Many of Finland’s protected areas are significant tourist attractions. Although the main purpose of protected areas is to protect natural features, they are also beneficially used for scientific research, amateur nature studies and outdoor recreation.
Metsähallitus manages all of Finland’s national parks and other protected areas in areas owned by the state. To help improve nature tourism and the related facilities, Metsähallitus has drafted a special set of principles for sustainable nature tourism in protected areas, wilderness areas and sites in special conservation programmes.
Sustainable nature tourism is promoted in co-operation with local residents, the local authorities, firms offering tourist services, and other organisations. These principles for sustainable nature tourism are not simply a list of “dos and don’ts”, but rather represent jointly agreed practical guidelines that will help to promote sustainability. These guidelines may be followed in different ways by different organisations, according to local conditions.
What Is Sustainable Nature Tourism?
The goal of sustainable nature tourism is to provide visitors with valuable experiences in natural surroundings in fully sustainable ways. The above principles for sustainable nature tourism in protected areas relate to the various ecological, social, cultural and economic aspects of sustainability.
Ecological sustainability involves respecting natural values. Not all areas are suited to nature tourism. Social, economic and cultural sustainability depend on the impacts of nature tourism on local residents and communities, and also the experiences of visitors. Nature tourism has the potential to improve both economic and spiritual well-being, but poorly planned or badly organised tourism can endanger natural features and local cultures, and also disturb other people using natural areas.
Metsähallitus has developed indicators to evaluate the sustainability of nature tourism. These indicators are used to monitor the ecological, social and economic impacts of nature tourism in specific areas. Such indicators are also used in the planning of the use and management of protected areas.
Sustainability through Co-operation
The increasing use of protected areas for nature tourism means that clear rules must be jointly agreed by everyone concerned. Written agreements are made between Parks & Wildlife Finland and local firms, to define acceptable and sustainable practices. In addition to the contracts entitling firms to organise activities in protected areas, even more detailed co-operation may be established through co-operation and partnership agreements. Sustainability can only be achieved through co-operation.
Read more: Principles for sustainable nature tourism.