Get inspired by Iceland and its animals

Destination “Iceland”

I just came back from an inspiring trip to Iceland. I was captivated by the hospitality, nature and animals of this Nordic country. The main objective of my trip was to visit the University of Iceland in Reykjavik and Holar University College in North Iceland. The Multidimensional Tourism Institute (MTI) is strengthening research and educational collaboration with its Icelandic partners.  The trip was also an opportunity to visit and interview Icelandic tourism companies, which services are based on encounters with animals. From this perspective, the trip helped collect more data and information for the Work Package 1 of the project “Animals and Responsible Tourism”. The trip was funded by Erasmus+ and took place from May 1st till May 10th.

Animal-based tourism in Iceland

Horses and Whales

Animals are a very important element of tourism in Iceland. Icelandic horses are not only part of the brand of Iceland, but also a key constituent of Icelandic identity. Indeed, Icelandic people are very proud of their horses. Whale watching is also nowadays associated with a holiday in Iceland. According to Ice Whale20 per cent of tourists visiting Iceland take part in whale watching tours. The number of whale watching companies has considerably increased during the last decade. During this visit to Iceland, I was lucky to see two humpbacks whales and one minke whale from the shores of Hvammstangi in North Iceland. So with good luck, it is possible to see them from mainland too.

Photo: JC García-Rosell

Birds

With more than 300 bird species, Iceland is a paradise for birdwatchers. Several tourism companies focus on this particular customer group. There is a bird that has also caught the attention of most travelers, the puffin. This Nordic bird, which live on the waters of the North Atlantic Ocean and come to land just for breeding, has become a sensation among tourists. Many whale watching companies offer puffing watching tours. In some cases, puffing watching is combined with whale watching. Puffins are not only clever birds, but also very cute. This is the reason why the puffin has become one of Iceland’s most popular souvenirs.

Hunting and fishing

Hunting and fishing are also part of the tourism offering of Iceland. Many tourists come to fish in rivers or on the sea. Reindeer hunting is also offered by some tourism wildlife companies. Icelandic reindeer are wild animals and live in the East part of the country.

Photo: JC García-Rosell

In Hvammstagi, there is also a tourism company that offers seal watching tours. A couple of companies in Iceland offer husky safaris. This is a new animal-based tourism service that could grow in the future. So Iceland offers a wide variety of animal-based activities and they are growing fast.

Meeting Icelandic tourism companies

Reykjavik

During this trip, I had the opportunity to talk about animal welfare with local tourism companies. I met Sveinn H. Guðmundsson, who is the Quality and Environmental Manager of Elding – a whale watching company. Elding is highly committed to animal welfare and environmental issues. I also met Steinunn Guðbjörnsdóttir and Meike Witt from Exploring Iceland. Steinunn is Managing Director of the company and Meike works as Sales and Product Manager. Exploring Iceland is an Icelandic tour operator selling outdoor activities and horseback riding tours. Animal welfare is one the key guiding principles of the company.

Photo: Steinunn Guðbjörnsdóttir

North Iceland

In Husavik, I met Erna Björnsdóttir and Loes de Heus from Salka Whale Watching. Erna is Marketing Director and Loes works as tour guide. Salka is a small whale watching company operating one (and soon two) fishing oak boats in Húsavík. This small Icelandic fishing town is known as the capital of whale watching.  Salka follows the Ice Whale code of conduct for responsible whale watching in Iceland and it has been active in the campaign “meet us, don’t eat us” in Húsavík. Because of the campaign, no whale meat can be found in the menus of Húsavík’s restaurants.

In Skagafjördur, I met Evelyn Ýr Kuhne, Eydís Magnusdóttir and Sigrún Ingriddóttir. These three female rural tourism entrepreneurs are jointly promoting their services under the name “The Icelandic Farms Animals”. Eydís owns Sölvanes Farmholidays which offers accommodation in an old farm house. She also offers visitors the opportunity to experience the everyday life of Icelandic sheep farmers.  Sigrún runs Stórhóll Runalist Galleri where visitors can find handicrafts made out of natural materials. Visitors can also visits the Icelandic goats and other farm animals. In addition to a farm environment in Lýtingsstaðir, Evelyn offers horseback riding tours with a touch of Icelandic cultural heritage. In fact, she has reconstructed an Icelandic old stable made of turf (see picture below).

Photo: JC García-Rosell

During the next months, I will publish posts and short videos about each of these visits. So stay tuned to learn more about responsible animal-based tourism in Iceland!

 

Text: José-Carlos García-Rosell

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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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