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.

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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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“The tourist thanks when the husky does well”

This is the first article written about the project “Animal and Responsible Tourism” and its sister project “Animal Welfare in Tourism Services” in a local newspaper. The article was written by Sinikka Pylkkänen (in Finnish) and published in Lapin Kansa on July 8, 2016. The article is based on interviews with project researchers and experts, a husky tourism entrepreneur and a veterinarian working for the local public health department.

The article titled “The tourist thanks when the husky does well” draw attention to the relevance of animals and their welfare in a tourism context. Nowadays tourists are interested in knowing about how the animals are treated and taken care of. The article also points out that animal welfare is an essential aspect of responsible tourism.

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