Last May, Animal Tourism Visit Finland visited Salka Whale Watching in Húsavík, Iceland. Salka Whale Watching is a family owned tourism company. It takes visitors to see whales, puffins and other wildlife on traditional oak boats. The company is strongly committed to sustainability and responsible tourism practices. Indeed, Salka is one of the 12 IceWhale operators operating in Iceland. As an IceWhale operator Salka follows IceWhale code of conduct for responsible whale watching. The company has also been a key supporter of the “Meet Us Don´t Eat Us”campaign which has aimed to take whale meat off the menu for tourists. As a joint project between IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare) andIceWhale(the Association of Icelandic Whale Watchers), the campaign “Meet Us Don´t Eat Us”, has been around since summer 2010. As a result of this campaign, no restaurant in Húsavík serves whale meat nowadays.
Húsavík is well-known for being one of the best places in the world to see whales. Indeed, Skjálfandi Bay, where Húsavík is located, is a plankton- rich area. No wonder why whale watching in Iceland started in this small town. Due to this long history and high percentage of whales, Húsavík deserves to be called “the whale capital of Iceland”. During the visit, Animal Tourism Finland was able to learn more about Salka’s operations and their responsible approach to whale watching. The visit was crowned with a whale watching tour on Salka’s oat boat “Fanney”. The tour was a great opportunity for experiencing Salka’s whale watching practices in action.
In the video below, Loes de Heus from Salka tells more about their services, customers and responsible whale watching practices.
In the video below, Ranua Zoo’s Curator Mari Heikkilä tells briefly about EAZA membership, its benefits and how it contributes to animal welfare. She also discusses the challenge of measuring and assessing animal welfare in practice. Finally, she explains what other animal welfare certifications could learn from EAZA.
Insights into quality certifications including animal welfare criteria
One of the objectives of the project “Animals and Responsible Tourism” was to examine quality standards including animal welfare criteria. To that end, we conducted an evaluation of a wide range of both national and international certifications and quality labels. Furthermore, we interviewed five certified animal-based tourism service providers. The service providers interviewed operate in Canada, Iceland, Finland and Sweden. They offer services such as whale watching, dog sledding and horseback riding. The study helps understand how animal welfare is considered in existing tourism quality standards. It also offers insights into the benefits of these standards for the operation of animal-based tourism companies. The results of the study can be found in the report “Quality monitoring practices in animal-based tourism” (see below).
In the video below, Tarja Salmela-Leppänen offers an overview of the content and main highlights of the report. The video is meant to serve as an introduction to the report.
This post includes a short interview with Sveinn H. Guðmundsson – Elding’s Quality and Environmental Manager. I met Sveinn during my visit to Iceland in early May. We talked about responsible whale watching and the role of environmental certifications and labels in promoting it. In fact, Elding – adventures at sea follows EarthCheck and Blue Flag’s standards along with IceWhale’s guidelines. The company has also been strongly committed to the “Meet Us Don´t Eat Us” campaign which has aimed to take whale meat off the menu for tourists. As a joint project between IFAW(International Fund for Animal Welfare) and IceWhale (the Association of Icelandic Whale Watchers), the campaign “Meet Us Don´t Eat Us,” has been around since summer 2010.
Supporting research and responsible tourism practices
In addition to these standards and guidelines, Elding takes part in international cooperation on the future of whale watching. The company has also strong cooperation with marine biologists and wildlife researchers . Sveinn also mentioned that Elding is the first and only environmentally certified whale watching company in Iceland. According to Sveinn environmental certifications are an useful tool for managing Elding’s operations in a responsible way.
Elding also takes seriously its educational role in tourism. During the tours, Elding’s guides not only explain about the whales, but also how toutists themselves can support responsible tourism practices. For example, they make tourists aware that whale meat is not part of Icelandic traditional gastronomy. The campaign “Meet Us Don´t Eat Us,” has actually contributed to the decrease of whale meat among tourists.
During my visit to Iceland, I joined once more a whale watching tour with Elding. It was my second time. We were able to see minke whales, dolphins, puffins and other birds. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a shot of the minke whale. They were to fasts for me. Nevertheless, the dolphins stayed with us for a while.
Sveinn H. Guðmundsson will be one of the speakers in this year’sLapland Tourism Parliament. The event will take place in Rovaniemi at the University of Lapland on September 21-22, 2017. So you may have the possibility to meet Sveinn in person and share some thoughts with him.
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.
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.
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 Whale, 20 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.
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.
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
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.
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).
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!
