Animal Tourism Finland goes Mallorca

Last week, I was in Palma as part of an Erasmus teacher exchange. During my visit, I gave two lectures about the use of animals in tourism at the University of the Balearic Islands (UIB). In the lectures, I talked about the relationship between consumer values and animal welfare within a tourism context. I based my lectures on the research done in the project “Animals and Responsible Tourism” and “Animal Welfare in Tourism Services”.

Animals in Mallorca

Although animal-based tourism activities could be one the reasons for visiting a tourism destination, this may not be the case of the Balearic Islands. Nevertheless, animals are clearly part of the experiences of many tourists spending their holidays on these Mediterranean Islands. Animal-based attraction such as marine parks, aquariums and zoos are part of the marketing material and street view of most Balearic towns. In particular, tourism companies are targeting these attractions to families traveling with children. Also scuba diving, which is popular among some tourists, should not be forgotten. After all, it is as animal-based activity whereby marine fauna become an essential part of the underwater experience.

 

Photo: J.C. García-Rosell

City tours on Galeras

Another popular animal-based activity, which one can see in most towns, is the horse carriages or so called “Galeras”. The Galeras usually operate in the historic city centers. When I asked the students to think about animal welfare in relation to the Balearic Islands, the first thing that came to their mind was the Galeras. The students were concerned about the welfare of the horses working under challenging conditions. Concerned citizens have publicly been debating this issue in Palma.

Indeed, over the last years several horse deaths and accidents have happened on the streets of this Mediterranean destination. The horses have to trot over hard surface (pavement, stone) and deal with high temperatures, particularly, during the summer months. Without appropriate watering and feeding, these horses suffered of dehydration and undernourishment. There also seems to be no control over the number of working hours and amount of weight to be pulled by the animals.

 

Photo: J.C. García-Rosell

 

We can ask ourselves the following questions: Can the local government guarantee the welfare of horses through stricter regulation? Or does this case demand the absolute ban of the Galeras?  There is indeed a movement collecting firms to stop the galeras in Palma, Mallorca. The movement is called “Stop Galeras”. This movement form part of global criticism on the use of horses for tourism activities in cities. We can see similar discussions taken place in cities like Montreal, New York and Melbourne. According to the criticism, horses do not belong on city streets. A city environment with traffic and crowd of people is already detrimental to the welfare of any horse.

 

Text: José-Carlos García-Rosell

Please follow and like us:

Animal-based tourism in Lapland

The role of animals in Nordic tourism

Animals have become a very important part of tourism and leisure experiences of tourist visiting the Nordic countries. Animals play different roles in tourism. They can be in captivity ( zoos), in the wild (bear watching) or as as part of tourism activities (horseback riding). The picture of animals or human-animal encounters have become common in the marketing and promotion material of Nordic destinations.

For example, the marketing campaigns of Finland, Norway and Sweden include animals to a greater extent. By taking a glance at Visit Finland, Visit Norway and Visiting Sweden travel portals, one will soon notice the images of wildlife animals, horses, huskies and reindeer among other. These images become stronger and more prevalent as soon as we look for further northern destinations such as Northern Norway, Swedish Lapland and Finnish Lapland. Reindeer and huskies are not only represented as one of the main attractions, but they have also become an important branding element of these places. Indeed, it’s difficult to imagine a visit to Lapland without huskies or reindeer.

 

Photo: J.C. García-Rosell

Huskies, reindeer and horses in Lapland

Although the tourism industry in Lapland is aware of the significance of animals, there was a lack of knowledge about the current situation of animal-based tourism services. How many animal-based tourism companies are operating in Lapland? Which and how many animals are used in the creation of tourism experiences? Where are these animals situated? What is the economic impact of animal-based tourism services? In the project, Animal Welfare in Tourism Services, we conducted a study to find out answers to these questions.

This study identified a total of 158 animal-based tourism service firms in Lapland. A total of 53 firms offered services such as hunting, fishing and wildlife watching. We were able to locate 42 husky, 34 reindeer and 11 equestrian farms. These companies are well-distributed across Lapland.

Although the turnover of animal-based tourism services represents 2,4 % of the total turnover of  the Lapland tourism industry, these services play still an major role in the economy of Lapland.  Indeed, they bring value to local tourism brands and attract hundreds of thousands of tourists to Lapland. From this perspective, we clearly see that animals have an impact on the turnover of tourism programme service companies, restaurants and hotels. For example, we identified 42 destination management organizations (DMO) in Lapland, which do not own animals, but the sales of animal-based tourism services represent a significant share of their annual turnover.  Indeed, we can argued that animal-based tourism services have a considerably direct and indirect impact on Lapland’s economy.

A more detailed report of the study is available HERE.

Text: J.C. García-Rosell

Please follow and like us:

Towards good animal-based tourism practices in Lapland

Launching the process of action and research

In August 2017, we started an action research (AR) process that aims to produce and disseminate good practices concerning animal welfare. The focus is mainly on sled dogs, reindeer and horses. To that end, we invited our project companies to engage in a dialogue with each other and other stakeholders. Indeed, we want to create a fertile ground for the development of future animal welfare monitoring practices for the tourism industry in Lapland. The AR process consists of a planning, acting, observing and reflecting phase that will be implemented between August 2017 and April 2018. We illustrate the AR process and multi-stakeholder dialogue in the images below.

