Animal Tourism Finland goes UK!

During the first week of September, Animal Tourism Finland visited the UK. The main reason for the trip was to take part in the conference “The Visitor Economy: Strategies and Innovations” organized by Bournemouth University. The conference included a track on animals and tourism. The session was organized by Prof. Susanna Curtin (Bournemouth University) and Prof. David Fennell (Brock University). After the conference we traveled to London to meet with Hugh Felton and Clare Jenkinson from the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA). Animal Tourism Finland was represented by J.C. García-Rosell, Tarja Salmela and Mikko Äijälä.

Animals and tourism

The conference track on animals and tourism invited discussions on the interaction between people and animals in tourism settings. As such, it aimed to draw attention to the growth of animal-based tourism activities, the spectrum of tourists’ perceptions of animal attractions and examples of poor and good practice.

The presentations

There were six presentations in the track. Three of them were delivered by Animal Tourism Finland researchers. Indeed, Tarja Salmela, Mikko Äijälä and J.C. García-Rosell presented a paper titled “Insights into the Certification of Animal Welfare in Tourism”. The presentation was based on the results presented in the report “Quality Monitoring Practices in Animal-Based Tourism”. In his presentation “Animal Agency in Tourism: Sled dogs in Finnish Lapland”, Mikko Äijälä discussed the role and agency of sled dogs in a tourism context. J.C. García-Rosell and Prof. Philip Hancock (Essex Business School) presented a paper titled “Christmas Tourism and the Cultivation and Symbolism of Lapland’s Reindeer”. The paper offers some reflections on the emergence of the Lapland reindeer as an economic resource, both as a carnally appropriated raw material, and as a mythical beast of Christmas folklore.

Prof. Susanna Curtin presented a paper titled  “Morally torn but aesthetically persuaded: Why zoos are still attractive”. Her presentation drew attention to the current attitudes of tourists towards animal-based attractions such as zoos and marine parks. Rie Usui (Hiroshima University) delivered a presentation called “Investigating animal ethics and wildlife management issues at a nature-based tourism setting”. Her presentations offers moral reflections on current wildlife management practices implemented in Yakushima Island, Japan. Also Clare Jenkinson (ABTA Senior Destinations & Sustainability Manager) took part in the track by given a presentation on ABTA policies and actions concerning animal-based tourism. If you would like to read more about the presentations included in the track, please check out the conference proceedings.

Sustainability in practice: TUI and ABTA

In the conference, there was also a track focusing on practical implementation of sustainability. TUI and ABTA were two of the tourism organizations represented in this track. Clare Jenkinson (Senior Destinations & Sustainability Manager, ABTA) offered an overview of the work done by ABTA concerning sustainability issues. She also emphasized the role of partnerships with destination governments in promoting more sustainable practices. Similarly, Jane Ashton (Director of Sustainable Development, TUI) talked about how TUI is tackling sustainability in a globalized tourism industry. She drew especial attention to TUI sustainability strategy for 2020 “Better Holidays, Better World” and how it has been driven by company values, investors, consumers and other stakeholders.

Visit to ABTA

After the conference, Animal Tourism Finland headed to London to meet Hugh Felton (Senior Sustainable Tourism Executive) and Clare Jenkinson (Senior Destinations & Sustainability Manager) at the ABTA headquarters. The meeting was an excellent opportunity for sharing experiences on animal-based tourism. Indeed, we were able not only to tell about our work in Lapland, but also to familiarize ourselves with ABTA’s initiatives. One of them is The Global Welfare Guidance for Animals in Tourism, which are available to ABTA Members and their suppliers. So, if your company is doing business with an ABTA member, you can have access to these guidelines. You just have to ask your ABTA client to make them available to you.

The ABTA Animal welfare guidelines consist of six manuals which provide a set of minimum requirements designed to assist in improving animal welfare as well as phasing out poor practice. For animal-based tourism companies in Lapland, the manuals focusing on working animals and wildlife viewing are the most interesting ones. For example, the manual on working animals includes some welfare criteria for sled dogs. Through the animal welfare guidelines, ABTA aims to make sure that animals used in tourism are treated humanely, with respect and in accordance with transparent and robust animal welfare standards.

 

Text: JC García-Rosell

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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.

 

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Responsible whale watching practices – Salka

Salka Whale Watching

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) and IceWhale (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.

 

Photo: JC García-Rosell

 

Húsavík

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.

 

 

Text: J.C. García-Rosell

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EAZA – an animal welfare standard

EAZA is one of the animal welfare standards used in Europe. EAZA stands for European Association of Zoos and Aquaria. As a membership organization, it aims to improve animal welfare, education, research and conservation. The organization was founded in 1992 and it counts with over 370 member institutions in 44 countries throughout Europe and the Middle East. In Finland, Helsinki Zoo, Ähtäri Zoo and Ranua Zoo are accredited by EAZA.  EAZA is one of the standards included in the study “Quality monitoring practices in animal-based tourism” (see our previous post)

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.

 

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Monitoring animal welfare in tourism

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).

 

 

Click on the picture to access the report.

 

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.

 

 

Tarja Salmela-Leppänen, Mikko Äijälä and J.C. García-Rosell will present the results of this study in the conference “The Visitor Economy: Strategies and Innovation”. The conference takes place at Bournemouth University, U.K. on 4-6 September, 2017. The presentation is part of the track “Animals and Tourism” . The track has been organized by Doctor Susanna Curtin and Professor David Fennell.

 

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Whale watching with sustainability principles – Elding

Certified whale watching

This post includes a short interview with Sveinn H. GuðmundssonElding’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.

 

Photo: JC García-Rosell

 

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’s Lapland 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.

 

 

Text: JC García-Rosell

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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

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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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Tourism boom doesn’t come at the expense of huskies’ welfare

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.

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Ethical consumption and animals in tourism

Ethical consumption

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.

 

Photo: José-Carlos García-Rosell

 

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.

Modern humanists

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.

 

Photo: José-Carlos García-Rosell

 

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!

 

Photo: Harriniva Safari Guide
Photo: Minni Haanpää

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Text: José-Carlos García-Rosell and Minni Haanpää

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