerging responsible tourism trends for year 2020, such as off-season traveling and avoiding big crowds, which is thought to help overtourism. (Taylor, 2019) Also extending the length of the stay rather than traveling too often, this is also part of Tampere tourism strategy as mentioned before.
One of the responsible tourism trends is pro-nature hotel menus. This means using more local food, recycling more and trying to reduce waste as well as increasing the amount of vegetarian food. Lapland Hotels have been always focusing to these aspects, as sustainability is the corner stone of their values. As Tero Mäntykangas, the head chef of Lapland Hotels mentioned in his book, local ingredients should be used as a main recourse and take the most out of them.
The Sami people are the only indigenous people of Europe that are still left and are a part of the European Union. The history of sami culture can be dated back to the last ice age which was approximately 10000 years ago. The sami people have always been present in Finland and northern Europe with most of the Sami population located in Norway and Sweden. As of 1995 the Sami people had their constitution written where is states that people of the Sami heritage have the right to develop their own language, culture and traditional norms of livelihood. Since 1996 a law was written that stated that Sami people have the right to a self-governed government in the Sami homeland. This then made the Sami culture and history apparent to the rest of Europe.
In Finland alone there are an estimated 10000 Sami people. Of those, more than 60% of them are living outside of the Same homeland which has some drastic challenges to the culture and preservation of the heritage due to the language slowing fading away.
In the podcast the group talked about the potential employment of Sami people in the tourism industry and how that could be incorporated into Sami society and tourism in Finland. Discussions were had on the challenges such as presented earlier, of the employment of Sami people due to language differences and how those challenges could be solved.
While talking to Tao about the employment of Sami people it came apparent that tourism companies have not taken the full advantage of what the culture has to offer to tourists. As the history and the heritage of the Sami people goes back over 10000 years, it could be a prime opportunity for a company such as Lapland hotels to employ guides that have a background in the Sami culture and what added value they could bring to the company. Tourists already find Finland and its culture of silence and peace fascinating and having an authentic Sami guide helping them discover the untouched areas of Finland and its nature could prove hugely valuable.
Looking into the theory of preserving culture, one theory pops to mind when researching the topic which was sustainability circles. They describe how a certain culture can be preserved.
Culture is split into several different categories such as, Beliefs, knowledge, methods, morals. Sustainability circles allows us to visualize and understand these elements of preserving culture. The 3 main circles are Social, Economic and Environmental. These all combined create the full understanding that we have of what culture is and is a model that helps break down the concept. The environment circle considers all things that are related to the environment of a certain place such as the land, raw materials and energy. Economic circles describe the transfer of money, exchange rates and accounting of a culture. The final pillar is the Social circle which can be broken down even more. Engagement and Process. To understand the engagement circle, one should ask the question how can you work closely with others? In terms of the Sami culture, it is very dependent on communication and passing down heritage verbally. This can become a problem when training new generations as people tend to change their views and stories, they learn due to not remembering all parts of the original story they were once told. Therefore, the preservation of the language becomes more important and is a thing that needs to be considered by companies who are willing to think about the idea we talked about in the podcast, where guides could be trained to give an authentic Sami experience to a customer.
According to laplandhotels.com, the first Lapland hotel was established in 1938 when the travelling commission of Finland built the first Lapland Hotel in Pallas. The hotel was burned to the ground by retreating German troops in 1944. New hotel was built in 1948 and it has been renovated and remodeled a lot throughout its history. Lapland Hotels is a Finnish hotel chain which consists 15 hotels in Lapland, but they have 3 hotels in Tampere, Helsinki and Oulu.
The tourism culture started out as scenery tourism, where people were intrigued by the stunning sights and scenery of the North, but nowadays the focus has mainly shifted towards activity-based tourism. Lapland hotels have managed to keep their competitiveness and were able to shift their operating models more towards to the growing market, providing various activities for their visitors like husky rides, snowmobile safaris and other changing things to keep the customers wanting for more.
Lapland hotels is a growing business. People want to experience more immersive and pure things in their holidays, and it shows in the increasing demand of the hotels. Lapland Hotels is planning of opening another hotel in Tampere due to the high demand and market value swarming with tourists.
Tourism mainly consists of people from Russia and Asian countries. According to their press release, foreigners that stay the night in a hotel has increased by 5% in the 2000s.
Lapland hotels tries to give back to the communities that it has its hotels in and regularly has campaigns that offer free nights for local people in the area. They still want to entertain their domestic guests as wee, although half of their revenue comes from foreign visitors.
Lappish culture & more than just a visit
The Lappish culture is best described as the love for the Northern nature and the pureness of it, and it is swarmed with culture. For outsiders, the Lappish culture might seem the same as the Finnish culture, but that is not the case. Yes, it is quite close, but the Lappish people are so in touch with their culture, and it is not like this for the rest of us Finns. The Lappish culture is very spiritual, and it is not that concrete than the Finnish patriotic culture. The reason for this, according to an article on Lappomania.fi, is that the Lappish nature isn’t that fruitful and there aren’t that many buildings or landmarks, so the Lappish people were almost required to appreciate the nature they have before their eyes. Lappish people live in the nature and for the nature.
In the book, the author describes how he is very connected to the place he comes from, which is Lapland. He is a cook, and he always takes pieces of Lappish culture into the food he prepares. Not only he cooks food with Lappish ingredients, but he pours some his Lappish culture and his own identity to the food he prepares for the customers. This concept might be unfamiliar and hard to comprehend to people who are just tourists in Lapland.
Finnish people sometimes take the Lappish nature and pureness for granted, because the fresh air and silence is something that can be found in a lot of places in Finland. But the Lappish fresh air and silence is something different. Some tourists say that it is so strong that it almost feels emotional to experience it. Even though almost half of the overnight stays in Lapland are from Finnish customers, it still feels like us Finns forget to appreciate the Lappish nature and how much it brings to the Finnish infrastructure.
The experience economy industry is very important to Lapland and they almost depend on it. When tourists visit Lapland, the local Lappish people gladly give them a glimpse of the culture of the Lappish people. The impression tourists have of Lapland is that it is only the land of Santa Claus and there is snow. Luckily the tourists get to see the broader side of Lapland too.
Lapland is quite reliant on the Winter season and that is the time they have most visitors during the year. The biggest group of tourists come from the UK, which was a surprising fact for the podcast recorders, since the common misconception was that the Chinese tourists are the biggest tourist group. The experience economy in Lapland is rising constantly, with an average of 4% per year.
Participants: Oona Varjanto, Tao Daniel, Timur Kahlun, Aleksander Tuckett, Pauliina Waters
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