Storytelling in tourism

The most memorable experiences are formed when you develop an emotional connection to the experience. That is why storifying is such an important thing in the tourism field. It is also much easier to remember things if there is a story attached to it.

But what is storifying? According to IGI Global, storifying is “the composition of a story from real or fictitious sources so as to create change in the listener’s, viewer’s or user’s emotions, thoughts, and behaviours in the desired manner”.

In other words, it means telling a story about a traditional dessert, for example, so that the one you are telling it to will get more interested about the food that you are telling the story about.

A story can be told about anything: it can be a real story that is based on history or to a real person, or a fictional story that has been made up just to get people interested. And the way the story is told can also vary. It can be told with a song, video, text, orally or any other way people can come up with.

It is much easier to get people interested if you have a story to tell. Take a look at this picture of a restaurant for example.

Photo: Pixabay

Charming, but nothing special, you might think. But what if I told you that this is the place where local members of the mafia used to meet? Countless gun fights and many tragic deaths took place in this same room that you are looking at right now. You would probably be much more interested then, right?

Of course, that story is not true, but wouldn’t it be cool if it was?

This was just one example of storifying, but you probably got the idea. You can also think about situations where you have heard a story about a building, food, lake, forest etc. Did you become interested with the subject more after hearing a story that was linked to it? And if you remember the story still, it shows that storifying is an effective technique.


Text: Roosa Rantanen, second year International Tourism Management student


Sources:
Cavanagh, S. Why you must nail storytelling in tourism
Website of IGI Global

Wellness travel – a healthier holiday

When you think about holiday, about booking a trip, what is the first thing that comes to your mind? For most of the people nowadays, including me, it means that I will have some fun, visit places, make memories like photos and videos, and forget about work and stress that are present in my life. However, it is not always like that because many travelers come back from their holidays more tired than when they left, wishing for a new holiday.

Why this happens?

We have a misconception that we need to make the most out of our trips, like for example taking long tours that exhaust us, visiting all the places in a destination, and in general overwhelming ourselves by busy schedules, often forgetting about rest and relaxation.

I don’t need to mention the technology and social media platforms that takes a lot of our time even when we are on a holiday. It is very trendy nowadays to share every small thing that happens on our trips on Instagram or Facebook, and we forget that snapping our meals, taking 99 selfies or paying attention to our edits takes time and we end up participating in our activities less then we think, reducing our quality time by stalking the phone.

Photo: Unsplash.com

What can we do about it?

Many studies explain why vacations help us get rid of the stress and increase our sense of well-being. Of course, if we consider well-being when we book our holiday, the first step that we can do is to appreciate the vacation and its meaning.

It is definitely a great idea to visit many places and take many photos, but this can be made by keeping in mind that we just can’t be present in every point on the map. In conclusion, a good solution is to start by reducing the number of visits to those attractions that we are interested in. Getting enough sleep during our holiday is also important to recharge our batteries and planning a lazy day is a great idea.  If we are rested when we come back, it will help us to be motivated and perform better in our lives and work. Some people set their flights back on the day before their work starts and it’s always a good idea to put a gap between, like one day to settle in and catch up with the day-to-day routine. (Website of Life Hack, 2021)

A second step is to educate ourselves more on what wellness tourism means and how to get more from our holidays by paying more attention to well-being. Going on a trip doesn’t mean that we need to skip our gym sessions, or to eat and drink whatever we want without thinking on how it can affect us. Wellness retreats help travelers to nourish their bodies and mind, and boost the level of personal wellness.

Photo: Unsplash.com

Practicing yoga, taking Pilates classes or sport in any form will bring balance to our body and mind and will help us to get rid of the stress (website of Corporate Wellness magazine, 2019). Personally, I am planning my next holiday in a spa resort, where I can benefit from healthier food, massage and spa treatments and why not, a digital detox. Breaking unhealthy habits and meeting like-minded people, who have the same goal will improve our lifestyle and we can come back with a new mindset.

What is wellness tourism?

