Husky and reindeer safaris are the most popular activities among tourists, who visit Lapland every winter. These two animal-based activities have been listed by Lonely Planet and TripAdvisor among the top 10 things to do in Lapland. Especially dog sledding has gained popularity among Asian visitors. Nevertheless, we should not underestimate the position of reindeers as Christmas characters and the best friends of Santa Claus. It is difficult to imagine a visit to Lapland without animal encounters. Some travellers may even say that the best way to experience nature in Lapland is by riding a sled being pull by dogs or reindeers.
While travellers are interested in basic facts about the reindeers and huskies, they are also starting to ask questions about their welfare. They are interested in the animals which are part of their memorable experiences. More and more travellers want to know how the animals are doing and how they are treated by their owners. This is not only related to Lapland, but it is part of a global trend in the tourism industry where animal welfare has become an essential aspect of the notion of responsible tourism. The attitudes towards animals has changed over the last decades. More and more people see animals as individuals with needs, preferences and rights.
Last year TripAdvisor, a global tourism leader, took a stance on animal welfare in tourism by banning the selling of tickets to tourism attractions where travellers come into contact with wild animals
Animal welfare has been recognised as a central issue by the global tourism industry. Last year TripAdvisor, a global tourism leader, took a stance on animal welfare in tourism by banning the selling of tickets to tourism attractions where travellers come into contact with wild animals. In 2017, a similar step was taken by SeaWorld San Diego which decided to put a stop to killer whale shows. These decisions made by these big tourism players were driven by their customer values and expectations. The topic of animal welfare was also discussed in the Matka Nordic Travel Fair held in Helsinki last January.
In Lapland, tourism companies are also responding to these market concerns. Furthermore, companies are becoming aware of the relationship between the well-being of people and animals. As a local animal-based tourism service provider said “when the animals do well, both our staff and our customers do well” Although animal welfare standards are considerably good in Lapland, companies want to further improve their practices and the way they communicate this issue to their customers. To that end, in collaboration with local universities the tourism industry in Lapland have launched two animal welfare related projects. Lapland Safari is co-financing one of them.
In August 2016, Lapland Safaris with ten other tourism companies joined the research project “Animals and Responsible Tourism”, which is financed by Tekes through the European Regional Development Fund and coordinated by the Multidimensional Tourism Institute (MTI), University of Lapland. The main aim of the project is to further knowledge and understanding of tourism certification and consumption values related to animal-based tourism services.
More information about the project and the work done can be access through the blog www.animaltourismfinland.com