Back in the days Ruka-Kuusamo used to be called "Switzerland of Finland", referring to the beautiful rivers, lakes and hills. These appealing factors and the adventures they enable keep calling travelers to the area in the 2020s.
The past years have been an era of growth for tourism in Kuusamo. Large numbers of domestic and foreign visitors have been enjoying the services and activities at Ruka and around Kuusamo. Social media has been representing the gorgeous photos of snow and nature, delivering the message of the attractions of our nature and our national parks. People are naturally urged to explore and experience new things, but along the growth in tourism we are facing more and more questions about the sustainability of traveling.
We at Ruka-Kuusamo tourism want to be responsible and secure the pureness of the nature of our national parks, the vitality of our local culture and the beautiful sceneries for the future generations. We are compelled to work in ways that enable holiday makers to arrive at Kuusamo to enjoy the four seasons in our pure nature even after hundreds of years.
What is sustainable travel? On 2019 Visit Finland launched the sustainability program "Sustainable Travel Finland" in order to help the tourism industry in Finland to adopt to sustainable practices. Ruka-Kuusamo, Salla, Posio and Pyhä-Luosto were early adopters operating as a pilot area of Eastern Lapland. Sustainable Travel Finland has given us a clear path for the sustainable development of tourism, enabling both destinations and individual companies to progress in more responsible ways.
Ruka Ski Resort has been fulfilling its own sustainability program since 2008. The national parks in the area have been enhancing the protection of the diversity of the nature and the local culture from the very start - Oulanka National Park since 1956, Riisitunturi National Park since 1982 and Hossa National Park since 2017. At the beginning of the new decade we have seen more and more companies in hospitality business joining the path towards a more sustainable everyday life.
In what ways are the responsible actions visible to visitors at Ruka-Kuusamo? The most tangible outcomes are well visible for the naked eye, such as the piles of stored snow in Saarua slope area. The recent innovations in efficient snow making and storage ensure the start of the ski season in early October and reduce the amount of energy and water needed for snow making. Easy transfers around the area are enabled with the Ruka Scenic Gondola (using only green electricity), carbon neutral SkiBus and Airport Bus as well as National Park buses during the summer.
Travelers are encouraged to recycle. Bio waste recycling at Ruka started on 2019 as the first place in Northern Finland (earlier also bio waste was burned due to logistic problems). A new wastewater treatment plant with very advanced technology was built at Ruka on 2016. Heating in Ruka and Kuusamo centres is produced almost fully by bio fuel.
Recycling is a challenge to be tackled in the future when living in a sparsely populated area. A growing number of old villages, village schools and border stations are experiencing a new life in tourism. They are operated by small, family run companies, preserving the local culture and history of these old buildings.
The aim at Ruka-Kuusamo is to become a Sustainable Travel Finland labeled destination. The criteria requires that over half of the travel companies in the area must be certified with Sustainable Travel Finland label. This is achieved by co-operation of all travel companies, new ways of thinking and the desire to develop the sustainability of each and every company when it comes to everyday choices such as water, energy, responsible conducts and the wellbeing of the staff.
We strongly believe that this interesting path will take us far in the future and that it will help us in developing Ruka-Kuusamo even more attractive for the present and future guests - in a sustainable way!
Read more: Sustainable travel in Ruka and Kuusamo
Text: Tessa Suopanki Photos: Salla Karhumaa