"Well, tourism, our business has a strong seasonal nature. From the end of November to the end of March we have our best season. And it’s actually this particular period that makes most of the money earned during the year. That means that what’s on the bank account in spring has to reach till next December.”
"As tourism entrepreneurs we often hear the question: what happens to our businesses when there is no more snow in winter. I have been thinking about it a lot, especially, when the season is around the corner – and customers have been persuaded to experience the winter – and there is no snow on the ground yet. Small entrepreneurs can not arrange everything, we cannot influence the weather, but we should be able to do something!”
Seasonality and major changes taking place in our global economy have an impact on profitability and development opportunities within the tourism industry. Despite the bleak prospects, we should not fall by the wayside. There are indeed good examples of tourism organisations and destinations that have boldly taken the initiative to change their business practices as well as their operating environment. They have learned to live according to their operating environment. Instead of being reactive to their operating environment and lamenting changes taking place in it, they have chosen to foresee, influence and change it.
Sustainable development pioneer: BaseCamp Oulanka
A single company cannot stop global warming, but it can ride the sustainability trend. The number of tourists, who want their holiday to have a positive impact on local people and the natural environment, is growing. Whereas some of these tourists are looking for accommodation in the wilderness and off-the-beaten-track tours, the rest expect experiences and quality services without sacrificing environmental values.
BaseCamp Oulanka is a complete destination management company situated in Kuusamo in the Finnish province of Oulu. The company, which is seen as trailblazer in sustainable development, offers well-being exercises and many adventures. Most of the operations of the company take place in the Oulanka national park, making nature its business cornerstone. BaseCamp Oulanka has taken the task of developing eco-tourism in spite of the lack of support by the local community. For the company, it is not enough that customers return home satisfied; they should experience meaningful experiences, through which they change their values and perceptions of nature. The partnership with Pan Parks contributes to strengthening the socially responsible identity of a company that offers full-time employment to its workers.
Cooperation for tourism planning in national parks: Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park
National parks and protected areas are important for nature-based tourism and resource conservation. Their sustainable use requires close cooperation and coordination among diverse stakeholders. Metsähallitus – a state enterprise that administers stated-owned land and water in Finland – has developed nature-based tourism plans for the most important tourist and recreation areas in Finland. These plans provide strict guidelines for the use of national parks in tourism as well as recommendation for future development areas.
In addition to the nature-based tourism plan for the Pallas-Yllästunturi national park, Metsähallitus has developed in co-operation with local tourism organisations and the University of Lapland a guide for tourism entrepreneurs who operate in – and in the surroundings of – the national park. The guide, which is available in a practical and plain format thanks to the involvement of different actors, provides tourism enterprises with information about national park services, tracks, special regulations and even cultural heritage. The guide supports tourism entrepreneurs in the planning of their operations and product development efforts by providing insightful ideas that respect nature, local heritage and the local community.
Seasonality, from challenge to opportunity: Levi and Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis
Where most tourist destinations see seasonality as a problem and year-around operations as a mission impossible, Levi is actively transforming its operating environment from a challenge into an opportunity.
As it is difficult to get hotel guests during the summer season, Levi has decided to try an interesting solution. Levi took the initiative to offer hotel guests the same number of nights they spend in the winter season for free but in the summer season.
This initiative helps to bring customers and service users during the low season, activating the summer months. Whereas the solution may sound unrewarding for single hotels, it produces a common benefit, as tourists are visiting the destination during the summer months.
Another example of activating summer tourism comes from Austria. Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis , an Alpine destination formed by three small Tyrolean villages, has introduced the so-called ”Super.Summer.Card” to promote summer tourism. The card, which is principally targeted at families, includes all sorts of services, such as free travel in all cableways, metro and shuttle buses, full-day event programmes, guided mountain walks and adventure parks. Anyone who stays in Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis is entitled to the summer card free of charge.
All services in the area are by no means free by presenting the card. Indeed, the destination is continuously developing new products. None the less, the summer card serves to boost summer tourism in the area. The free transport on the cable cars, metro and buses make the different activities and attractions more accessible to visitors. The costs associated with the summer card are covered, among other things, by a special accommodation tax of 1,3 Euros per overnight, of which 60 cents go to the summer card programme.
Predicting climate change: Ylläs-Halli and Levi Summit
In Lapland, people are confident of snow-reliability, though snow fall may decrease in the metropolitan area and the winter period may become considerably shorter. In Ylläs, however, concerns have been expressed regarding the cross-country skiing abilities of future generations. What if they do not know how to ski anymore?
Indeed, if the cross-country skiing tradition crumbles, ski holidays and the winter tourism practices of visitors to Lapland will become detached from their daily life and leisure time. If people do not learn to ski at home and at an early age, there is a danger that no new generation of skiers will grow. There is also a risk that skiing as a tourism service of Lapland moves away from the everyday life of customers and thus becomes too exotic.
For this reason, Ylläs-Hall has been established in Helsinki as a place where it is possible to ski throughout the year accompanied by the landscape and spirit of Ylläs. At the same time, it allows to expand the Ylläs-product and the product experience. The customer, a potential visitor to Lapland or friend of Ylläs, can start the experience before or continue it after visiting Ylläs. All this supports customer practices, keeping customers in a ski atmosphere and spontaneously attached to their hobby in easy, enjoyable circumstances.
In the face of climate change prospects, Levi Summit has chosen to break the silence by opening the climate change exhibition. The exhibition presents the present and future state of climate change as well as different ways to curb it. The climate change exhibition aims at inspiring, guiding and advising visitors on how to minimise their own ecological footprint. A challenging topic has been turned into an interesting place to visit, not only complementing the services of the destination but also drawing visitors’ attention towards more environmentally friendly ways of living.
What is this about?
We are not only affected by economic, ecological, and socio-cultural global forces of change, but we can also influence those forces. Change does not “just happen”, we collectively make it happen. Change is not external and disconnected from our lives. Product development is not only useful in helping us to react to change but, what is more important, to foresee it – to build our future by acting and making decisions today. As product developers we can actively change our working habits, thus having an influence on our operating environment rather than reacting to emerging external change pressures.
Product developers are usually scared by the “hype” of constant change that emphasises the need to react to external change pressures on their operating environments – pressures that are normally around the corner. Consultants seem to come up in a regular basis with new needs for change, which have been overlooked by tourism enterprises – and which can be addressed by buying the right tools. In the middle of change there are, however, many things that remain constant, or at least that change slowly. When the main aspects of the operating environment, which back up product development, have been identified, there is no need to chase after every new fad or trend that comes along. Tourism enterprises that succeed in this have a stronger foothold in the wind and the snowstorm; they are both at the crest and the bottom of the valley.
Tourists have become sophisticated and experienced people, who require high quality, social responsibility, environmental friendliness and meaningful experiences and whose preferences may differ to a certain degree. For tourists travelling is first and foremost a travel into themselves, their own way of life and community, experiencing themselves at any given time. As product developers, we need to ponder how we could support our customers in these endeavours.