Wellness travel is a segment of the tourism industry that refers mainly to people who book their holidays in order to reduce their stress, relax and forget about day-to-day problems. Global Wellness Institute has an official definition for it: “travel associated with the pursuit of maintaining or enhancing one’s personal wellbeing”

The economy of wellness tourism grows by approximately 6.5% every year and reached $634 billion in 2017. The increasing interest of travelers in a better and healthier lifestyle made wellness tourism to double its growth compared to the entire tourism industry.

Picture: Wellness Corporate Magazine

Europeans present the highest interest in well-being, followed by the Asians and North Americans. Spa tourism is the leading sector representing 48% of the global wellness registering $300 billions in expenditure with over 450 million trips booked.

By 2022 it is estimated that wellness tourism will reach $919 billions in expenditure because hospitality and travel businesses try to develop new strategies daily in order to offer new services, products or experiences for the travelers. (Global Wellness Tourism Economy, 2018)

Text: Bogdan Enacica, second year International Tourism Management student


References:

Global Wellness Tourism Economy. 2018.
Website of Corporate Wellness magazine. 2019. https://www.corporatewellnessmagazine.com/article/wellness-tourism-well-worth-trip
Website of Health Line. 2020. https://www.healthline.com/health/post-vacation-blues
Website of Life Hack. 2021. https://www.lifehack.org/640266/why-do-i-need-a-vacation-from-my-vacation

How does Finnish culture taste like?

While studying the course Well-being from Blue Spaces, I got very attracted to food tourism. Gastronomy tourism is a very interesting way of getting to know the destination and its culture. If we sit a bit and just imagine for example how Finland or Finnish culture tastes like? How would it taste to each of you?

For myself I imagine the taste of a grilled sausage, coffee, and ryebread. And if I imagine where I could have these foods it would probably be some really quiet place in the nature – a forest near the river where mushrooms, blueberries and cranberries grow, a forest where I hear birds singing and the sound of the wind that touches the trees.

For the Well-being from Blue Spaces course we did a food route assignment. I chose to make a route in Satakunta and searched all kinds of information about special foods in the region. As I am from Estonia, of course I was thinking that the most typical food for Satakunta would probably be karjalanpiirakka or salmiakki, but my research showed that karjalanpiirakka has nothing in common with Satakunta and well salmiakki is a favourite treat to nearly every Finn.

Personally, I was surprised after my research to see that Satakunta is the most suitable place for sea buckthorn to grow because of a colder climate in Satakunta. I have lived in Finland for six years and only now I realise why sea buckthorn is so popular in Satakunta – well, because this is the region where it grows in Finland, and it is a speciality of the place.

The second surprising news that I found showed that a long time ago, back in the past, Satakunta was very rich with salmon fish and every single family in Satakunta had salmon on their everyday table. That historical fact was a big surprise for me, maybe because now it is very expensive to buy salmon from the shop because usually it is pretty hard to catch it and because there are just few places in Finland that have salmon in the waters. If we take a look at what kind of salmon shops are selling here, it is usually salmon from Norway, and it is rare to be able to buy Finnish salmon.

How to understand Finnish food culture?

Overall, after all my research and thinking about food culture in Satakunta I got an idea for my assignment that was not only about food. If you want to understand Satakunta culture, especially its food, you have to taste that food somewhere in the nature and have it cooked in the way it was cooked back in the past or cooked by yourself.

It is impossible to understand Finnish food if you do not have any experience of Finnish nature. Finnish nature gives that special feeling and taste to the food that is the experience people should search for when they are visiting Finland. There is something special about Finnish nature and food, it is that calmness that you feel while being somewhere in the forest, listening to the place, eating berries from the bushes, drinking coffee and for example grilling sausages. No wonder Finnish people always say that sausage cooked in the nature tastes better than one cooked inside the house!

Text and pictures: Aleksandra Dmitrijeva, second year International Tourism Management student

Are blue spaces cure to feeling blue?

In the wellness tourism industry there is talk about so called blue spaces. What are those exactly? Well, blue spaces are referred as spaces with open water. So, trip to the coastline or riverside would be considered as visiting blue spaces. They also include ponds, springs, waterfalls and even spas.

