Searching for health and well-being in nature is a global megatrend. Continuous urbanisation makes many people look for peace, found in nature. Nature tourists appreciate clean nature, unbuilt landscapes and quietness.
Professor Liisa Tyrväinen of Natural Resources Institute Finland has studied nature tourists’ valuations. A growing number of tourists demand that nature remain clean and that their visit in a national park, for example, does not contaminate or burden nature.
“This is a very important thing for nature tourists. Therefore we need tourist services that fulfil certain criteria and products that tell that the nature destination is managed in a sustainable manner.”
Parks & Wildlife Finland is a pioneer in the creation of a model of sustainable nature tourism. Principles of sustainable tourism for entrepreneurs operating in national parks were created back in 2004.
“Entrepreneurs must review these principles carefully. High-quality protection of nature values and tourism have been accommodated well in Finnish national parks and hiking areas.”
Parks & Wildlife Finland concludes co-operation agreements requiring commitment to the principles of sustainable nature tourism with all enterprises operating in national parks and other protected and hiking areas. The co-operation agreement also states that the enterprises are responsible for the compliance of the products offered by them with the legislation in force.
Nature tourism plans have been prepared for all these areas. Muscle power is principally all that is allowed with moving in these areas. Snowmobiles and quad bikes are prohibited. Quietness is valued along with clean nature.
As much as over a half of European urban areas suffer from noise produced by traffic, which hampers learning and raises blood pressure. According to WHO, the World Health Organisation, as much as 40% of Europeans are exposed to noise of over 55 decibels. In Finland, 15% are exposed to such high noise. Only half a per cent of Finns are exposed to air traffic noise.
Noise of over 55 decibels is defined as the risk limit of health effects. Our organs understand loud sound as a warning signal, which causes a stress reaction in us. Loud noise increases stress hormones and raises blood pressure. 55 decibels corresponds to the noise level of a classroom.
According to a report by the European Environment Agency (EEA), in 2014 Finland and Sweden had the quietest and least noisy areas of the European Union countries. Over 80% of Finland’s surface area was completely or relatively quiet. There are nearly 35,000 square kilometres of areas classified as completely quiet in Finland. This area is bigger than Belgium and Luxembourg together.
“When you ask tourists what they want from nature tourism, foremost come quiet and peace, clean nature and a beautiful and unbuilt landscape,” emphasises Ms. Tyrväinen.
These experiences can be offered to all stressed city dwellers by means of good planning and services of natural reserves. Congestion of visitors can be prevented by planning routes and services well. For example, visitors can be directed to national parks from different places.
“You can fish, walk in snow shoes or even meditate in peace in national parks. Through directed services offered to tourists, all who wish can experience clean nature and the peace provided by it.”
10% of Finland’s surface area is lakes, over 30,000 square kilometres. Elsewhere in Europe, lakes do not represent such a large portion of the total surface area. In addition, 80% of the waters of Finnish lakes are of excellent or good quality. Limnologist Sari Mitikka of the Finnish Environment Institute regards this figure as exceptionally good.
“We have an enormous quantity of good-quality surface water in this country and plenty of big and small lakes in good condition.”
Compared to the situation in the whole of Europe, the quality of the water in Finnish lakes is also exceptionally good. According to the report of the European Environment Agency published in 2015, the quality of the inland (fresh) waters has improved in the past few years, but still, about a half of Europe’s inland waters are not in an ecologically good condition.
Sari Mitikka studies the state of Finnish water systems and reports on changes in water quality. The cleaning of the lake region in the near waters of industrial and populated areas since the 1960s has been clearly observable.
The majority of public beaches are in good condition in Finland. Municipal health authorities monitor the quality of their water in accordance with the instructions of the National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health (Valvira). The National Institute for Health and Welfare reports annually on the condition of bathing waters to the European Environment Agency.
The largest surface area of excellent water in Finland is Saimaa. Saimaa is Europe’s largest lake region. Nowhere else in the world is there as much shoreline (15,000 km) in proportion to the surface area as in the Saimaa region. There are more islands than in Indonesia (over 14,000). There are over 3,000 kilometres of water routes and 70 marinas in the Saimaa lake region.
As much as a half of the inhabitants of the Saimaa region fish. About 30 different species of fish swim in Greater Saimaa. The most desired are vendace and trout, the salmonoids of the region. All salmonoids thrive only in clear and clean waters.
Areas of Europe according to the Quietness Suitability index (QSI) of the European Environment Agency (EEA). The greener, the quieter. In 2014, Finland and Sweden recorded as having the quietest and least noisy areas of the European Union countries.
Map: The Finnish Environment Institute
80% of the waters of Finnish lakes are of excellent or good quality
Over 80% of Finland’s surface area is completely or relatively quiet
Metsähallitus Parks & Wildlife Finland
Parks & Aildlife Finland is responsible for almost all of Finland’s protected areas and for the management of their natural and cultural environments. Parks & Wildlife Finland manages all of Finland’s national parks, strict nature reserves and national hiking areas as well as 12 extensive wilderness areas in Lapland. Parks & Wildlife Finland is a state enterprise that manages Finland’s state-owned lands and waters on one third of Finland’s total area.
Finnish Environment Institute
The Finnish Environment Institute is a national research organisation which produces information on the environment and the development of its state and the factors affecting it and creates solutions for promoting sustainable development. www.syke.fi
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