Economic Benefits from National Parks
Local businesses benefit from the funds granted by the Finnish government for national parks and hiking areas, as the funds return to society many-folded through local entrepreneurship and jobs. Government budget funds are used for building and maintaining hiking facilities in national parks and hiking areas. The private sector creates tourism business services around these areas.
The Finnish government finances the trails and campfire sites, i.e. the infrastructure of national parks and hiking areas. These facilities help create tourism industry in the vicinity of the protected areas.
The input-output ratio of the national parks is good: when Metsähallitus, Parks & Wildlife Finland invests one euro of tax payers’ money in the hiking services of national parks, the local economy benefits over 10 euros, on average. For national parks located next to ski resorts, the average input-output ratio is still higher. Close to big cities and the Helsinki Metropolitan Area, the visitation impacts are primarily recreation and health benefits.
Major changes in visitor spending – local economic impacts are not calculated in 2020
The pandemic influenced how visitors to protected areas spent their money. For example, vendors providing activity services were, as a rule, in a very difficult situation due to the lack of foreign visitors. The hotel and restaurant sectors also suffered. On the other hand, enterprises providing cottage accommodation services had a record year. In addition, food stores and fuel distribution points near nature sites, among other things, received a lot of new customers.
Local economic impacts based on protected-area-visitor spending data were not calculated for 2020 unlike in previous years. In order to calculate the impacts for local economies, data from visitor counters installed in the field is not enough, since also visitor spending data, obtained from visitor surveys, is necessary. The COVID-19 pandemic prevented this from being implemented with the exception of two sites, because the data from visitor surveys is collected by interviewing visitors in the field. As the number of visits has increased considerably, local economic impacts have likely also increased at the national level, even quite strongly in some areas.
Results in 2019
The total income and job impacts of all the 40 national parks in 2019 were 219.3 million euros and about 1,726 jobs (full-time equivalent) and for all the 5 hiking areas 13.1 million euros and about 112 jobs (FTE).
Year 2019, the national parks with biggest local economic impacts were Pallas–Yllästunturi National Park with 63.1 million euros, Urho Kekkonen National Park with 40.5 million euros, Koli National Park with 19.5 million euros, Oulanka National Park with 18.2 million euros and Pyhä–Luosto National Park with 15.3 million euros.
The biggest local economic impacts can be seen in tourism centres where the visitors stay for a longer period and the supply of tourism services is larger. In 2019, the visitation numbers in Nuuksio National Park in the Helsinki Metropolitan area were 330,600 and those in Koli National Park 201,800. Yet the local economic impacts were much more important in Koli which generated 19.5 million euros, whereas Nuuksio only 3.9 million euros.
Popularity and Economic Benefits of National Parks Grow Well
The visitation numbers of national parks grew two percent in 2019 resulting in 5 % more income effects. A total of 3,2 million visits were paid in the 40 national parks of Finland. This is a fairly high figure considering that there are only 5.5 million inhabitants in Finland. The most popular national park in 2019 was once again Pallas–Yllästunturi National Park where the number of visits exceeds 0.5 million visits.
It is the belief of Parks & Wildlife Finland that the national parks will be able to tolerate even higher increases in visitation, as long as services are adequate and in good condition. With good planning of hiking trails and services one can prevent the adverse effects on nature. At the same time it is possible for tourism enterprises to increase their income. To prevent erosion, we have made the trails more durable, for example in Pallas–Yllästunturi National Park. At the same time, the trail network has been developed so that it is easier for the hikers to reach the local accommodation and other service providers.
- Vatanen, E. & Kajala, L. 2020. Update of multipliers used by the method assessing the local economic impacts of national parks, hiking areas and other protected areas valuable as nature tourism destinations, 2019. (In Finnish, summary in English; julkaisut.metsa.fi)
- Vähäsarja, V 2014. Assessment of the financial value of the health and well-being benefits of natural environments. (In Finnish, documentary page in English; julkaisut.metsa.fi)