We live in a highly modernized world with next to no connection to the nature at least in the big cities. No wonder people are stressed and unhappy all the time. Work is hectic and one can’t practise selfcare enough or do it the right way. Sure, eating or drinking your feelings is a way to manage them in a pinch but in a long run it’s only harmful to you and people around you. The last thing you should want is to be a burden to the people you love to an overly exhorted way. But stress can be hard to manage on your own, so it’s human to try to release it which ever way takes it away the fastest.

 So, why don’t we experiment

Imagine you arriving to a remote riverside in search of a way to pause your busy life. This is what you see, take a good look at the picture below.

Source: Pixabay

You can see the clear blue water gently rushing by hugging the land around it. You can hear the calming song of the water as it passes you by welcoming you to its presence, inviting you to take a deep breath. You can smell the fresh water in the air with luscious forest around you.

After taking the mandatory Instagram picture you sit down and gaze at the water and maybe get curious about how cold the water is. By touching it you find out its quite chilly but pleasant. The sight, sound and smell of the environment has called you back to where you once belonged. Taking a few more deep breaths filled with fresh air, you can feel the stress melting away.

How did that make you feel?

According to studies blue spaces have a positive effect on the human psychology and wellbeing and they are linked with health and happiness. Mental health is important especially during this pandemic time and going back to nature could be one of the solutions to increase it. Being around aquatic environments has mood increasing properties such as generally being in a better mood and reducing stress and negative moods. Visibility of blue spaces have a lowering impact on psychological distress. This fact could be used in the future when planning cities or it could be a part of one’s moving criteria. The happiest people are said to be those living near a blue space, especially near the ocean.

All in all blue spaces are worth taking a look at when trying to de-stress or pause for a bit. Mental heath is an important force for people to have the strength to keep going in a world that doesn’t sleep. Remembering to take care of yourself increases happiness and peace of mind.

Text: Kia Aroautero, Tourism student from Haaga-Helia.
Kia took part in SAMK’s online course Well-being from Blue Spaces via CampusOnline.

Inspirational sources:

Hunt, E. 2019. Blue spaces: why time spent near water is the secret of happiness. The Guardian.

Pasanen, T. Mathew P. White, Benedict W. Wheeler, Joanne K. Garrett, Lewis R. Elliott, 2019. Neighbourhood blue space, health and wellbeing: The mediating role of different types of physical activity. Science Direct.

Pawlowski, A. 2016a. Updated 2019. Blue spaces beat green spaces when it comes to mental health, study finds. Today.

Pawlowski, A. 2019b. How does nature affect mental health? Living close to park linked with happiness. Today.

Meeting international students online gives motivation during the pandemic

As a part of the course Managing Activity Services and Events, we had an opportunity to participate in an International Virtual Workshop this Spring. Students from Douglas College, Canada, had created a virtual meeting space, Gather, using an application called gather.town. As participants, we were requested to register in advance, and we were provided a list of topics to be discussed in groups during the workshop. We got to choose three topics out of the possible seven, that we found the most interesting and wanted to take part in.

Before the actual workshop, we had a chance to try out Gather and create our own avatar to move around and communicate with others. There was a short tutorial to get acquainted with the functions of the virtual space in the beginning. It was easy and fun to use and reminded me of the nostalgic video games I used to play as a kid.

The workshop started at 7 PM Finnish time, as Vancouver is ten hours behind and it was 9 AM there. There were students from Canada, Finland, Czech Republic and the Netherlands taking part in the workshop. It was possible to have a video conversation with others when the avatars were close to each other or in a private space, in this case around the same table. There were seven tables in the workshop room representing different topics we got to choose from, and after every session we changed the tables. Each discussion lasted for 30 minutes and there were three of them all together. Each table also had a student or a pair from Douglas College leading the discussion.

The first discussion I took part in was about student events and activities in the participant’s country. It was a wonderful start for the workshop! We started by introducing ourselves, everyone was really active, and the atmosphere was easy-going. We had fun sharing our experiences and it was exciting to listen to others’ opinions. We compared the differences between Finnish and Canadian student life. We talked about what kind of events there are for students, who organizes them, how much they cost, how often do we participate and how would we like to improve them.

