Over the years, tourism has become one of the most important economic sectors in Finnish Lapland. Animals have played a very important role in supporting this development. Animal-based activities are not only very popular among tourists, but also one of the reasons for visiting northern Finland. Furthermore, animals such as sled dogs, reindeer, and Finnhorses have become an important branding element of Lapland and other Nordic destinations.
Animal welfare as a criterion for responsible tourism
We have created three guides aiming to facilitate the process of evaluating animal welfare in tourism in Finland. Their focus is on three animal species: sled dogs, reindeer, and horses. The guides are highly relevant at a time when animal welfare in tourism is being pushed forward due to consumer demand. While many tourists feel that close interaction with animals is an exciting way of spending a holiday, they also are aware of the negative impacts that tourism can have on animals. As a result, animal welfare has become a critical criterion used by tour operators to select their suppliers.
Evaluating animal welfare in Finnish tourism
The guides provide a group of specific themes and focused questions to evaluate the welfare of sled dogs, reindeer and horses involved in tourism operations. In doing so, the guides recognized the nature of these animal species with different welfare needs. They also draw attention to their welfare in relation to the working environment and conditions shaped by the tourism industry. Indeed, the guides aim to help animal-based tourism companies, destination marketing companies, tour operators, and other stakeholders to identify the issues that need to be considered to guarantee the welfare of these three animal species.
These guides build a solid foundation for the future development of animal welfare criteria for auditing systems, certification, or other similar assessment tools focusing on dogs, reindeer and horses as a tourism working animals. The guides are available in both English and Finnish language. To access the guides click on the links below.
The life of the Lapland reindeer is shaped by reindeer herding, which is based on the reindeer’s natural instincts to search for food. As a traditional livelihood, reindeer herding is associated with Sámi culture, the only truly indigenous culture in Europe. Nevertheless, in contrast to Norway and Sweden where the right of reindeer ownership is reserved to members of the Sámi community, in Finland non-Sámi can also own reindeer. Indeed, less than 20% of reindeer owners in Finland are Sámi. Although reindeer is a semi-wild animal that roam freely in the forests and fells of Lapland, every reindeer has an owner. If you look carefully, you will see that all reindeer have an earmark.
The Christmas magic
Reindeer are also integral to the magic of Christmas and the winter season. For many visitors just seeing these animals along the road or while walking through the forest in the snow is part of the Christmas experience. Indeed, meeting a reindeer can thus become a magical and unique experience. In a similar way, reindeer sledging and farm visits are also highly popular with tourists of all ages throughout the Christmas and winter season, especially if it’s part of a visit to see Santa himself. All in all, the reindeer is one of the icons of Lapland tourism – a place they certainly deserve.
Test your reindeer knowledge!
Now you have the possibility to test how much you know about the Lapland reindeer by playing the quiz card game below. Even if you don’t know much about reindeer, you may learn a lot by play the game. Just give a try and see what is your level. To see the answer just click on the picture and scroll down to the second page. You may probably have the potential to become reindeer herder. You never know!
How important is animal welfare communication in tourism?
Communicating about the welfare of animals working in tourism has become highly relevant at a time when consumers values are pushing towards more responsible consumption. A recent study that we conducted at the University of Lapland shows that 83% of tourists are concerned about the rights and treatment of animals in today’s society. At the same time, many tourists considered animal-based activities as an important reason for traveling to places like Lapland. Indeed, although many tourists feel that interaction with animals is an exciting experience, they are also concern about the treatment of animals in tourism. As a result, animal welfare is becoming a critical criterion used by tour operators to select their suppliers.
A guide for communicating animal welfare in tourism
Responsibility emphasizes the important role of communication in creating and maintaining transparent and open dialogues with customers and other stakeholders. We need such dialogues to foster ethical and socially responsible tourism practices. Therefore, we created a guide focusing on the ways of communicating and educating on animal welfare in tourism. The guide aims to help animal-based tourism companies evaluate and develop more comprehensive animal welfare communication strategies. It is also suitable for tour operators, DMOs and other business partners selling or promoting animal-based tourism services.
Although animal welfare communication is company-specific, there are questions that most companies struggle with. For instance, Which communication tools to use? What content to share in social media? Which information to put on the website? What information is relevant for the customers? Rather than being exhaustive, the guide offers some guidance on some of these crucial issues related to animal welfare communication. Furthermore, it helps companies increase the transparency of their operations and the visibility of the values shaping their animal welfare policies.
At its best, it provides a good starting point for an animal-based tourism company to reflect on their way of communicating their business philosophy and how they make it happen in practice. The guide is the outcome of our work in the project “Animals and responsible tourism: promoting business competitiveness through animal welfare”. The guide was written and assembled by Meike Witt from Exploring Iceland, Tarja Salmela and José-Carlos García-Rosell from the University of Lapland.
Millions of travelers share their experiences trough social media. Data generated online can take various forms (e.g. comments, reviews, blog posts, tweets, pictures, videos and vlogs). This type of data is usually referred to as user-generated content or traveller-generated content.
If we consider the amount of user-generated content, social media becomes a valuable source of information for understanding consumer values. As a growing public discussion, animal welfare in tourism is well-represented in social media.
We identified 208 reviews in TripAdvisor and 113 pictures and 30 videos in other social media channels. As a result, we can position TripAdvisor as one of the leading social media channels for discussions about animal-based tourism in Lapland. Tourists write the reviews to share their experience and often comment on the quality of life of working animals in Lapland.
Animal welfare in the spotlight
Animal welfare was the largest topic of discussion identified in the study. We identified a total of 331 comments related to the welfare of animals such as sled dogs and reindeer. Nevertheless, we should stress that most comments focused on sled dogs. We found out that discussions on animal welfare focused on a wide range of issues related to the life and treatment of animals. For example, we identified discussions revolving around issues such as care, health, work, chains, animal facilities, ethics and the retirement of animals.
With our study, we show that tourists using animal-based tourism services pay a lot of attention to different aspects of animal welfare. Although we can see a general interest in how animals are treated, tourists were also concerned about their working conditions and their future retirement. Tourists, who were more concerned about animal welfare, contacted the companies directly. Indeed, they did careful online research before booking the service.
If you want to know more about the study, you are warmly welcome to read the full report HERE.
Studying the views of Lapland tourists on animal welfare
During June 2016 and February 2017, we conducted a study aiming to explore the attitudes of Lapland tourists towards animals and animal-based tourism. To that end , we use a semi-structured survey based on cluster sampling. Data collection took place in Rovaniemi and mostly in the premises of the Rovaniemi Airport. We focused mainly on the departures of charter flights. In that way, we were able to get a representative sample of the tourists coming from the most important target markets of Lapland. We selected the respondents randomly. We conducted the survey in six different languages: Finnish, English, German, Russian and Mandarin. A total of 601 tourists from more than 20 different countries participated in the survey. The study was part of the project “Animal welfare in tourism services”.
How important animals are to Lapland tourists?
We found out that animals play an important role in attracting people to Lapland. Indeed, 68% of the tourists surveyed said that animal-based tourism activities were an important reason for visiting Lapland. We also found out that 83% of the tourists were concerned about the rights and treatment of animals in today’s society. This finding is consistent with the results of the Eurobarometer on animal welfare 2016. According to it, 89% of European citizens believe that there should be an EU-legislation that obliges people to care for animals used for commercial purposes. The majority of tourism considered that animals should not be maltreated under any circumstances. Only few respondents saw animals as tourism objects that should be always visible and easy to photograph.
In addition, we found out that the staff and marketing channels of animal-based tourism companies play a important role in providing information about animal welfare. Also the respondents stressed the role of local tourism information offices in communicating about animal welfare. If you are interested in reading more about the study, you can access the full report HERE. Although we can say that the majority of Lapland tourists are concern about the welfare of animals working in tourism, we could identify a group of customers that are particularly concerned about the issue. We call this group “ethical consumers”. We have conducted interviews with them to study their values and how they influence their tourism consumption. In addition, we have conducted a social media analysis focusing on animal welfare in Lapland tourism. We will publish these studies in the coming months.
For a second year in a row, we were in the The Nordic Travel Fair held at the Helsinki’s Expo and Convention Center. The event counts with more than 1000 exhibitors from 80 different countries. As a travel event, it offers an excellent space for discovering new products, services and business partners. Moreover, it is a place for discussing the late developments in the Finnish and global tourism industry. The event took place between January 18-21. The first day is exclusively reserved for travel professionals and the rest of the days is open for the public in general. Also in 2018, we could see that animals continue to play an important role in the fair. Pictures and shapes of animals could be found in the different corners of the travel fair.
In this post, we want to talk about the arrival of the the Pandas in Finland and our public discussion on “Ethical Business and Animals” at the Nordic Travel Fair.
Although some have celebrated the arrival of the pandas, some have also showed concerns about their introduction to Ähtäri Zoo. The arrival of the pandas has been surrounded by a lot of discussion in the Finnish media. Indeed, it can be seen as a backward step in terms of ethics by a society that is becoming more sensitive to issues related to animal rights and welfare. As a result, Ähtäri zoo might be taking a risk by hosting the pandas. In an interview with Radio Suomi (18.1.), Minni Haanpää talked about the pandas in relation to ethical tourism. Listen to the interview in Finnish here (starts at minute 27:55).
In particular, we want to draw attention to three issues that were highlighted in the discussion. First, the growing interest in animals in society. Indeed, this is not just phenomenon limited to the West, but something that can be seen in different parts of the world. For example, in China, there is also a growing social movement for animal rights and welfare. Second, ethical consumption is colorful and evolving. As a result, ethical consumers cannot be categorized under one and the same group. Third, ethical business demands transparency and continuous interaction with consumers. Only so we can reach the degree of trust that is expected by ethical consumers. Next time, we will write about the views of Lapland tourists on animals working in tourism. So, Stay tuned!
The article introduces both projects and the work done by the University of Lapland and the Lapland University of Applied Sciences on animal welfare in tourism. In the article, Mia Sivula draws attention to two important issues surrounding the animal welfare discussion in tourism: customer education and an animal-center perspective.
As stated in the article, tourists are usually not familiar with the animals working in Lapland tourism. Indeed, most visitors are unaware of the living conditions and needs of animals such as huskies and reindeer. As a result, there is a need to educate visitors on the animals they may interact with during their visit. As Miia Merkku explains, they have to teach tourists reindeer manners as they teach human manners to reindeer. In fact, a better awareness of the animals may lead to greater welfare and tourist experiences.
An animal-center perspective
In order to guarantee the well-being of the animals, it is is important that service provider put animals first. Customer should not always be king when it comes to animal-based tourism services. For example, Miia Merkku has many times said no to the request from customers to get inside the reindeer fence. As she explains, the fence area is the reindeer home and where they can just be among themselves. They have a right to their own private sphere. Also for Päivi Hiukka the well-being of their dogs come first and she expects the same attitude from their customers.
Text: JC García-Rosell (based on the article written by Mia Sivula)
At the beginning of November, we helped organize a seminar focusing on well-being at work in tourism. Animal tourism work was included in the seminar programme (in Finnish). We cannot neglect animals when discussing well-being in relation to tourism work. Indeed, tourism work is performed by both people and animals. As David Fennell (2012) explains, animals perform different form of labor (e.g. pulling, carrying) that contributes to tourism experiences in unique settings. Furthermore, in our project, we have identified a clear relationship between the well-being of workers and animals laboring in animal-based tourism firms. The animal welfare presentations in the seminar were giving by Mikko Äijälä, Outi Kähkönen and Miia Merkku from Arctic Reindeer. The presentation can be found here.
Animal tourism work in Lapland
Tourism work in Lapland touches the lives of thousands of humans and animals. In fact, many of the services sold to tourists are based on animals such as huskies, reindeer and horses among other species. In Particular, huskies and reindeer are popular among international tourists. Sled dog and reindeer safaris are usually among the top 10 things to do in Lapland. Last year sled dog safaris overcame snow mobile safaris as the most popular winter activity. Snow mobiles were on the top since its introduction in the late 1980s. Now sled dog safaris are in and growing very fast.
The organization and execution of these safaris demand trained staff who knows how to work with the animals. In Lapland, there are around 2000 tourism workers working directly with animals. The work may included safari guiding, feeding, taking care of the animals as well as their shelters. As a result, the lives of these workers and animals are closely interrelated. We have estimated the number of animal working in tourism to be around ten thousand. Approximately 70 per cent of them are huskies and 15 per cent reindeer. These two animal species work mainly in the winter season. Animal welfare is one of the issues that need to be considered in a fast growing Lapland tourism industry.
The concept of animal work
Kendra Coulter just published a book called “Animals, Work and the Promise of Interdisciplinary Solidarity”. She uses the concept of animal work as framework to critically evaluate the work done with, by and for animals. In the book, Kendra challenges the reader to reflect on work involving animals and its implications for both human and animal well-being. In particular, she draws attention to the connections and differences between work performed by people and animals. Although we recognize that human and animal workers are connected, their situation is not similar. For example, animal workers do not have a choice about what they do and where they work. Also, as Kendra points out, laws and policies are in place to better protect people at work. There is lack of legal infrastructure for governing animals’ working lives. If you are interested in human-animal labor relations, this book should be part of your book shelf collection.
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.
There were six presentations in the track. Three of them were delivered by Animal Tourism Finland researchers. Indeed, Tarja Salmela, Mikko ÄijäläandJ.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.
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.
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.