In this post, we provide access to an article referring to the project “Animal and Responsible Tourism” and its sister project “Animal Welfare in Tourism Services” in Koiramme– a dog magazine published by the Finnish Kennel Club. The article was written by Antti J. Leinonen and published in Finnish in the April numero, 2017. The article is based on interviews with members of both projects, the owners of Arctic Borealis husky farm and a veterinarian working for the Lapland Regional State Administrative Agency (Aluehallintovirasto).
The article titled “Tourism Boom doesn’t come at the expense of huskies’ welfare” draws attention to the importance of sled dogs and their welfare in a growing tourism industry in Lapland. In particular, huskies are very popular among tourists. As the number of tourists grows so will the number of sled dogs. It is not surprising that many husky farms have doubled their turnover during the last winter season. Animal welfare is an issue of global concern. Large tourism companies like TripAdvisor and TUI have recently taken concrete steps to address these concerns. Husky companies in Lapland know that the welfare of their animals is essential in both operational and strategic terms. The interest in animal welfare is not an issue that only concerns western tourists, but also tourist from rapidly growing markets such as China and Singapore. Tourists’ concerns about animal welfare are for real and will not go away.
To get access to the whole article (in Finnish), just click on the English title above.
Buy products made by fairly paid workers. Take the vegan challenge. Buy green energy. These calls for ethical consumption are growing louder and becoming more prominent in wealthy societies around the world. Ethical consumption can be defined as the practice of purchasing products and services produced in a way that minimizes social and environmental damages. At the same time, it refers to the act of avoiding products and services deemed to have a negative impact on society or the natural environment.
According to Dr. Maria Pecoraro from the University of Jyväskylä, ethical consumption embraces a variety of consumption tendencies related to global ecological and social concerns and values. Indeed, the themes related to ethical deliberations of consumption vary from human and animal rights to environmental issues. Furthermore, it is a way to question consumption-oriented lifestyle in general.
The target group of Visit Finland’s marketing activities consists of people who have traveled a lot and are looking for unique experiences. This target group is known as “modern humanist”. Travelers belonging to this category appreciate quality of life, nature and responsibility. In this view, it seems that the consumption practices of modern humanists are driven by personal values, beliefs and life-views. In fact, we can see a clear connection between modern humanists and ethical consumption.
Who are the ethical consumers?
According to Visit Finland, modern humanists come from countries such as Great Britain, Germany, Italy, France, USA and China. But do we know what are their values and beliefs? What role do these values play in their daily consumption practices? What are their attitudes towards animal-based tourism activities? We will address these questions in a video-ethnographic study conducted in close collaboration with our project partner Associate Professor Joonas Rokka from EMLYON Business School. In the study, we will not focus on modern humanists in general, but look at modern humanists who consider themselves as ethical consumers. To that end, we will focus on four countries, USA, Great Britain, France and China.
Fieldwork just started!
With a beautiful Spring weather, we launched the video-ethnographic fieldwork in April. On April 5, we were in Hetta Huskies and on April 6, we visited Harriniva in Fell Lapland. During our visit, we took part in husky and reindeer safaris. On April 8, we visited Northern Gate Safaris in Rovaniemi. We have conducted several interviews and observed production and consumption practices in the respective companies. We collected data mainly through video. During the next months, we will continue the fieldwork in different locations. So stay tuned for more updates!
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.
During the second week of January 2017, Animal Tourism Finland visited Pyhä and Luosto ski resorts. These two ski resorts are located in Finnish Lapland just aside the Pyhä-Luosto National Park. Pyhä and Luosto count with a large variety of service providers, including animal-based tourism companies. Animal-based activities such as dog sledding, reindeer safaris and horseback riding are particularly popular among visitors. A simple visit to see the huskies, reindeers and horses is also a very exciting activity.
Off-piste Adventures and Arctic Husky Farm
In this trip, we had the opportunity to visit two of the companies involved in the project. First, we visited Off-Piste Adventures which offers horseback riding activities with Finnhorses and also reindeer safaris. Mia Lappalainen, the owner of the company, was our host. She showed us around the premises and told us about her services and her business philosophy.
Then, we visited Arctic Husky Farm which is specialized in dog sledding. We were welcomed and hosted by Outi Kunnari who is the production supervisor of the company. She gave us a tour around the farm and offered us the possibility to try dog sledding ourselves. It was an awesome experience! During our visit we became familiar with the services and business operations of the company.
In both companies, we had the opportunity to follow human-animal interactions taking place between the animals, the staff and the tourists. It was an excellent opportunity for getting further insights into the planning of work package 2. It is in work package 2 that we will take a closer look at consumer values in relation to animal-based tourism services. In the video below Minni and Tarja talk about the work ahead. The video was made in the premises of Arctic Husky Farm.