The growth of companies providing high-quality tourism services has been strong in Lapland in recent years. The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has been a huge challenge for all, but entrepreneurs believe the situation could even strengthen Lapland’s brand in the world.
In Lapland, several million-euro investment projects are planned in the field of tourism. Especially high-quality, sustainable tourism has been on a strong rise for years.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the schedule of construction projects has had to be partially redesigned. However, entrepreneurs assure that Lapland will be ready when travel is reopening again. In that situation, Lapland’s attractions, such as cleanliness and safety, may even be further strengthened.
Sustainable tourism is a rising trend
Santa Park Arctic World, led by Ilkka Länkinen, has grown in double-digit numbers every year for the past seven years. Next, the company is planning a new super ecological resort in Syväsenvaara, Rovaniemi. It will include a 150-bed hotel utilizing intelligent technology and a wellness center operating on renewable energy. The model for the project is the company’s Arctic sauna experience site Metsäkyly, which was made famous around the world by the American star Kourtney Kardashian.
The value of the investment is approximately EUR 12 million and it is expected to be completed – depending on the pandemic – by 2023.
– Local nature, sustainable development, well-being and self-development are emerging trends in tourism. They will also play an even greater role in our own operations, Länkinen says.
According to Länkinen, exclusive tourism in Lapland means unique, high-quality experiences that have been honed to meet the wishes of guests down to the last detail. It includes pure nature, clean raw materials and locality.
He calls it comfort luxury.
– In Lapland, safety and cleanliness create a unique framework for such tourism. Everyday luxury can be, for example, the fact that the infrastructure and traffic connections work in any weather condition, and help can be found in case of an emergency.
The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and climate change have further highlighted the importance of responsibility in tourism. Among other things, the Santa Park Arctic World team plants tree seedlings for their guests to compensate for the climate impact of air travel. As a result of the coronavirus, more attention will be paid to safety distances and cleanliness.
According to Länkinen, Lapland has good conditions for the company’s growth. The importance of the travel sector for the entire region is widely acknowledged and cooperation with the public sector works well. Länkinen also praises the professionalism of local employees and entrepreneurs.
– We co-operate enormously with various operators and it is vital for us that the entire chain works properly.
Lapland offers a high-quality frame for high-quality tourism
One of the major construction projects in Lapland in the near future is a 9-storey luxury hotel in the center of Rovaniemi, built by the Arctic Hotel Collection in Rovaniemi. The coronavirus pandemic has not affected the implementation of the project, but the commencement of work has been slowed down by a complaint about a building permit.
Despite the challenging situation, Business Development Director Isabella Gröhn is confident about the investment. The growth of their two other hotels, City Hotel and Arctic Light Hotel, has been strong. Last Christmas season surpassed all previous years and the coming Christmas also looked promising before the pandemic began.
Gröhn therefore believes that when the restrictions are lifted, Lapland will be in a good position.
– Lapland is a really good brand in the world, the growth has been tremendous throughout Lapland. In the post-corona world, Lapland’s attractions, such as spaciousness, cleanliness, peace and security, will certainly be emphasized. People want to be at peace and keep their distance. This trend was on the rise even before the coronavirus.
In addition to spaciousness, people are looking for experiences and quality services, according to Gröhn. These will be an important factor in the new hotel as well. The hotel features a high-quality spa world and the city’s highest panoramic restaurant.
As well as foreign visitors, Gröhn believes that also domestic visitors will find the new hotel.
– Here, as in the rest of the world, the trend is to invest in quality. A hotel room and a restaurant alone are no longer enough. A hotel visit is a break from everyday life. One can celebrate jubilees or make a business trip a little more comfortable.
According to Gröhn, Lapland is well set up for high-end tourism. Like Länkinen, he also praises the collective spirit of local entrepreneurs.
– Now at the time of the pandemic, we relied a lot on each other and received peer support from each other. This affects us all. It is in everyone’s interest that tourism does well in the area.
Expectations are high in luxury tourism
Janne Honkanen, who heads the Luxury Action travel agency, which organizes high-quality private trips, believes that social distancing will remain a trend even after the coronavirus pandemic has subsided.
He has noticed that Luxury Action’s customers have been even more cautious than usual.
– They’re used to demanding a little more from their vacation. I believe that as the situation recedes, security issues will become even more important. Every operator has to think seriously about how responsibility is implemented in one’s own operations. This is a clear turning point, but we rely on our own expertise and our customers.
Several international stars have made Luxury Action and Finnish Lapland known around the world. Emilia Clarke, known from Game of Thrones, and David Wenham, seen in the films The Lord of the Rings, among others, have spent their holidays with Luxury Action and told their followers about it. Honkanen admits that cases like that have been great moments of success for both the company itself and the industry as a whole.
– We have to remember however, that growth and success also bring along great responsibility. We must have the shoulders to deliver on customer expectations every single time. It’s challenging and long-term work and it starts with details such as safety plans and insurance.
According to Honkanen, luxury has been used a lot as a word, but expectations for luxury tourism are really high. He talks about transformative tourism. It involves terms such as sustainable tourism, locality, and authenticity. It’s not just about personal service, it’s about having a deeper meaning throughout the northern hemisphere.
– We build connections between our guests and the local culture and nature. We translate the experience into an experience by telling the story of the state of Arctic nature and how various global issues such as climate change are reflected in both nature and the lives of local people. Our aim is that when a person returns home, he or she will be transformed.
According to Honkanen, it is difficult to predict the changes brought to the industry by the coronavirus period. Last spring Honkanen decided that the ongoing investments would be completed despite the situation. A new Honeymoon Super Suite is nearing completion north of the Arctic Circle. It’s a place where own peace is guaranteed.
– No one knows when and how tourism will start again. Basically, we just have to take advantage of this time, develop ourselves and our services.
Luxury Action’s operations have already begun adjusting to the so-called new normal. Honkanen had been planning to expand its customer base to the corporate side for some time now, and now it seemed the right time to open a new office in Helsinki for that purpose.
There are also plans for a whole new area of conquest: a training program for other companies to jointly develop luxury tourism in the north.
– We are pioneers of luxury tourism in Finland and we want to share our know-how with others. We will for example be offering a new industry certification. We believe that the development of the industry will benefit us all. Lapland’s strong brand and the values associated with Lapland, cleanliness, and safety, will certainly help Lapland to be among the first to recover in the post-corona world.