One of the core missions specified in Visit Finland’s strategy is the development of the demand-oriented products and services offered. In practice, Visit Finland’s goal is to make sure that the products and services encountered by visitors when in Finland meet their expectations and level of requirements. The range itself and its development is, of course, the responsibility of the tourist companies but Visit Finland strives to help companies in this work by providing information and creating tools.
Visit Finland’s theme-based umbrella programmes play an essential role in product development.
NATIONAL PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMMES
The national umbrella programmes that have been founded so far for the development of summer activities (Outdoors Finland) and cultural tourism (Culture Finland) are based on theme-specific development strategies. The strategies are created in close collaboration with companies and other travel development organisations. The goal of the development programmes is to direct and coordinate development work in different parts of Finland, to improve company networking, and to ensure the sufficient quality and exportability of the products under different themes. This development work also aims to control the development of product and service ranges in line with the communication of the Finnish tourism image.
Quality is a crucial factor in the development of the product and service range. Visit Finland has specified exportability criteria and product recommendations that improve product competitiveness on the international markets. Visit Finland also manages the Quality 1000programme, which is tailored to tourist companies. The quality coaching provided by Haaga-Perho consists of practical training that directs companies towards long-term and systematic quality development work.
FOUR PRODUCT THEMES OF THE PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT
The areas of emphasis concerning product development constitute our four strategic themes: well-being, culture, summer, and winter
Worldwide interest in well-being tourism has significantly increased recently. Finland has the best possible conditions for offering tourists well-being products and services related to clean nature, tranquility, and sauna. There is no actual umbrella programme for controlling development on a national level but Visit Finland strives to improve theme-based product development in accordance with the Finrelax® specification.
Winter tourism has developed particularly well in Finland during recent years, and, abroad, Finland is clearly profiled as a winter wonderland. Winter is probably Finland’s most productised theme and our diversified product and services range has given Finland a clear competitive edge when compared to other winter destinations. In order to meet tightening competition, it is important to keep in touch with the tourists’ wishes and expectations and, with continuous renewal work, to ensure continued success in the upcoming years.
Selection of the product themes is based on prevailing global trends as well as several studies on points of interests for Finland’s target groups carried out by Visit Finland and its collaboration partners.
Individual strategies have been compiled for each theme in cooperation with the companies representing these themes and other tourism development organisations.
In order to develop the culture and summer activity range, Visit Finland has initiated the national Culture Finland and Outdoors Finland development programmes.
THE OUTDOORS FINLAND (OF) UMBRELLA PROGRAMME
Nature in Finland is one of the most important attractive factors for tourism. Productisation plays a significant role in tourism, so nature is also productised into attractive packages or day trips. According to studies by Visit Finland, the summer activities are nature tourism at its best. Summer activities selected for development are cycling, hiking, canoeing, fishing, equestrian tourism, and wildlife.
Visit Finland implements the development of the summer activities via the Outdoors Finland (OF) project. The first OF project was implemented with support from the European Agricultural Fund between 2009 and 2012. During the first stage, the project produced studies on the market situation of summer activities and their marketing channels. Criteria were created for the activities, and guidebooks were compiled for the planning and implementation of different routes.
The main goals for the Outdoors Finland II project, started in autumn 2012, are to improve the visibility of activity products in international distribution and marketing channels and to match domestic service providers and foreign buyers together, including tour operators and consumers. This is implemented via visibility campaigns in the target countries and via various sales events. The products are put on the market in accordance with product specifications and customer needs. They are visible in distribution channels that, based on studies, are the best ones and reach the potential buyers well. The project familiarises foreign tour operators and media representatives with Finnish activity resorts.
OF maintains a national network around the activities and seeks methods to continue the operation of the networks after the project. OF II continues coordination and steers regional development activity, distributes information and operating methods, and deepens the knowledge of the distribution channels and utilisation amongst the entrepreneurs and development parties.
The Outdoors Finland II project receives funding from the European Agricultural Fund.
THE CULTURE FINLAND (CF) UMBRELLA PROGRAMME
Finland’s strengths include a fluent contrast between modern culture and its nature-based cultural heritage, the meeting of east and west, technology, the Finnish way of life, and creativity. We are not profiled as any actual cultural travel destination, but we can offer lots of cultural elements which may provide the tourists who are interested in culture a different cultural experience than our competitor countries. What modern humanists in our target group can expect to see and experience with regard to Finnish culture include things related to, in particular, special characteristics of being Finnish, as well as to our way of life, cultural heritage, and cuisine.
The development of cultural tourism is steered and coordinated via the national Culture Finland (CF) umbrella programme. It is an entity governed by Visit Finland under the management of Finland Festivals ry. The operation is funded by the Ministry of Education and Culture, and Visit Finland. The Culture Finland programme aims to increase cultural tourism to and in Finland by improving cooperation between various culture and tourism industry parties in order to create new and attractive cultural tourism products and services.
The cultural tourism umbrella programme is related to, among others, Finland’s Tourism Strategy to 2020 and ʻProduct development for cultural tourism; Proposal for a programme 2009-2013ʼ.
Goals of the umbrella programme
• Increase in collaboration between actors within tourism and culture
• Activation of projects and measures; in particular, where cultural elements and tourism meet each other
• Creation of added value and income for actors within tourism and culture
• Creation of added value for tourists
The use of networking to combine the resources of actors within the incoherent fields of culture and tourism is crucial. Operative goals also include identifying and highlighting local strengths. Operation within the network, product development, packaging, marketing, and sales enable the elimination of overlapping elements. Expert’s actions aim at jointly-specified development.
The network team model
In 2013, the Culture Finland umbrella programme piloted a new network team model in order to improve the operations’ influence. In addition to the project manager, the work was performed by 10 regional coordinators in pilot areas. Regional coordinators contributed 2 working days per month.
NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT STRATEGIES
The development strategies guide Visit Finland’s product development work and provide guidelines and a goal for the whole industry on a national level. The Finnish tourism strategy defines the main policies for the product development strategies. These strategies are based on themes and are valid between 2009-2013.
The product development strategies will be updated in 2014. In addition to an assembled team of experts, all expert parties within tourism and the particular theme can also participate in the update process.
INTERNATIONALIZATION TOOLS CREATED BY VISIT FINLAND
Quality is an essential factor in the development of the product range. Visit Finland has specified INTERNATIONALIZATION CRITERIA, which are used to help product development and improve the product competitiveness in the international market.
The renewed QUALITY 1000 aids tourism companies in quality development work. Quality 1000 is a quality programme customised for the tourism industry. Quality coaching is practical training where a company’s personnel are trained to use various quality development tools.
THE INTERNATIONALISATION GUIDE FOR TOURISM COMPANIES aims to offer a practical tool for small and medium-sized companies which have started to sell their products to foreign customers, or are considering doing so. The guide was published 2004 and will be updated in 2014.
The OF and CF umbrella programmes have also produced a large number of studies and tools to support product development.