The second discussion was about our international experiences. To me, this table seemed more serious than the previous one, even though the topic was comprehensive and freer to discuss about. We again started by introducing ourselves, as the groups had changed. However, this time we had turns answering questions, rather than sharing what comes to mind. The Finnish people were well represented in this discussion, so we were able to compare what kind of international experiences we had in common. We also brought up the opportunities there are for students in SAMK concerning internationality.

The third and final discussion was a chance to give feedback and to think together what would be needed to take into consideration in case organizing this kind of an event in the future. We agreed that it is valuable to network internationally and through an event like this it is possible during studies. Someone even came up with an idea to try out Gather for teaching purposes to maintain students’ interest. The discussion was so active, we got lost on the subject. So, in addition to the topic, I learned about different cultures and countries as well.

Beforehand, I did not know what to expect, but I was excited to take part in this workshop and it turned out to be a positive surprise. The others seemed quite thrilled too, as I came across many smiling faces. It was delightful to meet new people from different countries – and even from my school – via online connection especially because of the coronavirus pandemic. I would totally recommend and encourage you to participate in this kind of event, if you are ever given an opportunity to do so!

Text and pictures: Julia Alankoja, first year International Tourism Management student

Designing digital routes and the importance of testing

It is a cool and crispy morning in December. The sky is grey and dripping as our hardworking students make their way to Kirjurinluto in a happy mood. They are on their way to test their route produced as a course assignment in collaboration with DigiLuonto Satakunta project.

SAMK often provides different and interesting alternative projects for the students to work on. On the course Tourism Product and Experience Design, second year students of International Tourism Management were given an assignment to work on in collaboration with DigiLuonto and the Lauhanvuori-Hämeenkangas Geopark to produce themed routes for the region.

Throughout the whole project all groups had a chance to implement their creativity while doing their routes. That was a truly great opportunity! We not only got skills in creating, testing and bringing our ideas in life, but also had a lot of fun working in the assignment together!

At the end of the Autumn, we were told to test the route before finalizing the details. This proved crucial! Before the product can be published to consumers it must be tested in order to assess potential defects and improvements before it is released for commercial use.

Our themed route

Different student groups had been assigned with different interactive, themed trails to work on during this semester. These themes included aviation history, wellbeing, outdoors action and geology.  

Our group was in charge of creating a wellbeing route in Jämijärvi region. While doing this task, we managed to come up with a lot of creative activities which can be done throughout the route, for instance guided meditation, physical exercise like yoga in the forest, and creating art in nature such as drawing mandalas on the sand. The main concept is to connect yourself with the nature, get some relaxation from the big and noisy towns and generally have a great time.

The whole process was creative and fun! We went to Jämijärvi and wandered through the forests in order to catch the inspiration which could lead to thinking up new ideas. Although it was a long process, we didn’t feel bored – vice versa, we were encouraged doing this assignment, which we considered to be a very positive attitude.

The importance of testing

During the testing phase, we were facing some inconveniences with the product, and the application itself. The content was provided prior to the testing, but some parts of it could not yet be found in the application. But one needs to keep in mind the application is still being developed!

Because of the pandemic, a member of the group could not participate in the testing in person. That did not stop the innovative and hardworking students! They video called him to help him participate in this activity as well.

It is definitely important to test your route or it might not function up to the standards required by the customer. There may also be unexpected bugs and missing features which are essential in making the experience. Testing also helps you realize what is working, what is not working, does something need to be aaded, is it easily accessible or usable?

The activities we had designed within the digital points of interest were fun and active. Here in this picture you can see our group doing physical exercises within the route we are testing:

After testing for a while, we realized there are still some technical difficulties within the application, but regardless it is almost ready to be released into commercial usage. The content still may be improved to make the app as user friendly as possible, but it is almost ready.

Text: Kalle Kaseva and Kristian Surmai, second year students of International Tourism Management
Photos: Kalle Kaseva, Kristian Surmai, Ella Sten, Sina Khabbazi

Study visit to Lauhanvuori-Hämeenkangas Geopark

Quiet chatter fills the bus that is heading from Pori to Lauhanvuori-Hämeenkangas Geopark. Onboard is the International Tourism Management class NTO19, who have just started their second year of studies at Satakunta University of Applied Sciences. This study visit to the Geopark is part of their Tourism Product and Experience Design course.