 

Small workshops on sled dogs, reindeer and horses

As the first step of the AR process, we invited the project companies to join a small workshop to discuss about animal welfare in relation to their own operations. In total, we organized four small workshops during August-October 2017. We divided the workshops according to animal species. Indeed, two workshops focused on sled dogs, one on reindeer and one on horses. The workshops took place in Muonio, Rovaniemi and Kuusamo. The discussions in the workshops were guided by – but not limited to – three main themes: information sharing, monitoring and the link between employees’ well-being and animal welfare. We identified these themes during previous studies conducted in the project. We audio-recorded all meetings. Then, we carefully examined and summarized the discussions from the meetings into a report.

 

Photos: JC García-Rosell & Tarja Salmela

Large workshop with companies and external experts

As second step of the AR process, we organized a large workshop in Rovaniemi on October 21, 2017. We invited the project companies and and key stakeholder representatives to join us in the event. The aim of the large workshop was to discuss the outcomes of the small workshops and receive feedback from stakeholders with expertise in animal welfare and responsible tourism. Indeed, we counted with the participation of representatives of two international tourism companies: Meike Witt (Exploring Iceland) and Vicki Brown (Responsible Travel). Also Satu Raussi (The Finnish Centre for Animal Welfare) and Kati Pulli (Finnish Federation for Animal Welfare Associations) joined us to share their expertise on animal welfare. Finally, Mia Halmén (The Finnish Association for Fair Tourism) took part in the workshop as a responsible tourism expert. Before joining the workshop, these representatives read the report from the small workshops.

What next?

In the workshops, we were able to exchange ideas and views on how and what kind of practices should be developed for monitoring the welfare of sled dogs, reindeer and horses. In the next months, we will focus on developing a set of guidelines for animal welfare communication and questions for auditing animal welfare in tourism companies operating in Lapland. Furthermore, we will use these guidelines for performing animal welfare auditing simulations in some of the project companies. Meike Witt already helped us to develop questions for assessing the animal welfare practices of horse stables. We will keep reporting on the AR process. So stay tuned!

In the video below, Tarja Salmela and Meike Witt send some greetings and briefly tell about the work done so far.

 

 

Text: J.C. García-Rosell

Please follow and like us:

Icelandic horses and heritage

Lýtingsstaðirin Horse Farm

Last May, Animal Tourism Visit Finland visited Lýtingsstaðirin Horse Farm. The farm is situated in Skagafjörður, in the North of Iceland. Evelyn and Sveinn, the owners of the farm, are strongly committed to animal welfare and the preservation of cultural heritage. Indeed, they do not only have hundred of horses, but also traditional Icelandic turf houses and stables.  Evelyn and Sveinn see their horses as a big part of their life. Their philosophy is based on breeding horses that are reliable, well trained and lovingly cared for.

The turf stables give an inside view of how horses were kept in the past. Visitors can also see a display of old tools, tack and other items connected with horses and farming. As Evelyn pointed out, they want their guest to learn about Iceland, Icelandic people and their horses. Evelyn want to focus on small groups and the idea to offer services with a personal touch.

In the video below, Evelyn  Ýr Kuhne from Lýtingsstaðirin Horse Farm tells more about their farm, tourism services and animal welfare practices.

 

 

Text: J.C. García-Rosell

 

Please follow and like us:

Responsible Finnhorseback riding in Kuusamo

This blog post introduces a company case of responsible animal-based tourism from Kuusamo, Finland.  The post offers a short interview with Sanna Kallunki. She is one of the owners of Ruska Laukka.  The company is situated in Ronivaara farm (Kuusamo), close to Ruka Ski Resort. Ruska Laukka is one of the 11 companies participating in the project “Animals and Responsible Tourism”. In the interview, Sanna talks about her company, company values and passion for Finnhorses. She tells about their variety of horse services.

 

Photo: JC García-Rosell

 

Indeed, Ruska Laukka offers not only horseback riding programs, but also riding lessons and social pedagogic horse activities. In the interview, Sanna stresses the importance of animal welfare in their business operations. For example, their horses live in field shelters and work no more than a specific number of daily working hours. Sanna also tells about their interest in promoting biodiversity and the natural environment. Ruska Laukka’s riding paths go through beautiful forest and field pastures.  Ruska Laukka has been approved by the Equestrian Federation of Finland. The interview was conducted by JC García-Rosell. Date: June 15, 2017.

 

Please follow and like us:

Exploring Iceland – responsible horseback riding

Exploring Iceland is a tour operator selling Iceland as a destination. Among their services, the company offers horseback riding tours with Icelandic horses. During my visit to Iceland in early May, I had the opportunity to visit this Icelandic tourism company. I met Steinunn Guðbjörnsdóttir (Owner and Managing Director) and Meike  Witt (Sales and Product Manager). We sat down over a cup of coffee and talk about their company, Icelandic horses and animal welfare in tourism. Indeed, animal welfare is one of the guiding principles of the company.

 

Photo: JC García-Rosell

 

Exploring Iceland has its own animal welfare policy which provides guidance for the responsible and respectful treatment of Icelandic horses. Both Exploring Iceland’s employees and business partners are expected to follow the animal welfare policy. Steinunn and Meike recognize the relevance of animal welfare in the tourism industry. Moreover, they believe that animal welfare is an essential aspect of responsible tourism.

By visiting Exploring Iceland, I was able to gain further insights into animal welfare in a Nordic context. I was also able to confirm that there is a need for certifications that focus on the welfare of horses used in tourism.

In the video below, Meike talks about their horse riding tours and some of the animal welfare practices of Exploring Iceland. If you want to know more about my visit to Iceland, please check our post from May 10, 2017.

 

 

Text: JC García-Rosell

Please follow and like us:

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.

 

Please follow and like us:

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

Please follow and like us: