How Visit Finland is engaging with climate action in tourism

We spoke with Liisa Kokkarinen as part of our work on the Expedia Destination Climate Champions online training programme. Here are her takeaways on how to get started in climate action in tourism at a destination level. 

Collaboration is key

To achieve greater impact in climate action, I really think that it’s crucial to engage with all stakeholders in the tourism sector and beyond. For us in Finland, the DMOs are the key partners. However, tourism actually happens in the attractions and in the businesses within the destinations, so a lot of emissions are also caused there. That’s why it’s really important that we engage with the DMOs because then we also reach businesses so in this way we are reaching as many stakeholders in the industry as possible. 

When it comes to climate action and sustainability in general, no great impact can be achieved alone. You can do really good work in climate action alone, but when it comes to impact, you will need your partners to be with you, especially as most of the emissions are actually caused in your value and supply chain. Therefore, it’s really important to collaborate and take collective action, because your actions will help me to reduce mine. 

Supporting businesses 

We have a CO2 calculator that businesses can use to understand what their key emission sources are, which will then help them systematically to reduce emissions. We also have the Visit Finland Academy which provides interactive training and workshops. In addition, we have an e-learning platform about sustainable travel that has an entire section on climate change, and a self-assessment tool with a climate change section within it, that has been used by over 1000 companies in Finland, which helps businesses to get started as well as understanding the actions they are already taking. We find this is really motivational because it creates understanding that you don’t have to start from scratch, when it comes to climate change mitigation.

Embedded in our Sustainable Travel Finland programme, we have a national sustainable tourism indicator system which helps us to collect nationwide data. Through this indicator system, we have learned that 99% of the tourism businesses in Finland are already taking climate action, so now it’s just about increasing the number of measures that tourism businesses are taking. Ultimately, we are trying to lower the threshold to getting involved in climate action and making it as easy and attractive as possible for businesses.  

Changing marketing activities

We’re steering the demand and travellers towards more sustainable options by making sustainability a default option. In our marketing we are prioritising offerings that have been vetted through our Sustainable Travel Finland programme. This also brings the businesses and destinations a competitive advantage.They are committed to sustainability and so they also get more visibility. And then even without knowing, travellers and tour operators might choose the most sustainable option.

We cannot ignore the fact that most emissions are caused by the actual travel to the destination So in our marketing efforts we are focusing on nearby markets. Our key markets are Sweden, Germany and the UK. We have marketing activities in other markets as well, but on a reduced level. This is not the only reason for the focus on nearby markets. There is more responsiveness to a sustainable offering too. Because we want to make sustainable offerings the default option, we also need to seek those travellers and those markets that are willing to respond to this kind of offering.

Top tips for other DMOs working on climate action in tourism

First, become a Glasgow Declaration signatory. It gives you the framework for your work, but it also gives you other destinations in the same situation, so you can get some peer support and you can learn from others. 

Second, I would advise you to measure your carbon footprint. It might not be an easy task but it really creates understanding about where emissions come from and that will help you to prioritise the actions to take. 

Third, engage with all your stakeholders. Even if you’ve just measured your footprint, you can’t reduce emissions significantly if your stakeholders are not on board. So take everyone on your decarbonisation journey because this will also create a greater impact and will make work easier because you are not alone. It’s also really important to make this journey a positive one and to create economic opportunities around climate action as everyone wants to get on board with a journey that leaves a positive impact as well as boosting the economy.

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