[2 minute read]
Mark Wiltshear from Xport shares a recent e-mail exchange, and suggests ways to make your services attractive to tourists from overseas (and closer to home.)
As well as my work at Xport, I also record the Explore Finland Radio Show podcast & blog and I write a regular blog for Visit Seinäjoki. In both cases, I often contact ask people for an interview or information.
For my latest Visit Seinäjoki post Mark’s Winter Tips, I wanted to write about snow shoe walking. A contact at Etelä-Pohjanmaan Matkailu suggested a Seinäjoki company, that might be able to help. When I wrote to ask if they offer this activity, this was the reply:
“…My customers are Finnish companies and Finnish people and they sometimes bring foreign customers or friends.
I have had my company now 8 years and I haven’t had even one individual foreign customer in that time.
Unfortunately in this area of Finland we don`t have tourists at all.”
Really? No tourists in the Etelä-Pohjanmaa region? This stopped me in my tracks and made me think…
This company has an ‘about us’ page in English but, other than that, all available activities are described completely in Finnish. This is fine for Finnish companies but, even if an international visitor did find the website, they probably wouldn’t be able to understand what is on offer and would probably navigate elsewhere.
Try Connecting with Local Foreigners
Like me, there are many other foreigners living in Etelä-Pohjanmaa. Many of us have ‘our experience’ of Finnish life, which is shaped by the family we are connected to. If they are into cross-country skiing, we will probably try that. If they never go to a Mökki, we will not get the opportunity to go either. When I have visitors from the UK, I always try to give them a ‘taste’ of Finnish life, and this is a great opportunity for us all to experience new things.
Since I started recording my podcast, I have met many Finns who have been very generous with their time, so I have been able to try new activities for the first time., and share these experiences the podcast or a blog post. I have had many local foreigners comment that they are learning about different aspects of their adopted hometown from me.
Finns Also Want to Try New Activities
It is not only local foreigners that need help to find new activities. In early-2018, I introduced my girlfriend to avantouinti (ice-hole swimming), she was nervous at first but really enjoyed it, and we now go every two weeks. Not only that, but the next time we went, she met a former colleague who had seen our photo on Facebook and decided to try it herself. Not only that, we found that a lot of our friends had never tried avantouinti, so we arranged a group visit and took 9 friends with us. In a 4 week period I counted eight people that tried it for the first time and six of them were Finns.
“Älä kätke helmiäsi piiloon” *
* This translates as ‘don’t hide your pearls’, but what do I mean?
If locals do not know about your services, there is little chance of international visitors finding you. If it is easy to find information and easy to take part, local residents can also introduce their friends and family to try these traditional Finnish activities. Often, though, this is not the case. Making it easier for people to try things, providing them with access to special equipment, giving them info about how and where they can take part. For example, if you are renting out snow shoes:
- On your website, tell people what they need
- Tell them how to do the activity
- Provide info about where to experience the activity.
Taking steps like these will remove the mystery and lower the ‘barrier to participation’.
By the way, at the time of writing this, I still do not know IF there is somewhere in Seinäjoki that I can do snow-shoe walking. If you know of a place, please let me know (firstname.lastname@example.org) preferably before all the snow melts!
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