Thank you for joining us in our blog Animal Tourism Finland and warm greetings from Finnish Lapland!
Our project on Animals and Responsible Tourism has started at the beginning of August, and it feels like the time is flying! In brief, the main aim of our project is to further knowledge among tourism operators and other stakeholders about animal welfare in tourism practices that involve animals – be it for entertainment, coworker or for distant object for marvel. The consumer awareness of ethical treatment of animals in tourism seems to have grown rapidly in past few years and we read about animal tourism related issues from newspapers and social media almost on a daily basis.
Thus, we think there is a clear need to work with tourism operators to identify these issues in practice. This way tourism operators are able to answer to the call of consumers and other stakeholders and take part in openly talking about the importance of taking animal welfare into consideration in tourism activities. Indeed, the recent news and the media hustle about Särkänniemi and the dolphins relocated to Greece have, amongst many other things, affirmed the importance of this subject under study. There is a need for more open discussions and wider recognition of animal related quality monitoring systems in the field of tourism.
So, what have we been doing during our first month in this project? Our research group, and especially me and Mikko as key researchers in work package 1, have been busy doing important background work. Through rigorous information seeking via internet, academic literature and different media sources, we have learned a lot about the connections between animal welfare and responsible tourism in both national and international level. Our interest has been in finding out how animal welfare is acknowledged in tourism practices worldwide, and what kind of monitoring is used to guarantee both consumers and other parties that animal welfare is taken seriously into consideration.
More specifically, we have put a lot of effort to map out animal tourism certifications. Finding certificates in tourism sector that really focus on animal welfare hasn’t been an easy job! To be honest, it has been quite a jungle to go through certification systems and organizations behind them, as many of them include only reference to animals as they are primarily concerned in environmental issues and for example sustainable hotel resort business. But still, these findings are of great relevance to us, because they tell us about the state of animal tourism certifications and also the explicit need for their existence in the future.
Our work now proceeds to a more and more focused level of mapping out certifications and quality labels of animal related tourism. At this point, we are making a detailed comparison between the certifications found via content analysis of the data gathered. Beside this task we are turning our academic gaze more tightly to those animal tourism practices that are inherent in Finnish Lapland, that means husky safaris, reindeer safaris, horse tourism and bear watching. In doing so, we keep in mind the aim of the forthcoming work package 3 (starting in August 2017) where we engage in practical work for establishing specific criteria for monitoring animal tourism practices in Finnish Lapland. We are eager to work in this work package with our international partner, International Institute for Animal Ethics (IIAE)!
Stay tuned for further greetings both from us as well as from our wonderful networks!
On the behalf of our lovely research team,