Travelling locally is worth it, for a number of reasons: First of all, destinations near you are quick to reach. This means that you can visit such destinations more frequently. Also, travelling locally decreases carbon dioxide emissions by up to 90% compared to a holiday to Thailand, for example.
What destinations are there near you? Unfortunately, too often the destinations do not have their own identity. They try to appeal to virtually all target groups, resulting in a bland experience for everyone. The menu has everything from pizza to pasta and burgers, but nothing that would really stand out.
The concept of quality has been lost. There is a misconception of quality being created through abundance, whereas it is often to the contrary: modern, demanding tourists consider quality to be clean food and water, pure nature – simple experiences.
Too often, we are blind; we do not see nor know how to appreciate the gems and rarities found in Finland. A prime example: Hotel Regatta, designed by Lars Sonck and built in Hanko in 1900. An extension to the hotel was built in the 1960s and the walls were covered with hideous asbestos cement plate and tin plate. At the moment, the hotel is finally restored to its old condition, but the Hanko's old centre and splendid sea scenery are simultaneously jeopardised by new, major construction projects.
And everyone knows what is going on in Turku: old wooden buildings are allowed to deteriorate, and it is then convenient to demolish them. Pori, my old home city, is also troubled by a similar fascination with destruction.
When you visit Finnish tourist resorts, too often you feel demotivated, and also desperate at times. The atmosphere is at standstill. In fact, at Nopsa Travels, we started brainstorming to specify a good Finnish tourist resort. We created a 10-section criteria set: Nopsa's manifesto for travelling locally.
What is a good local destination like?
A good local destination is a comprehensive experience. The Hel Yes! pop-up restaurant successfully established an atmosphere that completely transported you to another time and place, to another dimension. All elements of Hel Yes! were mutually supportive: the clothing of the waiting staff, the food, music and interior decoration.
A good local destination pays attention to detail. Even the smallest elements, such as light switches, the menu font, plants and decorative items have been selected appropriately and carefully. In that case, travellers will feel that they have been taken into account.
A good local destination is small, modest even. It has not been equipped excessively. Modern luxury is about a quiet moment while sitting on a pier, enjoying the clean air and water, the quietness.
A good local destination is ecological. However, ecology should not be underlined too much because only the most hardcore eco-hippies will pay a visit there. Ecology has to be a default starting point of all operations.
Naturally, a good local destination is local. Wicker baskets are the best souvenirs from Pori. They are a local tradition and they are locally made. It is a disappointment to buy a guksi drinking cup in Lapland and find that it says "Made in China."
A good local destination is historic and original. It is bold to leave interior decoration unchanged even if it would not be trendy. Eventually, this boldness will be rewarded by an authentic atmosphere.
A good local destination is unique, such as the abandoned villas in Kruunuvuori, Helsinki. No similar site exists elsewhere, and this creates its appeal. A good destination is not a copied or a bulk solution, but it stands out. Uniqueness results in a good experience.
A good local destination is a positive surprise. The Pahkaparatiisi tree gnarl resort in Huittinen does not seem to be the trendiest resort there is. When you get there, your jaw will drop as host Mauno Suonpää introduces you to the gnarls he has picked up from forests. There are several rooms filled with these wonderful natural treasures.
A good local destination provides a good service, such as the Inn-to-Inn cross-country skiing trek, created as a joint effort by innkeepers in northern Karelia. The trek package accounts for all needs of the travellers. When necessary, the hosts will pick you up at the nearest train station or bus stop. Finland needs more such forms of cooperation and this kind of service.
The author is a co-founder of the Nopsa Travels service for local tourism, and a freelance journalist.