Finland Adobestock raland

Eco-tourism is on the rise in Finland

Natalie Chalk visits Helsinki to find out how the country plans on being a world leader in sustainable travel by 2025.

The happiest country in the world has taken on the challenge of becoming one of the most eco-friendly on the planet.

Finland aims to be the leading country of sustainable travel by 2025.

That was the pledge set at The Matka Nordic Travel Fair, the largest travel industry event in Northern Europe, which saw a record 68,300 visitors in January, with attendees from around the world.

Experts and business leaders gathered to share their insights and solutions on how to bring about cooperation and change across the industry.

With Helsinki and Espoo already suffering the impact of climate change, Finnish tourism bosses are looking to restore the balance by putting the protection of the environment alongside economic growth.

Changes have already begun at Helsinki Airport, which has decreased its emissions by three per cent per passenger on average in the last 10 years. It also sees 70 per cent of green landings, meaning that pilots use less fuel on descent.

Taking up the challenge in the capital are hotels, shops and restaurants with many placing sustainability at the core of their business.

At restaurant Natura, which opened in April 2016, they serve up to 80 per cent game meat and for seafood they source only from the WWF list.

New hotel projects such as the boutique Folks Hotel in the emerging Vallila district, will use local products, reduce bathroom packaging, and remove plastic bottled water instead offering tap water. In front of the hotel they’ll offer spaces for electric cars. The four-star hotel is set to open in this summer.

At Metsä/Skogen store and Mushroom bar restaurant, they have set up a multi-sensory experience with sounds and sights from Finnish forests. They sell sustainable clothing, wellness products and serve mainly vegan dishes created by chef Sami Tallberg who forages locally. The chaga and mushroom cappuccino is their hot drink sensation that’ll boost and warm up your insides.

At Hawkhill in Espoo, taking care of nature is their number one. The eco-resort is surrounded by Nuuksio National Park where you’ll find hares, deers, moose, bears and wolves. The family-run firm has put the wellbeing of the natural forest above profits by not marketing their log cabins to the US or Asia, where visitors would have to use a plane to travel from another continent.

They have made reconnecting to nature a priority for guests and have also switched from renewables to nuclear energy to ensure they’ve taken every measure available to fight climate change. They will be CO2 free this year and plan to be CO2 negative next year by planting trees and restoring the swamps that were drained in the 1930s. They use mostly wood, as little concrete as possible, and serve mainly plant-based food.

Co-owner Matti Ala-Outinen said that sustainability is not just a problem for governments to solve but that “we all have to take every step possible to stop climate change.”

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