Responsible animal tourism – Off-Piste Adventures

This blog post introduces a company case of responsible animal tourism from Finnish Lapland.  The post offers a short interview with Mia Lappalainen. She is one the owner of Off-Piste Adventures.  The company is situated in Outinen (Kemijärvi), close to Pyhä Ski Resort, Finland. Off-Piste Adventures is one of the 11 companies participating in the project “Animals and Responsible Tourism”.In the interview, Mia talks about her company, reindeer and Finnhorses. She tells how horse riding is popular among domestic customers and reindeer safaris is a beloved activity among foreign visitors. In the interview, she explains how she uses the hierarchy of the horse herd when organizing the trail rides.  Mia also reflects on a possible business expansion and its implications for animal welfare. Off-Piste Adventures has a quality label from The Equestrian Federation of Finland. The interview was conducted by JC García-Rosell. Date: January 13, 2017.

 

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Animals in Matka Nordic Travel Fair 2017

Matka Nordic Travel Fair

The Matka Nordic Travel Fair is organized every year in Helsinki, Finland. It counts with more than 1000 exhibitors from 80 different countries. As an event, the Matka Nordic Travel Fair offers an excellent space for discovering new products, services and business partners. It is also a place for spotting trends and issues shaping the global tourism industry. This year animals seemed to play an important role in the fair. Their presence could already be felt in the main entrance of the fair, where a lion was showing the way in.

Photo: JC García-Rosell

Animals in the spotlight

Not only images of animals could be seen in the marketing material available in the Fair, but also many animal-based tourism services were promoted in the event. For example, Visit Uganda and Tanzania  were promoting animal encounters as one of their main tourism offerings. In addition, several panel discussions, which took place during the Fair, drew attention to animals and their welfare. In one of the panels organized by Mondo travel magazine, Helena Egan from TripAdvisor highlighted how TripAdvisor is taking responsibility for making their customers aware of animal-related ethical questions. The significance of animal welfare in tourism was also addressed in Finnish television in an interview with JC García-Rosell and Maria Hakkarainen from the Multidimensional Tourism Institute (MTI), University of Lapland.

Animals in Matkatieto-seminar

Animals and their welfare were also included in the programme of the Matkatieto-seminar. JC García-Rosell from Animal Tourism Finland delivered two presentations in the seminar. While one presentation focused on discussing “the certification of animal welfare in tourism”, the other presentation offered some facts about “the economic role of animal-based tourism services in Lapland”. The presentations captured the attention and interest of tourism researchers, tourism practitioners and the media.

Photo: Maria Hakkarainen

The presentations were based on research conducted by Animal Tourism Finland. After the presentations, JC García-Rosell was interviewed by Saara Rantanen from MTV3 News. The topic of the interview was tourism trends in 2017. More detailed information about these studies will be provided in future posts. So, stay tuned!

Text: JC García-Rosell

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Webinar 5 – Christmas Greetings

This is the fifth webinar of the project “Animals and Responsible Tourism”. In the webinar Tarja and Mikko tell about the last updates of the first phase of the project (work package 1, certifications), which is coming to an end. Then, Minni and Tarja offer an overview of the work ahead in the second phase of the project (work package 2), which will focus on consumer values in relation to the use of animals in tourism.

In January 19, 2017, the results of work package 1 will be presented in the Matkatieto seminar in the Nordic Travel Fair in Helsinki. The webinar was broadcasted from the Multidimensional Tourism Institute (MTI), University of Lapland, Rovaniemi, Finland on December 15, 2016.

Next webinar will be on January 13, 2017 at 1pm (EET)!

 

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Responsible Animal Tourism – Polar Lights Tours

In this blog post, we present a company case of responsible animal tourism in Finnish Lapland.  The post offers a short interview with Päivi Hiukka. She is one of the owners of Polar Lights Tours.  The company is situated in Veitservasa, close to Levi Ski Resort, Finland. Polar Lights Tours is one of the 11 companies participating in the project “Animals and Responsible Tourism”.In the interview, Päivi talks about her company and the role that animals play in her business. She also tells about their new horse open shed and the value of certifications for their business operations. Polar Lights Tours is certified by Priimatalli (Prime Stable) and Quality1000. The interview was conducted by Tarja Salmela in October 4, 2016.

