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The growth of nature tourism is pursued in the Heart of Finland

A project prepared in cooperation with tourism operators and developers in the area to promote and brand nature tourism in the area started in September. The project will last until August 2025.

Fishing in the vicinity of Salamajärvi National Park, Heikki pond. Photo: Janne Taavitsainen

In January 2023, a group of developers and entrepreneurs gathered in Piispala, Kannonkoski, with the aim of considering what type of project and what measures would be needed from the perspective of tourism in the area. Based on this meeting and a separate needs survey, a project plan was formed, for which funding was applied for from the Just Transition Fund (JTF). The project received a positive decision and thus in September 2023, the Nature Tourism Growth Program project was launched in Sydänsuomi.

Long-term development of travelling is in the focus

Northern Central Finland is known for its wonderful, quiet lake areas, wilderness, and thousands of holiday homes. The area is home to Finland’s largest swamp wilderness area, Salamajärvi National Park known for its forest deer population, Pyhä-Häkki National Park known for its old-growth forests, and many interesting nature routes and trails. The region of Northern Central Finland is also home to several of the province’s significant quiet areas. This quietest and southernmost wilderness area in Finland needs a distinctive nature tourism profile to stand out as an interesting destination for new potential tourist groups.

Closer co-operation and strengthening the knowhow

The main goal of the Heart of Finland nature tourism growth program project is to strengthen the conditions for the tourism industry in northern Central Finland in the area of the 7 municipalities of Heart of Finland (Kannonkoski, Karstula, Kinnula, Kivijärvi, Kyyjärvi, Pihtipudas ja Viitasaari), so that tourism can contribute to strengthening and diversifying the region’s economy. The goal of the project is to create a well-known nature tourism profile (Masterplan 2030) and a sustainable tourism infrastructure plan, to build a new cooperation model with clear measures and goals, as well as a supporting metric for the Central Finland region. In addition, the goal is to build and support common tourism communication under a common brand, and to strengthen tourism entrepreneurs’ financial, responsibility, productization and future forecasting skills.

The project’s activities focus on four main goals:1. Creating the basis for tourism development work in the heart of Finland: tourist information that predicts the future, Masterplan 2030, development plan & land use plan, metrics for monitoring the development of tourism2. Making Sydänsuomi, the Heart of Finland, more widely known: common communication and marketing of the region under a common brand.3. Activation of tourism entrepreneurs: the financial, responsibility, productization and future forecasting skills of tourism entrepreneurs will be strengthened based on the regional strategy of the Heart of Finland and the needs arising from the business survey.4. Coordination of investments related to the development of municipal tourism: uniformity of appearance and joint marketing of routes that may be renewed or built at the same time in different municipalities.

Nature tourism attracts visitors and strengthens local economy

As a result of the project, the conditions for the tourism industry will be strengthened in northern Central Finland, so that tourism can grow into a viable industry that strengthens and diversifies the economy of the region in the coming years. This is monitored e.g. by the number of SMEs making product or process innovations or by the number of companies starting a new tourism business. As a result of the project, the tourism strengths of the region have been identified in the Central Finland region, and key development, land use and investment plans have been created to support their promotion, as well as selected metrics for monitoring the development of the tourism industry. Planned groundwork supports the long-term development of tourism businesses. The results are verified as emerging plans. The development of tourism can be monitored in the future with the metrics selected and implemented in the project.

In addition, as a result of the project, the participants will gain more understanding about the cooperation between municipalities, entrepreneurs and other tourism operators in the development of tourism and tourism marketing in the region . With the testing of the new cooperation model, the municipalities in the region have a more realistic understanding of what the possible to reach in the cooperation of the 7 municipalities in tourism development and marketing and what kind of resources it will require in the future. The deepening of the cooperation network is realized in practice, for example, as innovations, products and services developed by networks and innovation ecosystems. The recognition of the area as an exotic and unique nature tourism destination will increase with the brand work done during the project and with the experimentation and commitment to common tourism communication. The recognition of the area and the effectiveness of the communication can be monitored, for example, by the development of the number of followers of Sydänsuomi’s communication channels and the degree of commitment of the followers.

As a result of the project, the economic, responsibility, productization and future forecasting skills of tourism entrepreneurs in Northern Central Finland will be strengthened. This strengthens overall sustainability as a basis for the development of tourism businesses and nature tourism. The development of skills can be measured, for example, with the mapping done in the project and feedback surveys of coaching sessions.

In the longer term, the effects of the project can be realized as the region image gets known more widely and joint marketing increases, in the form of growing tourist flows and tourism income for the region. Companies in the tourism industry are growing and developing and are able to operate in a network-like manner with other entrepreneurs, in which case their opportunities to get more customer flow nationally and internationally are strengthened. The region’s economy is also strengthening as tourism companies and the volume of tourism grow. The development of nature tourism in the heart of Finland can be monitored in the future with the metrics selected and implemented in the project.

Ask more and join the project!

The growth program for nature tourism in the heart of Finland started on September 1, 2023, and the project will last until August 31, 2025. The actual target groups of the project are tourism entrepreneurs (SMEs), RDI institutions, universities, municipalities, educational institutions, associations and foundations in the seven municipalities of the Sydänsuomesa region (Kannonkoski, Karstula, Kinnula, Kivijärvi, Kyyjärvi, Pihtipudas and Viitasaari). Indirect target groups are other entrepreneurs in the Sydänsuomesa region (e.g. the trade sector), tourists arriving in Sydänsuomi, and residents of the municipalities.

The project is co-financed by the European Union. Funding for the project has been granted from the Just Transition Fund (JTF) by the Regional Council of Central Finland (80%). The municipalities of Sydänsuomessa region also participate in the financing (20%). The project is managed by Development Company Karstulansetu Oy. The project manager is Jenni Leppilahti and the project specialist is Jasmine Välikangas.

– Our joint project has now started and we will visit all the municipalities in our region and have a discussion with you about the future measures of the project. We are in touch with you, but you can also contact us whenever you have questions.

Jenni Leppilahti
project manager
050 381 5917

Jasmine Välikangas
project specialist
044 459 6686