Tourism is one of the worst affected industries by the pandemic. The flow of travellers has practically stopped and numerous entrepreneurs and employees are facing unprecedented financial challenges or even collapse. The travel industry employs some 140,000 people in Finland of which more than a third in the Uusimaa region.
The international race for attracting travellers will only accelerate once the borders are open. In preparation for the new marathon, we must ask ourselves what kind of travel industry we want to build in the future and at what cost.
Unsustainable tourism is often associated with distant images such as piles of plastic on the shores of the Pacific ocean. However, the issues with environmental sustainability are right on our doorstep. In Lapland, a hospitality business owner was recently sued for a serious environmental crime for illegally burning and burying hundreds of tons of construction waste. Finland’s greenhouse gas emissions from aviation have doubled since 1990.
Promoting sustainable tourism is now included in Sanna Marin’s government report on Sustainable Growth Programme, which gives Parliament the opportunity to take a view on how to best use the financing from the EU’s recovery fund. The reforms and investments proposed in the Sustainable Growth Programme are meant to fight against climate change, boost productivity, and economic growth potential. The attractiveness of travel destinations will in the future increasingly depend on the sustainability and ethicality of services provided.
In order to promote more sustainable ways of experiencing new cultures and destinations, it is critical to improve both domestic and international rail connections to enable greener means of transportation. Hopefully the practices of flying to a holiday destination for just a day or two are over soon. One of the valuable lessons learnt from the Covid-19 pandemic is the abundant possibilities of local tourism. How about a trip to one of our breathtaking national parks? The Green party has actively pushed forward record investments in renovation of our nature destinations during this governmental term. Try for instance beautiful routes of Porkkala in Kirkkonummi, if you wish to experience both sea and old pines. Although not yet an official national park, this area has been absolutely one of my favorites during pandemia. Next, preservation of the cultural heritage should be a focus point.
Staycations are here to stay, and they can be accessible by bike or subway. The remote work will enable exploring the world for longer periods of time, instead of flying back and forth. The Helsinki metropolitan area could attract with the title of the ‘nature capital’ of the world.
Mari Holopainen is a Finnish politician currently serving in the Parliament of Finland for the Green League at the Helsinki constituency, she has been a Member of Parliament of Finland since 2019.
This article was written for MP Talk, a regular column from the Helsinki Times in which Members of The Finnish Parliament contribute their thoughts and opinions. All opinions voiced are entirely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoints of the Helsinki Times.
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