Study visits to different kinds of companies and field-related events are very common in SAMK. For example, our class has visited the Sokos Hotel Vaakuna here in Pori and we also got the chance to visit Matka Nordic Travel Fair, which is organized annually in Helsinki. Study visits bring variation to normal schoolwork and give the students an opportunity to actually see and hear what it is like to work, for example, in a hotel. We also get to ask questions straight from the professionals and get experiences that we would never get in the classroom.

In SAMK we students get to participate in cooperating with the local entrepreneurs and businesses. It can be in the form of a guest lecturer, study visit or doing a project with them etc. Especially in tourism studies, this type of contact with the companies is important. This can help us to network already during our studies, gives us insights on what we could possibly do with our degree and valuable hands-on experience.  We get to work with real companies and give them our ideas and/or solutions. We get different kinds of ‘clients’ from different fields of tourism and a variety of assignments.

Assignment for the Geopark

This course assignment is for each team to design a themed trail in the Lauhanvuori-Hämeenkangas Geopark. We are supposed to use digital, experiential, and interactive content as part of the experience. The content could be anything from photos (old and new), videos, texts, audios, quizzes, games, stories (historical or fictional), etc. Only the sky and imagination is the limit here. These types of assignments are always fun because while they give us the frame it also gives us a lot of freedom to use our imagination and creativity. The different themes are aviation history, wellbeing, outdoors, and geology.

In order to accommodate the needs of the customer, we needed to know more about them so after a tasty lunch we gathered into a conference room to hear more about the themes and the park itself. First, we got to hear about the interesting aviation history that the area holds. It dates back all the way to the 1930s when Suomen Kuvalehti held a competition to find the best location for a new airfield and Soininharju Ridge won. For decades Jämijärvi was one of the pioneers of the Finnish aviation industry and even in the world.

After this Terttu Hermanson, Executive Manager of Lauhanvuori-Hämeenkangas Geopark, told us more about the park itself. Lauhanvuori-Hämeenkangas Geopark covers 5 000 km2 and reaches 10 municipalities. There are also 40 000 inhabitants living in the area. Within the perimeter, there are 52 geosites, 100 cultural sites and 39 natural sites. These sites range from rock formations to churches and bogs to farms.

UNESCO recognition

Lauhanvuori-Hämeenkangas Geopark is one of the 161 UNESCO Global Geoparks that can be found in 44 different countries. They are defined as ”single unified geological areas where sites and landscapes of international geological significance are managed with a holistic concept of protection, education and sustainable development” (Website of UNESCO, 2020)

This means that the park is ‘not only about the rocks’. They are promoting geotourism, preserving the area, teaching networking and co-operation and much more. Lauhanvuori-Hämeenkangas is the second Global Geopark in Finland and only got its designation a few months ago (July 2020). UNESCO recognition gives the park visibility and peer support.

DigiLuonto Satakunta is a project organized by Turku School of Economics and Tampere University. Its target areas are rural sectors in the Satakunta region. DigiLuonto aims to develop smart destinations. The goal of this project is to “increase accessibility, real-time interactivity and destination attractiveness for new target groups by digitally augmenting the existing tourism destination resources with enriched experience contents, activities, and open data.”

Let’s get to work!

After a short walk outside our class returned to the conference room and was set to work. Our first task was to come up with at least one idea for each given trail theme. This way no one had to start their assignment from a blank paper. When everyone had given their ideas and thoughts we split into four groups and started to develop the ideas further. After some time we presented our new ideas for the trails to our class and got some feedback and suggestions on how to continue with our plans. The last task we had on our trip was to write a group work plan and also present it.

After a full day our class returned to Pori full of new ideas and ready to set to work for the coming months. Some headed back home, while others headed to the initiation of the first year tourism students. But such is student life at SAMK: busy, eventful, and fun!

We will see what this semester, and the course, will bring us and we will definitely keep you updated.

Text: Milla Ruonala and Roosa Rantanen, second year students of International Tourism Management
Pictures: Roosa Rantanen