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Arctic Business Forum concludes in Rovaniemi

Tourism changing fast, so should operators

11 May 2019, 02:40 ( 15 days ago)

DF Report by Natalia Nikolaeva
Speakers in a panel discussion at Arctic Business Forum in Rovaniemi on Friday. DF Photo.

In the first session of the last day of the 10th Arctic Business Forum (ABF), Finnair Holiday & Destination Nordic Head Kristiina Kukkohovi proclaimed “The end of tourism as we know it” and discussed some new and emerging trends.

The Lapland Chamber of Commerce opened the two-day business forum on the Arctic in Rovaniemi on 9 May Thursday.

In the session on tourism, Kukkohovi said the reality of modernised travelling gone through a sea change. In her words, “The new generations of travellers have different values and ideas about what they want to experience. They are very digital, open-minded, bucket-list-oriented and looking for off-the-beaten-path locations.”

Dwelling on the megachanges in tourism trends, Kukkohovi said travelling companies should pay close attention to them as soon as possible. First of all, there is going to be more independent travelling in the close future, which she said will “change dramatically how we do business here in Lapland,”

She said, instead of buying ready holiday packages, people now book their own tickets and experience things and events as they want to.  Next, there will be more online and mobile booking, so the companies need to adapt to that. Lastly, she said, travellers tend to look for authenticity now.

So, “Instead of going with big groups to see sights, they want to live like a Finn, learn roots of our happiness. It might be so nice for them to be walking in the woods picking up berries. But how do we promote these experiences?” asks Kukkohovi, as she believes these tasks are of top priority for tourism operators.

In his turn, Promote Iceland Director Ashildur Bragadottir shared some g insights into marketing of the Arctic as a global tourism destination. Referring to the 2010 volcanic eruption of Eyjafjallajökull, he said the Iceland government did channel some funds into marketing, meaning raising awareness about Iceland as a tourist fascination. The strategy worked and after 2010 Iceland witnessed quite a tourism boom, reported Bragadottir.

He said his country was literally unprepared to cope with such a massive tourist interest and inflow. From that experience, where “We were facing many challenges,” Bragadottir learned, “We saw that we needed to come together, all of the partners in tourism, and make changes in how we were going to present Iceland.”

Bragadottir emphasised that in marketing a tourism destination, it is of high import to remember that the visitors are expected to pass on. So, he said, “We haven’t tried to sell people any illusion.” As a result of that sound marketing strategy, Bragadottir said, people’s perspective on Iceland has changed drastically. Similar to the stereotyped picture of Lapland a few years back, Iceland too was seen as a cold, dark and a not very interesting place to visit. Now, the promoter of Iceland proudly announced that more and more travellers are coming to Iceland and foreign airlines are showing more interest to that destination.

Visit Ylläs CEO Janne-Juhani Haarma in his speech shared information about his region.  Lapland has been witnessing a dramatic growth in tourism since 2015, noted Haarma, and in comparison to that, “We [too] have reached the point where we are attracted, wanted, needed. Lapland is the best place in the world to find peace, tranquillity, love and experiences. We should pay more attention to that than to numbers and statistics.”

Haarma named the main points that attract visitors to Ylläs: “These are the famous eight reasons,” for a bourgeoning tourism business, pointed out Haarma: “the seven fells of Ylläs, an authentic Lappish village, the national park with the cleanest air in the world, and of course the largest ski resort in Finland.”

In conclusion, he said the goal of the Ylläs region is to “commercialise Arctic Summer in a sustainable way. And the cross-industry cooperation is the key for the sustainable growth in Lapland.”

Afterwards, the floor was given to the attending representatives of Arctic start-ups. UArctic Film Commissioner & Council Chair Liisa Holmberg put high emphasis on sharing on the big screen the life and the stories of the indigenous peoples. She said at present it is most easy to use media to pass on any message. She appreciated the universities with strong media disciplines, such as the University of Lapland, for helping the Arctic Indigenous Film Fund (AIFF) profusely.

Holmberg said, AIFF-backed movies often get worldwide recognition and win prizes in famous film festivals. As an example she mentioned the Swedish movie ‘Sami Blood’ (2016) directed by Amanda Kernell. The movie won awards in numerous film festivals including Venice Film Festival, Tokyo International Film Festival, and Seattle International Film Festival.

At the end of this second segment of the session, the snowmobile company Arctic Emotion’s Founding CEO Ari Karjalainen talked about his eco-friendly business. He said the idea to create electric snowmobiles came to him as far back as in 2009 when electric cars gained public acclaim.

Karjalainen and his friends have developed the electric power pack for snowmobiles, which they named eSled. According to Karjalainen, the power pack is able to withstand the freezing conditions of winter, high speed and vibrations. The company has launched its own snowmobile safari business with a fleet of 25 machines.

Karjalainen said, “Customers are asking for sustainable adventures, because of climate change.” It is well known that demand creates supply, so the company is striving to produce more snowmobiles. However, there is a problem with the costs. The manufacturing cost of an electric snowmobile is about thrice the cost of a traditional snowmobile. That is why Karjalainen at the moment is seeking partners actively. He strongly believes that there should be more investments made in sustainable adventures.

After the session, the participants took part in a panel discussion on small businesses. The panel discussants agreed that there should be different tax laws for different companies, with Holmberg raising her voice for the small and medium enterprises getting a much lower taxation level.

The forum wrapped up on a positive note after two days of threadbare discussions on the present and future of Arctic business. The Arctic Business Forum Yearbook 2019 was also launched on the closing day.