 

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Webinar 4 – The value of animal welfare tourism certifications

This is the fourth webinar of the project “Animals and Responsible Tourism”. In the webinar Tarja and Mikko talk about the value of animal welfare certifications for animals, tourism companies and tourists. The webinar is based on preliminary results from a series of interviews conducted with representatives of certified tourism companies. The webinar was broadcasted from the banks of the frozen Kemijoki river  in the city of Rovaniemi, Finland on November 30, 2016.

Next webinar will be on December 15, 2016 at 1pm (EET)!

 

 

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Hetta Huskies – project partner

This is a short interview with Pasi Ikonen, one of the owners of Hetta Huskies, which is situated in Hetta, Finland. Hetta Huskies is one of the 11 companies participating in the project “Animals and Responsible Tourism”. In the interview, Pasi talks about his company and animal welfare as the guiding principle of his business philosophy. He also tells about the value of animal welfare certifications for his company. Hetta Huskies received a GOLD award in the Animal Welfare Category in the World Responsible Tourism Awards 2015. The interview was conducted by Tarja Salmela in October 4, 2016.

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Workshop on quality and animal welfare in tourism

On October 5, 2016, a three-hour workshop was held in Muonio with the companies participating in the project “Animals and Responsible Tourism”. The workshop took place in the premises of Harriniva, which has over 40 years of experience arranging different tourism services, including husky and reindeer safaris. Seven of the eleven companies participating in the project were represented in the workshop. The representatives of these companies brought into the discussion their valuable experience and expertise on animal-based tourism services (huskies, reindeers, horses and wildlife animals). Before the workshop, participants took a tour around Harriniva’s main sledge dog farm. The tour was an excellent way of preparing ourselves for the workshop discussions.

“Without our animals there would be no business”

The statement above, which was brought up in the workshop, is an excellent reflection on the role of animal welfare in animal-based tourism services. Since animals are the core of the business of many tourism companies operating in Northern Finland, animal welfare is an issue of major relevance. For the companies involved in our project, it’s obvious that animal welfare is strongly linked to service quality, customer satisfaction and employees’ well-being. As the well-being of animals and employees are interrelated, it was pointed out that employees must share the values and philosophy of the company concerning the treatment of animals. This aspect is paramount when the animals are viewed as colleagues or family members, rather than simple objects.

In the workshop, we further reflected on the meaning of quality in relation to animal-based tourism services. Theses reflections can be summarized under three perspectives:

  • Animal’s perspective: the personality and needs (feeding, care, safety, training, etc.) of individual animals is understood and taken into account in relation to their work, working environment and equipment.
  • Customer’s perspective: Safety of the service and clean service environment.
  • Employee’s perspective: Enough resources, transparency of the operations, ongoing monitoring and training possibilities.

In the workshop, it was stressed that “quality starts from animals and their needs”. When the animal is doing well, the customer, employees and entrepreneurs do well.  This understanding of quality demands continuous learning and keeping track of the latest development on animal welfare.

muonio_workshop_5102016

As part of our workshop, we also discussed animal related tourism certifications and quality management systems, which are used at both the national and global level. The discussions revolved around the topics below:

  • Customer awareness of the certifications. Are they only recognized in Finland or are they international?
  • The impact of certificates on the training of employees and their role in recognizing employees’ knowledge and expertise about the animals they are working with.
  • The relationship between existing certifications and the working conditions of animals in Northern Finland. Can the structure and criteria of existing certifications be used for the development of certification suitable for animal-based tourism services implemented in Northern Finland?
  • The notion of service quality and its relation to animal welfare. Should quality be addressed generally or based on the needs and behaviour of particular animal species?
  • Greenwashing – the creation of a misleading perception among customers that a company’s practices are promoting animal welfare. Indeed, some existing certifications were seen as form of greenwashing strategy. In particular those, which certify one particular animal-based service while neglecting how the company performs as a whole in terms of animal welfare.

With these insights, we will continue our research on tourism certifications focusing on animal welfare!

Best greetings from Lapland- the North of Finland!

Tarja, Mikko and José-Carlos

 

Photos: José-Carlos García-Rosell

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Webinar 2 – Greetings and project updates from Levi, Finland!

In Webinar 2 broadcasted from the premises of Hotel Levi Panorama on October 4, 2016, Tarja and Mikko share some updates on the recent work done in the project (work package 1) and the activities plan for the upcoming weeks. Next webinar will be on October 31, 2006 at 1pm!

 

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Welcome to Animal Tourism Finland!

Dear reader,

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,

Tarja

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