Sustainable development in Geopark - Finland
The project aim was for the Lauhanvuori-Hämeenkangas region to reach UNESCO Global Geopark status and this was achieved in summer 2020. Through project activities regional municipalities, Metsähallitus, Natural Resources Institute Finland, companies, associations, educational institutions and individual residents have worked together to develop the region and to construct a sustainable nature tourism destination.
With cooperation between several sparsely populated municipalities and other actors, the project holder, the Lauhanvuori-Hämeenkangas region aimed to become the second nature tourism destination to receive UNESCO Global Geopark status in Finland. Globally there are currently only 161 locations of this type.
The region has been developed into a unified nature tourism location, which required long-term and future-oriented development work from a wide-range of actors in the region.
Nature tourism in the region has been developed with an emphasis on sustainable tourism and digitalisation and has been promoted both domestically and internationally. There has been a particular focus on well-being, health and food themes. With the help of higher education providers, new knowledge has been acquired on the region’s geology, nature and cultural heritage. New activities and services have been created for Geopark customers, some of which are directed at international markets.
As of January 2021, the Geopark’s number of member companies had grown by 43.5% and member associations by 36%.
Visitor numbers to the region’s nature locations have increased during the project by nearly 98%.
The annual visitor numbers to the Geopark websites (lauhanvuoriregion.fi and lhgeopark.fi) has increased during the project from around 4 000 visitors (2018) to 24 000 visitors (2020). The annual viewing rates of Geopark’s YouTube channel have increased during the project from 700 views (2018) to around 19 000 views.
The project has provided work experience for five young people (two to four months per person).
One new company has been created in the region related to Geopark guidance services and several new services for Geopark customers have been developed. Study trips for international visitors are also being planned.