TMM developing tourism business at Etelä-Konnevesi region

Our International Master’s Degree Programme in Tourism Marketing and Management (TMM) has started a collaboration with municipalities of Konnevesi and Rautalampi and tourism stakeholders in the region. The concrete first step in this collaboration was a two-day workshop on developing nature tourism in the Etelä-Konnevesi region, organized in Konnevesi research station 14.-15.3.2018. Together with Anne Hyvärinen, project manager at a regional tourism development project, two days full of tourism business content were designed and tailored for the region.

Tourism insights and knowledge

The idea of the first day was to bring in all the actors to the same level when it comes to tourism marketing and management in a nature tourism destination. The day started with introductions and three short group work presentations by our students. As a preliminary assignment, our students had examined how the region is represented on the Internet from the perspective of potential tourists, both domestic and international. They also gave a quick overview of the recent development of the region in combination with development possibilities.

Making tourism better
Nature tourism workshop at Etelä-Konnevesi region

From the student presentations, it became obvious that the region has a vast tourism potential, but the problem is that very few know about this hidden gem. Most tourists that come to the region just visit the Southern-Konnevesi National Park, even though the region is full of interesting, high-quality and distinctive tourism businesses. Thus we were able to pinpoint the tourism development problem to marketing and sales, as well as networking between the actors in the region.

Besides our students, there was a wide range of presentations from local entrepreneurs and tourism personnel, Jyväskylä UAS and Visit Jyväskylä, and Johku. The tourism in the region and development possibilities were discussed from many different viewpoints, providing a great overview of the topic.

Networking and collaboration

At the end of the first day, we had the chance to visit a local rural tourism business Suopirtti Highland and meet their “hairy cows” (ie. highland cattle). It was indeed an experience for all of us. Afterward, we had a chance to taste delicious locally produced dishes at restaurant Mierontie. The restaurant also had a unique, wooden interior design made by local Jukola Industries. At the end of the second day, we had the chance to visit the National Park and experience KalajaRetkeily hospitality from Markku Utriainen. These visits only reinforced our view that there are many great and original tourism products and services in the region, but very few have ever heard of them.

Tourism services at Etelä-Konnevesi
Local tourism services

Professor Raija Komppula emphasized at the workshop how important collaboration and networking are for tourism businesses. Not that much can be achieved by doing things alone. Tourists seldom choose a destination based on one tourism business. Tourists are looking for an amalgam of experience that they can enjoy during their trip and only by working together a region can provide tourists what they want.

Tourism business development

Our students are now working with individual tourism businesses as their second assignment. Each student was assigned with a tourism business with their own development possibilities. The businesses gave our students practice-oriented tasks connected to topics such as marketing mix development, service packaging, experience design, technology adoption and new-service development. Our students will provide each involved business a short report that guides the businesses to take the next steps.

Students in a nature trail
TMM students and staff at the Etelä-Konnevesi National Park

Collaboration with TMM

We have built our programme so that this kind of destination and business collaborations are possible. Our students performed really well during the workshop and have clearly learned a lot during this past year they have been studying with us. We will continue our collaboration with Etelä-Konnevesi region and are also open to new possibilities to make tourism better. If you are interested in collaboration, please contact me at juho.pesonen[at]uef.fi.

Nature tourism is trending as we start to understand how healthy being in nature is

Nature tourism in Finland is all about “the space to breathe, a time to dream, hiking in summer, cross-country skiing in winter, gathering berries and mushrooms or simply a gentle walk in the woods.” (http://www.visitfinland.com/finrelax/). Nature is also one of the central themes in Master’s Degree Programme in Tourism Marketing and Management (MDPTMM, www.uef.fi/tmm). Why is nature so important for tourism that we have raised it so high in the programme?

Nature tourism brings us closer to nature
Nature has great health benefits for people

There is an increasing amount of evidence that being in the nature has huge benefits for our health. The latest is a 300-page review report from European Commission (link). The report examines more than 200 academic studies exploring the topic from various perspectives.

As more and more of us are living in the cities the interest to travel back to the nature increases. We are bored with congestion, air pollution, noise and eternal hurry. We want to have a place for relaxation, a place to get away from it all. Nature provides balance and health for our busy life and creates fantastic possibilities for example for digital detox.

FinRelax

Nature does as good and people are starting to realize that. Destinations that have good infrastructure for nature tourism will come up strong. But nature tourism needs to be developed in a sustainable way. In Finland for example Visit Finland is focusing on FinRelax program to increase the level of nature tourism products across the country and developing them to a direction that focuses on creating wellbeing for tourists (http://www.visitfinland.com/finrelax/). Finland aims to be the best place to relax in the nature, a noteworthy goal. All the elements are in place and it will be interesting to see how it all plays out. We have a front seat for this as the MDPTMM will work closely with Visit Finland and especially with FinRelax program to understand destination marketing and management.