Inside perspective on the First Finnish MAG Meeting by Juhani Pyykkönen
The idea of landscape as a service is not new anymore, but practical solutions are still lacking. The need is clear.
Kuusamo-Ruka tourism area, a concentration of accommodation and nature activity services, has grown around the local forests and landscapes. The business in tourism is crucially based on local nature.
National parks and other protected areas are core components in nature-based tourism. The visit to the area is always a holistic experience. People travelling see sceneries on the road side and views on the shores of rivers and lakes. They feel the landscape through hotel window. The quality of the landscape is also seen and analysed, consciously or unconsciously, as a sustainable and balanced way to use natural resources in society.
We know, based on research, that tourists are willing to pay for landscapes. We know, that forest owners like to produce landscape services. Both in the tourism and forestry businesses, it is essential to keep costs low and incomes running. This is the start of investment in sustainable businesses and new ecosystem services.
The time is ripe for innovation actions in practice. That was a feeling, when nineteen people gathered in the Kuusamo Hall on the 24th August to participate in a co-design workshop for an innovation action for Kuusamo. Stakeholders represented forest owners, tourist companies, environmentalists, area government and researchers.
The workshop started with the question: what is needed and where in Kuusamo? Many target areas were listed. It is important to concentrate on key areas where tourists stay and move, but at the same time, some actions are considered useful for the whole area.
Those who use landscape services will also pay for them is simple to say, but complicated to implement fairly in practice. Good environment benefits all people, both tourists, visitors and local companies and local residents. This is an issue where international experience and advice would be useful hear and learn from.
One of the main findings of the meeting was the importance of communication, especially personal communication. Different values can be handled in a dialogue, which appreciates each one as an individual. It was mentioned several times in the workshop, that we have to keep good relations between people in Kuusamo and aim for harmony in solutions when designing and testing new models of landscape services in practice.
The work will continue with the international co-design process in the autumn. With all the ideas gathered locally and internationally we will present a suggestion for implementation to the local stakeholder group in the second stakeholder meeting in February 2019.